Despite growing awareness that we need to change how we do business to live within planetary boundaries while upholding social foundations, progress is far too slow. The gap between ambition and action is of particular concern in relation to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs make up most of the global economy, yet they often lack access to the resources or expertise to understand what they need to do differently.
The business opportunity
The opportunity to positively influence thousands of UK SMEs is what led Virgin Money to partner with Future-Fit to build the Virgin Money Sustainable Business Coach, a smartphone app designed to help SMEs prioritise and act on their most relevant environmental and social issues.
Virgin Money selected the Future-Fit Business Benchmark as the basis for the app, because it covers all key social and environmental issues in an easy-to-understand and business-relevant way. We worked together to translate the Break-Even Goals and Positive Pursuits into a guided questionnaire, which assumes no previous knowledge of the issues they relate to. After answering the questions, which typically takes no more than 30 minutes, the user is provided with a summary of their business impacts, a ‘score’ based on their responses, and straightforward guidance on actions they can take to improve that score.
UK businesses can use the results of their questionnaire to apply for a sustainability-linked loan wit Virgin Money, which is the first bank in Europe to offer such loans using an objective, science-based methodology.
Like many organisations, Virgin Money is in the early stages of its journey to become a truly sustainable business. And, as a provider of finance, we recognise that our potential to drive change extends well beyond our own four walls.
That’s why in November 2019 we committed to ensure that, by October 2022 5% of all our business loans would be made to firms leading environmental and social change and whose activities enable others to transition to more sustainable business models.”
Graeme Sands, Corporate & Mid-Market Director at Virgin Money
Scaling up the project’s impact
While developing this tool, the Virgin Money team found themselves asking: imagine if every bank in the world were to do this? In response we decided to jointly write a paper to encourage and equip others to do exactly that.
To create the app, Virgin Money engaged fintech data expert company, Life Moments, a leading provider of platforms and tools which improve customer experiences and generate data insights. Life Moments developed the app in such a way that it could be reconfigured for use by other banks around the world. If you’d like to find out more you can email the Life Moments team.