Values-based banks work with others to change the banking system itself so it is better able to serve people and protect the environment
The first bank in the world to own and operate a private conservation reserve
Walking in a vast land full of biodiversity, who could imagine a bank owning a nature reserve? Bank Australia scaled up its conservation property in the site called Salvana, in Western Victoria, to 2,117 hectares in February this year. In agreement with Trust for Nature, the oldest conservation organisations in Australia, the reserve will be protected from development forever. This decade-long project truly demonstrates a systemic change a bank could press ahead in order to protect their national land and resources.
To address the climate crisis with direct actions, the bank made the first purchase, half the current hectares, back in 2008. At first, Bank Australia was committed to even out the size of its conservation estate and the total footprint of the houses built on greenfield sites by its home loan customers. This strategic compensation has transitioned out to focus on preserving biodiversity, adding to the land’s value by boosting vegetation, engaging with Indigenous communities and delivering value to the banks’ customers.
The bank believes traditional knowledge is critical for effective and sustainable management of the landscape. Therefore, upon purchase, the bank conducted cultural heritage surveys on all sites in cooperation with the local Barengi Gadjin Land Council. With a focus on managing fire risk in summer time, the bank joined the locals for Cultural Burn – a traditional method removing natural litter such as dry grasses and leaves without damaging the soil, seeds and root systems below. It also showed respect and revival of an important cultural practice that had been disrupted by colonisation.
As for preserving endangered species, the bank is building resilience through a climate-adjusted seeding project, and works closely with Conservation Volunteers Australia and New Zealand (CVANZ) to support the population of Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and Malleefowl.
Fiona Nixon, Head of Strategy at Bank Australia says: “The bank has always tried to take a holistic view of what climate action looks like that takes into account the natural environment. We have always believed that the two things go together and that the private sector has a role in conservation.”