The Role of Funders in Responsible Finance

01 October 2011

Most donors and investors supporting financial inclusion do so with an aspiration to improve poor people's lives. In recent years, the movement toward responsible finance has shaped the industry's belief that financial services providers have a responsibility to deliver financial services in a way that is transparent, fair, safe, and likely to generate benefits for poor clients. There are two key dimensions for implementing the responsible finance agenda: client protection and social performance.

Client protection is essential to ensure that providers do not inadvertently harm their clients. It means that providers take reasonable care that their products, policies, and practices avoid harmful or unfair treatment and appropriately balance clients' and their own interests as they conduct business. This minimum standard of "do no harm" is part of the good conduct of business, regardless of the provider's specific mission, profit goals, or ownership structure.

Social performance is achieved if retail providers go beyond the "do no harm" standard of client protection to measure and manage progress against a specific social mission, ensuring effective translation of the mission into client benefit and appropriate behavior toward staff, the community, and the environment. While providers' social missions may vary, the most common social goals pursued by double and triple bottom line retail providers are outreach to underserved people, poverty reduction, and empowerment of women.