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Meet a Private Sector Focal Point: Fleur Hudig, Sustainability/Community Investment, ING.


Ms. Fleur Hudig is Manager of Community Investment at ING, a global financial institution offering banking, insurance, and asset management services to over 60 million private, corporate, and institutional clients in over 50 countries.

In this position within the global sustainability department, ING’s partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is part of her portfolio. Participation in UN initiatives such as UN Global Compact and UNEP Finance Initiative, which relate to ING’s business operations rather than to its philanthropic activities, are also managed by the global sustainability team.

Fleur has been interested in both the United Nations as well as international development issues since she was a child and began quite early with her engagement with children in developing countries. She explains: “I have always had a special interest in international affairs. When I was 10, I dreamed of becoming an Ambassador and joined the Dutch delegation of 11-year olds at a Children’s International Summer Village with over 60 kids from all over the world. After finishing school I worked with children in the slums of Mexico City and volunteered for a foster home organization in Chile. Growing up my parents taught and showed me that you have a duty to care for those around you especially the less privileged. Promoting equality, especially women’s and children’s rights and opportunities, and trying to change the world for better is what personally motivates me in life.”

She went on to study international law and international politics at university and, following this, she worked for the European Union on issues relating to international political cooperation, human rights and European legislation. Later, she moved to the global headquarters of ING in Amsterdam and began working on the ING Business Principles and set up the CSR reporting framework. After several years in the European and International Affairs department, she returned to the Sustainability department to roll out ING’s Financial Inclusion and Education strategy. Ms. Hudig has held the position of Manager of Community Investment ING Bank since 2009, including both the Group and the Dutch Community Investment Office and the Foundations. This includes the ING Chances for Children Programme started in 2005 to, the financial and business literacy program and disaster relief.

ING’s flagship community investment program is “ING Chances for Children” which focuses on promoting and supporting access to quality education for every child. The genesis of the program within ING was the result of a global survey among ING staff in 2005 in which the employee force stated their preference for community engagement in the area of children’s education. UNICEF was chosen as the preferred global partner because of their impressive track record in getting children educated. Since ING fosters a robust employee engagement program the company, together with interested staff, was able to design and push the program forward. Fleur explains, “This started as an internal program, but as a company we decided recently on evolving the program so as to better involve our customers and enable them to co invest in the UNICEF educational project we are supporting.”

“If you look at employee engagement programs, the most successful are those where employees have an opportunity to use their talent and get motivated by it. The challenge is to keep them on board in a way where they feel that they are truly involved and can put their own creativity at work. Nowadays with numerous examples of crowd funding, charity runs and events you need to be innovative in coming up with new, fun and challenging ways to get employees involved in a cause.” But simple things also work. ”To encourage employee involvement for UNICEF, ING committed to match all employee donations to ING Chances for Children, euro for euro."

She continues, “Employee engagement for a service company like ING is very important. We want our employees to be motivated and proud and this is one of the reasons why we facilitate and motivate them to play a positive role in society. The way we want to develop our leadership is towards people who are more responsive to what is going on in society. To be customer focused, you need to have a connection with what is going on outside. Everything we do in the area of volunteering and fundraising helps to develop this type of employee. Plus, our customers, and other stakeholders care about what their bank is doing and expect us to be a good corporate citizen.”

Due to its strong employee engagement component, the ING Chances for Children program has both local and global components. Fleur explains, “Employees in Amsterdam, Brussels, London and New York, for example, volunteer to read with children to increase their literacy levels or coach teenagers so they can have better job opportunities. In addition, through our UNICEF partnership we can take a more global approach to achieve more impact for children in developing countries. As mentioned before, once we knew our focus was on education, we looked for the appropriate partner who was well-positioned to help us with this. UNICEF is the ideal global partner as they have a holistic approach, implementing integrated and sustainable educational solutions, in collaboration with governments. This is an approach ING also strongly believes in and shares.

As a part of ING Chances for Children, ING began partnering with UNICEF and, since 2005, has raised over EUR 20 million for UNICEF education projects in Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Haiti, Pakistan, South Africa and Zambia. ING subsidiaries have implemented a number of activities involving ING employees and/or clients, including employee giving where each employee donation is matched by ING headquarters; employee fundraising activities; customer fundraising activities; and cause-related marketing campaigns which benefit UNICEF. ING also tries to deliver in-kind support benefiting the partnership and activities of UNICEF. One example of where ING’s support goes beyond its financial contributions and tries to engage its employees in the shared work for children is their Corporate Volunteer Program. It has, for example, linked a group of employees with school headmasters in India to improve India’s education system. Together they developed a training manual, which already has been used to train more than 400 headmasters and school directors in management skills.

The overall ambition of the partnership is to provide better quality education and make a strong effort to reach UN Millennium Goal 2 of achieving universal primary education.

“The secret to success of these types of global engagements is, first, you need to find an appropriate partner not only based around what you want to achieve, but also on the values level and method of working together. This takes away a lot of the hurdles. ING and UNICEF have chosen for an active partnership with mutual respect at the core and we have very clear agreements on what the roles and responsibilities are, how we report to each other and how to use each other’s name. Second, you cannot implement a global partnership only at the global level, you need to rely on local subsidiaries of both ING and UNICEF. This means you depend a lot on the people locally. One of the roles of headquarters is to present proven fundraising or other partnership models to subsidiaries so they can tailor them for their own local markets.”

While directly measuring the overall impact of partnerships such as “ING Chances for Children” will always be a challenge, ING’s community investment and sustainability programs are bearing considerable fruit. For example, customers and business partners increasingly care about sustainability profiles and, as evidence of ING’s success in this area, the company does quite well in global sustainability ratings as a result of not only its external programs, but also that core business practices reflect the same sustainability mentality. Fleur states, “Our community investment and sustainability strategy is not just altruism – it is in our best interest to keep employees happy, engage new and existing customers, mitigate risks, but also have a positive impact on the communities where we operate. After all, companies will not survive in societies that fail.”

ING’s perspective on sustainability, while unique in its own way, is increasingly becoming the norm among global companies. Fleur stresses that the concept of strategic philanthropy is taking root. Particularly, companies are increasingly asking the question of how to ensure that the way your company does philanthropy is as professional, well-managed and well-measured as any other business the company runs. She explains, “If I look at foundations and corporate programs, more and more programs hire specialists on impact measurement. They do not only focus on inputs and outputs, but specifically measure against the overall societal changes you are helping to enable.”

While ING’s partnership with UNICEF has proven to be beneficial for both sides, Fleur, when asked for had some constructive criticism for the United Nations on how to get more out of partnerships with companies such as ING. She suggests, “The United Nations could perhaps focus even more on translating their message better to the general public. While this is done to some extent with various campaigns, the UN could explain not only the specifics about, for example, building a school, but also the strong and impressive philosophy behind it in a way that summarizes the complexity of a situation in simple terms. This is also a challenge for ING: how do we communicate our activities, including the UN message, to our employees? Another thing that comes to mind is the opportunity for the UN to better utilize the outreach capacity that international companies have in raising awareness and funds. The possibilities of working together in a public private partnership on innovative programs, in addition to raising funds and awareness, are enormous. There the UN could reinforce their efforts in this area by building bridges to the private sector, especially because of the ability of companies to spur innovation and find new ways to share this knowledge with communities in need. Of course this is quite a new area for both parties, so there is still a huge learning curve with these types of projects."

Fleur feels very motivated to work in such a challenging environment and takes pleasure in seeing how ING employees get excited about what they are doing, how much they personally get out of working with children and by using their own talents to engage with the community or with UNICEF. In addition, she has great admiration for the work of the UN. She states, “If you talk to local UN staff who work with children, it is not only extremely informative but also inspiring. I’m sincerely impressed by this, and feel extremely privileged to be in this job."

For more information, please contact Fleur Hudig, Community Investment Manager at ING or check out ING’s 2011 sustainability report or ‘Creating Chances for Children’ report at http://www.ingforsomethingbetter.com/reporting.