Social impact metrics to drive Santander mission of helping people and business prosper

Introduction to the Company

Santander is one of the world’s leading banking groups. In 2016, the company registered an attributable profit of 6,204 million euros with a market capitalization of over 72 billion euros.

Santander has a customer-focused business model that allows it to fulfil its purpose to help people and businesses prosper. During 2016, it continued to progress in its aim of becoming the best commercial bank, earning the lasting loyalty of its teams, customers, shareholders and communities.

Simple, Personal & Fair embodies how all Santander's professionals think and operate, and represents what customers expect of the Bank. It defines how Santander conducts business, takes decisions, and interacts with customers, shareholders and society.

Introduction to the Approach

Santander has been working to develop and implement a bespoke model to understand and account for the social and economic impact of the Bank in the communities where it operates. This includes impact generated through “business as usual” banking activities, and also though specific community investment.

The work is being implemented with a staged approach to further understand the contribution to and impact on clients, beneficiaries and organizations the Bank supports. The model starts with compiling a detailed knowledge base of the total monetary value of Santander’s investment in the community, and identification of socially or environmentally focused products and services. The methodology then provides guidance for consistently quantifying the number of people helped (beneficiaries) through community investment and socially focused products and services. These first two steps have now been fully implemented at Santander. The next step, on which Santander is currently working, is to put into action a methodology to measure Santander’s impact on beneficiaries and organizations. The final stage will be to further understand the socio-economic impact of banking activity.

This case study refers to the measurement of the number of people helped, the impact on these people, and the impact on organizations which Santander collaborates with.

The Santander Model of Change

Stage 1: Frame

Understand social capital and its relevance to the business

The Santander methodology takes account of international frameworks, methodologies and standards for non-financial information and reporting. Guidance from the London Benchmarking Group (LBG) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) were considered in particular in the construction of the Santander framework.

The methodology also aims to map the Bank’s impacts according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as they serve as a useful aid in framing the work for internal decision making and external reporting purposes. Santander views reporting in-line with the SDGs as a priority concern, as reporting SDG progress demonstrates the extent of company commitment to the goals, and the way in which the Bank contributes to society.

Measurement of people helped

The first step for the development of this methodology was to group Santander social initiatives/programs into four high level categories:

Key priorities

Action Areas

Strengthening education is an important part of Santander’s contribution to society. This includes primary and higher education, as well as financial education.

  • Childhood, primary, and secondary education
  • Financial education

Entrepreneurship and job creation
Santander has prioritized capacity building and micro-credit for entrepreneurs, specifically among disadvantaged groups.

  • Entrepreneurship competencies
  • Job promotion

Welfare / Social Well-being
This includes support of NGOs and other institutions that implement programs to advance the health and wellbeing of people, particularly from low-income households.

  • Child and youth protection
  • Elderly care
  • Low-income household support
  • Social inclusion
  • Medical and healthcare
  • Disability services

This includes efforts to develop environmentally friendly tools, products and services. These are solutions for individuals and help tackle climate change, and protect the natural capital on which all people rely.

  • Reduction of resource consumption and emissions

Santander programs in the category of “Art and Culture” and the “Santander Universities” work are not currently included in the final consolidated data, where other metrics are implemented. The Santander social impact measurement and valuation process has been developed in order to facilitate the further inclusion of such programs as the methodology matures.

Identify the business case and potential business decisions

Like any organization, the sustainable and profitable operation of Santander is dependent on building long term relationships with customers, employees, communities, and other key stakeholder groups. These internal and external stakeholders are increasingly interested in understanding Santander’s impact on the communities where the Bank is active. Santander’s Investor Day in Sept 2015 provided the launch pad for the Bank’s response to this demand, where targets were communicated to investors, including the initial goal to help 4.5 million people by 2018. In order to demonstrate conclusive progress towards this goal, supporting methodologies and data collected need to be sufficiently robust and auditable.

Santander has developed a staged methodology to demonstrate progress towards achieving this key target. This involves quantifying the number of people benefiting from the Company’s community investments and socially or environmentally focused products and services. It additionally encompasses understanding the type and level of impact achieved by each program, including the impact of the Bank’s collaboration with social organizations.

In addition, Santander will continue to make progress in measuring the contribution of its business activity to society in economic terms. The intention is for the results to help Santander manage better and communicate more clearly the Bank’s impacts and build a credible, evidence-based approach to evaluating its investments.

Stage 2: Scope

Set boundaries

Santander’s approach to measure its social impact is corporate-wide, and applies to all countries in which the Bank operates. Santander includes in the scope of its impact measurement methodologies both products/services as well as community investment initiatives.

Community investment initiative: These are projects or programs that focus on strengthening community welfare and are not part of the company’s financial activities.

Products or services with a social or environmental focus: This includes financial products and services that provide economic benefits to the Bank while at the same time contribute to the welfare of a community and/or the protection of the environment. These products and services can include microcredits or financial education for entrepreneurs provided by Santander Advance, personal products with positive environmental impacts, and social housing funds, among others.

Inclusion/exclusion criteria are then applied to determine which initiatives should be included in the final dataset. The rigorous attention to data integrity (and the exclusion of products and services that do not meet strict criteria) help to ensure the validity of results obtained and conclusions drawn.

Under the key Santander criteria, initiatives must:

  1. Receive a direct objective benefit to individuals
  2. Benefit people who reside in countries where Santander operates
  3. Benefit from the Banks own resources or staff time, not including sponsorships
  4. Obtain a medium-long term benefit
  5. Be within the recognized focus areas of action for Santander
  6. Under no circumstances can an employee or his/her family be considered as beneficiaries.
Stage 3: Measure and Value

Choose indicators and metrics

Indicators for measuring the number of beneficiaries

Having defined the scope programs, Santander then measures the number of beneficiaries helped through these programs. However, before measuring the number of beneficiaries, the Bank first had to define what it considered as a person helped.

Firstly, the main initiatives and programs were grouped into common areas that helped identify and define the most relevant beneficiaries and helped to achieve a simpler, more stringent reporting process. More specific definitions and indicators have additionally been developed that sit under these wider area groupings.

Entrepreneurship and business creation

KPI 12.1: Entrepreneurs who receive financing: Person who has received a financial loan associated with a business venture with positive social impact.

KPI 12.2: Microentrepreneurs who receive financing: Person associated with a micro-enterprise with positive social impact that has received a financial loan.

Products and services financed

KPI 13.1: People who have received financing for a hybrid vehicle: Person who has received a financial loan for the purchase of a hybrid vehicle.

KPI 13.2: People who have received financing for energy efficiency projects: Person who has received a financial loan to carry out energy efficiency projects.

KPI 13.3: People who support “Reduce and Compensate” and other similar projects: Person who has compensated emissions.

KPI 13.4: People who have received financing for products or services that help adapt to new conditions due to climate change: Legal person who has received a loan for financing products or services that help the environment, sustainability, or fight climate change.

Indicators for measuring level of impact on beneficiaries

In order to determine the level of impact among beneficiaries, understood as change generated through the program; Santander established three levels of impact according to the London Benchmarking Group (LBG) methodology, for which quantitative KPIs were then established:

  • Connect: The number of beneficiaries that have access to new services or tools.
  • Improve: The number of beneficiaries that experience an improvement in their personal or family situation.
  • Transform: The number of beneficiaries that experience a deep or transformational change in their lives.

This approach provides a clear, unified structure for measuring impact across programs and allows the Bank to aggregate impact data for reporting purposes.

Examples of indicators used to measure level of impact

Program: Financial education




Provided access to, and increased knowledge of basic financial services available to save or better manage finances.

% of beneficiaries reporting they have better access to basic financial services than before the program, or acquired basic knowledge of finance and confidence in management tools.


Increased use of basic financial services (bank account, credit or debit cards)

% of beneficiaries reporting they have increased or improved their use of basic financial services (bank account, credit or debit cards).


Improved personal finances or accessed advanced financial services (mortgages, investments, business loans, among others).

% of beneficiaries reporting they have increased their savings or accessed advanced financial services (mortgages, investments, business loans, among others).

Indicators for measuring impact on the Sustainable Development Goals

Santander’s social impact methodology aims to map the Bank’s impact on the SDGs. In doing so, Santander builds a wider view of how its programs are impacting beneficiaries beyond the main category that the program pertains to. For example, in the case of a program providing financial education program for women with limited resources, several SDG targets are impacted.

Indicators for measuring impact on Organizations

The methodology additionally includes the measurement of Santander’s impact on the organizations it supports by evaluating whether its collaboration generates impacts that:

  • Improves the organization’s management
  • Drives new initiatives or increases the scope of existing ones
  • Better serves or expands their network of people assisted.

Undertake or commission measurement and valuation

Santander sends a questionnaire to organizations supported by the Bank to request information about the number of beneficiaries, types of impact and level of impact, as well as Santander’s impact on the partner organization itself. In order to ensure that data is reliable, Santander uses the following hierarchy to determine which data sources are used (in order of most to least preferable):

I. Data certified by collaborating organisations within the final project progress report.

II. If the project is still ongoing and no progress report is available, the data certified by NGOs in the initial proposal outline or annual review of the project is used.

III. If no data is available concerning beneficiaries of the project, the program and/or project leader draws up a conservative estimate on the basis of pre-defined quantification methods included in the methodology.

IV. If the project has global support from other bodies and/or companies, and only the overall number of beneficiaries is available, the total number of beneficiaries is estimated on a proportional basis, in terms of Santander’s financial or staff time investment in the program.

The Santander data collection Process

The Santander data collection methodology continues to adjust to meet the needs of different programs. This strengthens the methodology on a clear and consistent basis, taking into account the characteristics of the multitude of initiatives developed in the Group. All new developments need to ensure that methodology and data are robust enough for the external audit process.

Stage 4: Apply and Integrate

Apply results to key business decisions

From the very outset, the process of drawing up the Santander impact measurement methodology was subject to recommendations by the auditor of the Sustainability Report, as data generated were to be made public and verified by an external auditor. The overall message from this audit has been that the methodology developed is solid, and yields highly robust results.

Not only are the results of the Santander program communicated externally, they are also used internally to determine the variable remuneration of senior management. The achievement of 4.5 million people helped (in the 2016-2018 timeframe) is incorporated as part of a 5% weighting in the calculation of the variable components of executive directors’ remuneration. Integrating societal impact into remuneration in this manner helps to secure top management support and to embed the concept of “value to society” throughout the organization.

Going forwards, the data and outcomes from these methodologies will be incorporated into the design of new initiatives seeking to maximize impact and alignment with Santander’s purpose; to help people and business prosper.

Contribute to mainstreaming

Data regarding the number of beneficiaries helped is inserted into the non-financial information reporting process of the Group. This reporting is reviewed by an external auditor and must comply with all relevant established criteria. This verified figure corresponds to the annual objectives set by the corporate group, and is shared annually in the Santander Sustainability Report.