Good business and business that’s doing good were separate issues for a very long time. Today’s perspectives have changed, following a groundswell that has been simmering for decades. Responsible companies that were led by a higher purpose are nothing new, but there remains much ground to be covered if the link between the good of the community and business profits are to be inextricably linked for good. In both senses.
For the first time in our history, up to two thirds of investors claim that they take the social responsibility of a company into account when considering their investment. This means that we are tending towards a world where doing the right thing is both morally essential as well as financially rewarding.
Of course, like any trend that moves towards raised awareness and compassion, the path is not a smoothly paved one. The world seems to zigzag towards a desired standpoint and we at Finance Incorporated Limited feel that it is our responsibility as a company to do the right thing; doing our part for a cause that is much greater than what we can possibly achieve alone.
For too long, companies have considered their social responsibility as a bolt-on set of actions meant to offset their impact on the community and the environment where a fixed portion of profit was allocated to a set of activities that were aimed to distract audiences from the actual activity of the company.
Today we consider ESG – our Environmental, Social, and Governance behaviours – as a responsibility to do the right thing. This means that all decisions taken at board level, and the way these trickle down through the entire organisation, are based on a sound set of moral standards.
We see our obligations as a destination and consider the ultimate state of a company as being one in which every action taken is based on solid moral grounds. We also know that along the way, we may need to learn from some of the actions we have taken to move forwards in a better direction.


This brings us to a question with a very elusive answer. What is the right thing to do?
The issue with moral standards remains the debate about what the right thing to do actually is. Even the way to do the right thing is subjective and depends on so many moving parts. Our will, our resources, business pressures, the societal context, and so many other factors come into play.
Let’s consider, as an example, littering and the quantity of litter that can be observed from just a stretch of our coastline.  A simple approach would be to invest in many more bins so that these are within easy reach of anyone who enjoys the spot. A more expensive, but ultimately more sustainable route, would be to invest in educating the public about the matter.
Some destinations are indisputable. Our responsibility to grow into a zero emissions company is one that every company ought to be considering. There will be initial costs and the timeframes will vary depending on the activity of the company but the endgame remains the same.
Still, there is a subjectivity to our destination. We can agree on carbon emissions but there are so many other factors we need to consider that a task as seemingly straightforward as prioritising what area to focus on becomes tortuous. Our resources are finite. The time we spend at work is finite.
Good governance is, amongst other things, a framework that gives us a clear direction and a set of principles to adhere to. A more robust, transparent and responsible leadership layer will always promote better behaviour across the board – on an individual employee level as well as the net effect of the behaviour of the company.
Generally speaking, ESG is more about a set of behaviours than the amount spent by the company on individual initiatives. The operative word is sustainability, and for ESG to leave a lasting impact, it must be the result of a fundamental shift in the way the company operates.
Let’s take FIL as an example of a company that is a net spender – we purchase goods and services from the market within which we operate. We choose where to spend our money based on our set of fundamental values – if a supplier is aligned to our values, then we will pick them instead of an alternative that may be cheaper but that violates our ESG principles. This behaviour encourages a trickle-down set of changes within the market.
Our communities have clearly demonstrated that behaviours are likely to be imitated. This applies equally to exemplary behaviour as it does to doing the wrong thing. A person walking in a pristine park will not throw their sandwich wrapper on the floor, to continue the littering example we used earlier. But the same person walking through a space that’s already very littered is more likely to simply throw that wrapper on the floor next to all the others.
We are aware that forming part of the fintech industry and being one of the biggest players in the sector in Malta means we have an obligation to act in a way that’s exemplary. We can partly encourage and partly shame other institutions to do the right thing if our actions are always unimpeachable. Of course, we make mistakes. When we do, we learn from them and move forwards to a better, more responsible company.
We are also aware that we don’t know everything about ESG. We are experts at technology, at payments, at financial services and can’t possibly know as much about ESG as the experts do. One of our first actions to help guide us in the right direction was our commitment to join the Terra Carta. This is a global sustainable markets initiative and a mandate that puts sustainability at the heart of the private sector.
Banks and financial institutions were specifically requested to be founding members of the Terra Carta and this tied in perfectly with our standpoint. In modern society, all actions are connected and it is clear that we have a significant impact on all markets so our behaviour (as an industry) is pivotal to the success of any global transformative action.
While the Terra Carta provides us with a framework for a recovery plan designed to bring about environmental and societal change that is needed, we have also added our own internal promises. These start with building a healthy team here at FIL.
We spend most of our waking hours at work. So, as employers, we are directly responsible for much of the physical and mental health of our teams.
We do what we consider essential and we do our best to go a step further. Of course, we treat each other with respect, being considerate and transparent with each other. We go a step further, contracting the skills of external consultants who deal with the psychological needs of our team. 
We instated a mentorship and coaching programme that started with the executive committee and then moved to the management team. From there, the initiative will cascade to include all of us at FIL. We mention this because we have already seen perceptible and desirable change from this effort, even at what could be considered early stages. There is observable improvement in interpersonal communication, the handling of responsibility and accountability, and a stronger collaborative spirit.
When a team feels valued, when they feel they fit within the value system of the organisation and that they’re respected as people and as professionals, they are happier at work. And happiness is a KPI we should be talking about. This is better for the business. A more motivated and fulfilled team will treat clients better and work more diligently. Given enough time, profits will always follow principles – we just need to have the staying power to reap the rewards.
We want to ensure we are fulfilling our obligations as a responsible corporation.
While plenty has been said against publicising the activities of a company that are socially responsible, there are two good reasons to be publicly vocal about the actions you are proud of. The first is to be an example to other companies in your sector – those that claim that the right thing costs too much will quickly realise that they simply need to make more effort to find the balance between spend and sustainability.
The second is a more humbling reason. We have often spoken about an action we took and received a response from the public telling us that there is an even better way to do things. We are living in a world that is increasingly compassionate, inventive, and responsible. Speaking about our actions has opened invaluable dialogue with the community – we have listened, we have learned, and we have adopted better practices.
Finally, there is the issue of the apparent lack of political will to bring about the urgent changes that are needed to repair what we have collectively broken. We cannot afford to wait. What we can do is take the actions, large or small, that are within our reach. As the business world takes these actions, we lead by example and as the business world acts in unison, we create a set of demands that can’t be ignored.