KfW was founded on November 18 1948 to finance the reconstruction of Germany. Seventy years later, the challenges that face us as a promotional bank have grown larger still. Nothing less than the future of our planet is at stake. We are lucky enough to live in a time that will determine our planet’s future. The world of tomorrow will emerge when the international community strives to reduce CO2 levels, when companies decide to invest in the digital transformation, when families build energy-efficient homes, and when political forces join together to address the root causes of migration.
We live in an era that calls for role models. We would call such people forward thinkers. These may be people or institutions that think ahead, dare to try new approaches and lead the way for us all — start-up entrepreneurs, builders, innovative enterprises, charities and not least trailblazing governments. They need support to help them bear the risks they have assumed.
A promotional bank like KfW is a political instrument of the German Federal Government — particularly in terms of implementing economic, development and climate policies. KfW’s history is closely intertwined with the history of the Federal Republic of Germany: Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (translated, Loan Corporation for Reconstruction) was founded to finance the reconstruction of Germany with funds from the European Recovery Program (also known as the Marshall Plan). Over the past decades, we have been contributing to developing Germany as one of the most successful economies worldwide, with a strong, export-oriented Mittelstand. And we are aware of this: economic success induces responsibility. As soon as in the 1960s, we broadened our scope by managing the financial co-operation with developing countries on behalf of the Federal Government and in doing so built up and deepened our expertise in the field of international co-operation.
By providing reduced interest loans, guarantees, equity investments and grants, we promote areas relevant to the future, to ensure the proper course is set. This is why we direct our products towards increasing energy efficiency, solidifying Germany as a hub of innovation and protecting the global climate. Today KfW promotes modern energy supply worldwide as a key requirement for development. It supports its partner countries in creating and modifying energy systems as a central measure for climate protection. Specifically, environment and climate-related financing now makes up 43% of our business volume.
But we strive for more, as global challenges, such as poverty reduction, climate protection and mitigation of refugee crises grow in importance. Our commitments to financial co-operation with developing countries and emerging economies are increasing accordingly, with a focus on projects to address the root causes of migration.
The focus on sustainability has always been one of KfW’s key features — in business, in its operations and as an employer. As far back as the end of the 1950s, we financed our first environmental protection measures, a relatively unknown topic at the time. Today, KfW is one of the most important players in environmental and, in particular, climate financing both nationally and internationally: we have provided some €280bn to this key area in the past 10 years. My goal in my capacity as CEO is to add substance and life to the concept of the promotional bank of the future — transparently and with measurable impact.
Today, we can be thankful and proud as we look back on 70 years embracing responsibility for our society and our planet. We can benefit from the experience KfW has acquired. As a modern, efficient and customer-focused promotional bank, we are now in a position to make an economic impact — both in Germany and internationally.
However, the endeavour of responsible finance is at its best when forces join. This is why promotional banks often partner up with each other — a most recent example being the Clean Ocean Initiative launched by KfW and EIB, and backed by our French partner AFD. KfW is part of networks of promotional banks in Europe as well as on a global scale, such as the IDFC (International Development Finance Club, consisting of 23 promotional banks). Promotional banks worldwide do increasingly co-operate and this is more important now than ever before. I am convinced that the challenges the world is facing today can be met only by a vigorous international co-operation of all actors concerned. It is thus equally important to implement sustainable policies and to set the right incentives in motion in the real economy.
KfW is ready for tackling the current challenges and takes responsibility as a reliable partner: in Germany, in Europe and around the world.
Dr Günther Bräunig is chief executive officer of KfW