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Credit Suisse reveals inner workings

Credit Suisse chief executive, Lukas Mühlemann, presents the report in Zurich

(Keystone Archive)

Credit Suisse Group is hoping to build public confidence by showing that it practices good governance in all areas of its business.

The Group has published a "Sustainability Report" (looking at 2001), which seeks to demonstrate its concern for the social, environmental and political implications of its activities.

"The report is based on the conviction that the principle of sustainability increasingly forms the basis of long-term business success," said Credit Suisse chief executive, Lukas Mühlemann, presenting the report in Zurich.

The report comes amid waning investor confidence in big business, following a string of corporate scandals, from the collapse of energy trader, Enron, to investigations into several leading finance firms, including Andersen and Merrill Lynch.

Credit Suisse itself has not been immune: its investment arm, Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB), has been accused of alleged misconduct in a number of countries.

Making money

The report is an attempt to show that the bank, which controls assets in excess of SFr1.425 trillion, is not only concerned with the business of making money.

"It started off as an environmental report based on the fact that environment risk is a business risk for us," spokesman Bernd Schanzenbächer told swissinfo. "But now we increasingly see that social and ethical issues are also posing risks to our business."

The company's code of conduct, said Mühlemann, shows that the firm aims to "deliver superior value to clients and shareholders, to be an employer of choice and to act as a responsible member of the community".

The report admits that thousands of employees have been laid off recently, but the bank says it working hard to deliver on the responsibilities outlined in the code of conduct.

It points out, for instance, that it was one of the first signatories to a United Nations initiative launched two years ago to involve the private sector in "creating social and political requirements and frameworks".

Conscience-driven clients wishing to invest in companies with "sustainable" policies, for example, are offered Stock Screener, an Internet platform to inform their stock choice.

The pioneering tool rates companies listed on international stock markets according to economic, social and ecological criteria.

"It's the first time that private banking clients can directly analyse stocks and their portfolio according to sustainability criteria," Credit Suisse equity analyst, Christine Frey, told swissinfo.

Other examples of Credit Suisse's "sustainable projects" include the CSFB Women's Initiative Steering Committee that is working to increase the number of women in management positions.

Mühlemann also highlighted the bank's fight against money laundering and suspected terrorism funds as further evidence of its drive to win over customer confidence and improve its reputation.

by Samantha Tonkin

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