Rising CSR expectations and falling performance ratings pose problems for Spanish banks and policymakers

Since the nadir of the global financial crisis in 2008–2009, there has been at least some degree of recovery across most of the global economy. Yet the financial situation in Spain remains precarious, and Spain’s problems, along with those of Greece, Italy, and Portugal, risk dragging Europe and the world back into recession. Meanwhile the Spanish public, left reeling by an economic crisis blamed in large part on corporate bad behaviour, expect ever higher standards of corporate responsibility from their banks.
GlobeScan’s most recent opinion tracking suggests that while the Spanish—and global citizens in general—feel that companies have extensive responsibilities to society, they do not believe that banks, often seen as the sector with most to blame for the world’s continuing economic problems, are meeting those responsibilities. Ratings of the banks’ approach to corporate responsibility were falling from already low levels by 2003, and this fall has accelerated through the crisis, with attitudes in Spain worsening even more rapidly than those in many other countries, as the extent of the financial sector’s involvement in the crisis—and particularly the role of Spain’s poorly regulated cajas—has become apparent.
However, the proportion of people in Spain who expect companies to meet certain social and environmental standards has risen throughout the crisis. This creates a difficult situation for bankers and policymakers alike. Banks’ focus in current circumstances is likely to be on survival rather than meeting these broad social expectations. Governments, meanwhile, are already committed to the politically unpopular but economically necessary strategy of propping up the institutions blamed for the crisis in the first place, and may find themselves courting public resentment if they use taxpayers’ funds to guarantee an industry that is widely considered to flout social and corporate norms.
Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 1, 2012
This post was written by former GlobeScan Research Director, Sam Mountford.