For more than 150 years, cooperative banks have been combining financial success with social responsibility. The reason for establishing cooperatives was to achieve more by voluntarily joining forces and in doing so to strengthen the independence of the individual.
Self-reliance, personal responsibility, and autonomy are not simply the fundamental principles of the cooperative business model, they are also what we understand to be the basis of civil society. In other words, we see citizens not just as the passive recipients of what is provided and imposed by the state but rather as the ones who actually make our society work. Democracy, social cohesion, and prosperity depend on citizens' engagement. In this context, companies are also citizens. They bear responsibility for shaping social structures, including during periods of economic difficulty. We firmly believe that companies can only thrive in the long term if they are part of a functioning society in which its citizens cooperate responsibly. For us, corporate citizenship means getting involved and helping to solve problems – and not simply by making donations or sponsoring good causes.
We work to ensure the actions of institutions do not block or restrict individuals but instead strengthen their self-determination and motivate them to take their own action. This is the area in which the BVR acts as the mouthpiece for its members at national level. Local cooperative banks apply this approach through their membership of the BVR and take it to grassroots level through their local activities. Our annual report on corporate citizenship in the Cooperative Financial Network gives an insight into the wide variety of activities that we undertake.