Author: Xabier Sagredo, President, BBK Fundación
24 May 2023
BBK is a Banking Foundation that has held the same values and its compromise with the Biscayan society for over a century. In 2014, changes to the 26/2013 Savings Banks and Foundations Act forced it to become a banking foundation, in a context of high uncertainty and instability regarding both microeconomic and macroeconomic trends as well as in the stock markets. Instead of becoming independent from it, which was the easiest way to go after the Act was passed, BBK did not hesitate to remain in support of Kutxabank, as it had always done.
BBK has always followed the same idea: to allow Kutxabank, the largest services firm in the Basque Country, to remain attached to the society of Biscay and its institutions. This required us to remain in support of Kutxabank after the Act, specifically through three angles: by effectively managing BBK’s assets, which amount to €3bn; a strong social component, following the specifics that the Spanish legislation has for decades enforced on banking foundations; and asset diversification.
Nowadays, BBK is the controlling shareholder of Kutxabank, with 57 percent of its shareholding, and supports the promotion of the Basque economy with investments in local companies. BBK also carries out the largest social work in Spain per inhabitant in relative terms, and the second in terms of size: €231m.
BBK’s governing principle is sustainable competitiveness. This model is based on the ethical values of humanism, which incorporates environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria in all of its corporate policies and decision-making processes, avoiding the model of competitiveness based on price while focusing on innovation, quality and excellence as ways of differentiation. Likewise, BBK is committed to the development of talent, creativity and its contribution to generating quality employment, with an approach that ensures respect for and preservation of the environment, equal opportunities and social integration, contributing, in short, to the improvement of the welfare state.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
BBK’s commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is especially strong on three dimensions. First, BBK is committed to solving the energy crisis by supporting optimisation and self-sufficiency strategies. Second, the digital challenge is also a priority for BBK, as the foundation focuses on placing the most innovative technologies at the service of the people. Third, BBK seeks to ensure that the well-being of our society as a whole, leaving no one behind, is a global priority.
BBK’s Social Work
BBK’s Social Work encompasses a wide range of initiatives, to which the Foundation devotes more than €40m per year. BBK’s social work is the second largest in Spain and the largest in terms of spending per capita. Its role in Biscay is that of a facilitator, allowing socioeconomic development to endure and making sure that the needs of Basque citizens are covered to the greatest extent. BBK has a research and intelligence department that is constantly working to determine the key interests and needs of each age group and collective. Its activities include: scholarships and internships, support to self-employed professionals, cultural activities, social participation, health prevention programmes, environmental preservation, support to disabled people that lack physical or mental autonomy, and social innovation pilot programmes. All of its work is ultimately devoted to the wellbeing of the Biscayan society.
Raising awareness on sustainable competitiveness
Measuring the impact of our actions is becoming more and more common in our society. It is no longer enough to evaluate the economic and financial impact of companies; societies and customers are increasingly demanding to learn more about the effects of each action from a social and environmental point of view.
BBK’s commitment to sustainable competitiveness implies understanding impact measurement as a tool for learning and continuous improvement, helping to generate a spiral of positive impacts on society, improving the quality of life and the welfare state.
Within this topic as its framework, BBK has developed different initiatives with the goal of raising awareness on the importance of acting under the parameter of sustainable competitiveness.
One of the campaigns that best embodies the usefulness of the management model promoted by Sagredo is ‘BIHAR: Choosing Tomorrow.’ It is an exercise of reflection on what might happen if we continue to use unsustainable models as a society. The short film is a dystopian work that poses a plausible scenario of tomorrow’s society. Throughout Bihar’s life, we can see how, in the near future, catastrophic changes can occur if we do not switch current paradigms towards sustainable, innovative models of competitiveness.
Along with the short film, a large bust of Bihar was commissioned from renowned sculptor Rubén Orozco. A living sculpture designed to reflect on the constant evolution of time, represented by the rise and fall of the tides of the Bilbao Estuary. It can be seen next to the Zubizuri Bridge in Bilbao, only when the tide is low.
As for the results, Bihar traveled the world, obtaining coverage in the main national and international media. It had a huge impact in online media and press, with 30 percent international coverage as it was present in 75 different countries. In addition, it reached an audience of more than 200,000 people, with an AVE of €5m (plus 87 percent in KPIs). The news of the short film’s premiere went viral on social media around the world, with more than 300 million views. Due to its enormous success, the short film was broadcast at prime time on the Basque Country’s main television channel, eitb.
The latest campaign developed by the Foundation is called Kolapso. This new project, again framed within the idea of raising awareness of sustainable competitiveness, was created to represent reaching the ecological point of no return in an accelerated way, a metaphorical representation of the pressure we all exert on the world we live in every day. To portray the strong impact of day-to-day decisions, the Kolapso metaverse was created to represent the city of Bilbao and a balloon-shaped infrastructure was installed in the main square of the capital, created to collapse, unlike our planet. Citizens were invited to answer a survey with questions about their consumption habits, as well as about environmental and sustainability routines (‘Have you ever bought packaged fruit?’, ‘Do you usually buy products in local stores?’). Based on these answers, the balloon increased in size – or not – until it exploded, simulating the collapse of the world. BBK pledged to donate a food basket to families at risk of social exclusion for each survey. The balloon ended up bursting 73 hours after its installation, four days ahead of schedule.
Leadership and values in the company’s strategy
Xabier Sagredo, BBK’s CEO, is committed to a change of the current social, economic and environmental model, which would end the current ‘short-termism’ principle ruling most of human activities nowadays.
He supports a socioeconomic model that takes all of us into account: companies, institutions, nonprofits and citizens. A model based on fair and sustainable competitiveness, committed to innovation, technology and talent, that respects ESG criteria and makes us reflect on the consequences of each of the decisions we make in our daily lives.
This model arises from the need to put the preservation of the welfare state before purely economic criteria, and is based on consistent decision-making in all areas (personal life, at work, environmentally speaking) and in all of our roles (consumers, companies, workers, and citizens). It develops talent, creativity and contributes to the generation of high-quality jobs from an approach that guarantees respect, environmentalism, equal opportunities and social integration.