Current Erb students and alumni are making an impact in companies around the world, but perhaps no organization has been more influenced by Erbers’ passion for making change than the Mexican bank, Banorte.

At first blush, Banorte seems like an unlikely candidate. Banorte is the third largest bank in Mexico with more than 50 billion dollars in assets under management, 12,500 employees and 950 branches. Banorte also has a small but growing footprint in the US, primarily in Texas. But Banorte’s experience with the Erb Institute serves as a case study for the extent to which a motivated company can harness the ambition, drive, and talent of the Erb community of current students and alumni.

Banorte first became involved with the University of Michigan through a Masters’ Project at the School of Natural Resources and the Environment. Team members included Erb 2011 graduates Laura Frey (’11), Tina Tam (’11) and Jeremy Taub (’11) as well as Marcos Mancini, an Erb 2012 graduate. They collaborated with Managing Director of CSR, Mayra Hernandez, and other members of Banorte’s executive team to develop the bank’s first integrated CSR strategy. The strategy included rigorous CSR research and benchmarking that informed a framework for identifying key sustainability opportunities. The group’s work gave Banorte a guiding framework for its future CSR initiatives, a pilot initiative to reduce paper waste, and a pipeline of future CSR projects.

Energized by the project’s results, Banorte hired Jeremy as Director of Sustainability in 2011; Marcos followed as Director of Sustainable Banking in 2012. Together they have begun to implement their team’s CSR strategy, and they have enlisted University of Michigan students’ help to do it.

Marcos and Jeremy have overseen two projects in the 2012-2013 school year. After their own experience on a Masters’ Project team, they assembled another team consisting of Erb students Daniel Gonzalez-Kreisberg (’14), Jonathan Huynh (’13), Lawrence Han (’14), and Javier Rivera (’14). The project’s objective was to create a Corporate Responsibility strategy for Inter National Bank, a regional community bank and subsidiary of Banorte in southern Texas.  The team recommended that INB incorporate two overarching themes into its culture to encourage tangible CSR outcomes. First, that INB invest in CSR projects that create less visible, but very tangible long-term value for the bank.  And second, the bank should clearly communicate its CSR goals to develop awareness around the initiatives that leads to increased customer and employee satisfaction.

Marcos – working through the Emerging Markets Club – assembled a team including Ross first-year MBAs Sophia Kittler, Reena Dhake, Sylvester Ogletree, Owen Henkel, and Will Morrison, Erb 2015. The team developed recommendations for a financial product targeting women entrepreneurs whose businesses are too large for microloans, but too small for corporate banking, a segment termed the “missing middle.” Sophia will continue the project this summer, working with Banorte’s CSR department and Small and Medium Enterprise gruoup to devise an implementation plan. Over the next decade, Banorte hopes the product will drive new customer acquisition and revenue and continue to build Banorte’s reputation as one of Latin America’s most progressive banks.

While Banorte’s relationship with the Erb Institute and the University of Michigan have been critical to the CSR strategy’s early success, Marcos and Jeremy have begun to build other coalitions with international sustainability organizations. In the last year they have:

  • Partnered with GIIMAP to map the impact investing landscape in Mexico;
  • Become members of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) and joined ANDE´s Mexico and Central America steering committee, launching the Women Working group for Mexico;
  • Chaired the Working Group on Integrating Natural Capital into Financial Products and Services as part of the Natural Capital Declaration; and
  • Joined the steering committee for the Mexican affiliate of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, spearheading the sustainable cities initiative to provide private sector solutions to Mexican cities’ sustainability problems.

They also plan to roll out a climate change strategy that will map out areas of climate change risk in Mexico and identify steps Banorte can take to build a more resilient institution both from an operating and a financing perspective.

At Banorte and other institutions like it, current students and graduates of the Erb Institute continue to live up to the Institute’s mission of creating a socially and environmentally sustainable society through the power of business.