Westpac: Bankers Working with Indigenous Communities in Remote Australia
The remote Cape York region of north-eastern Australia is home to approximately 14 000 people, most of whom live in communities of about 800 people. It is one of the most remote and poorest regions in Australia, with high levels of unemployment and poor job prospects, high rates of preventable disease, poor participation levels in education and high levels of substance abuse.
Westpac is one of Australia’s largest banks, with a number of retail brands as well as insurance, superannuation and commercial banking businesses. It employees 37 000 people and has over 10 million customers. Westpac became actively involved in the Cape almost a decade ago.
1 Briefly, describe Westpac’s sustainability journey since the 1980s.
Students should be able to detail Westpac’s sustainability policies and practices since the 1980s through their review of the case facts presented; essentially, the company embraced the ‘greed is good’ profit motive of the 1980s, to the detriment of its customers and Indigenous Australian communities. This detriment may have increased profits for the company in the short to medium term, but the reputational damage suffered by the company in the long term outweighed these short-term profit increases. Once the social consequences of the ‘greed is good’ profit motive were evident to the company, it took measures to invest in sustainability practices that benefited Indigenous communities immediately (and Westpac’s reputation and profitability in the long term).