Royal Bank of Scotland:
Combating poverty through microfinance
RBS Group has an established microfinance programme operating across most of India with outreach to an estimated 380,000 households. Part of the Group’s “Supporting Enterprise & Microfinance” community investment programme, the activity in India has three main elements:
Bank lending to microfinance institutions (MFIs) – this is a small but profitable business. The bank lends to MFIs on commercial terms, who then lend this money in small loan packets (typically INR5,000-10,000, which is equivalent to about £75-£150) mainly to women to enable them to start an enterprise and generate sustainable income for their families.
Structural support for MFIs – working with its third-sector partner, MicroSave, the RBS Foundation India helps nascent MFIs to establish themselves in areas that are typically underserved by existing providers, including the north and east states of India and in some of the cities (e.g. Mumbai). This assistance takes the form of support and advice on all elements of setting up and running the business, including governance, accounts and operations. This programme has supported 36 MFIs and extended the reach of microfinance to an estimated 100,000 poor households.
‘Livelihood’ programmes – these work with some of the most vulnerable communities in India to promote microenterprise and to provide social support to encourage better incomes, education and health care. These are typically communities that are too poor, remote or fractured to even be eligible for microfinance loans. For each project RBS works with an expert NGO to ensure the specific needs of the community are addressed. In some cases, these projects include an element of RBS employee volunteering and our colleagues in India are encouraged to get involved in specific activities. RBS currently has 15 projects across 11 states, each one helping build the credit inclusiveness of more than 63,000 poor women. This is done by strengthening their income generating abilities through trainings that help them better manage their productive assets and get better prices for their produce.
Investing in training for the homeless and unemployed
With offices in London and the south east, building services provider Lakehouse recognises the need to eradicate poverty and hunger closer to home. The company is committed to investing in the communities that it serves. Through its Corporate Social Responsibility Policy, Lakehouse works with workless and homeless people of all ages to offer employment and training opportunities to help them find a way into work.
Building on its current partnerships with homeless charities such as Thames Reach, St. Mungo’s and Chapter 1, Lakehouse has invested in a unique construction social enterprise named ‘Building Lives Training Academy’. The academy is based within Camden’s homeless hostel, Arlington House, and the board structure enables residents and local stakeholders to help run the business.
Whilst Lakehouse’s work covers four markets – social housing, education, health and public buildings – the majority of its work is in the social housing sector, and this is where much of its help focuses on workless and homeless families. Assistance can include anything from mentoring services, on a one-to-one basis or in small groups, to practical help with CV’s and interview techniques, right through to support in building self esteem and confidence levels, life skills and general well-being.
The company has a strong track record of employing and training people from deprived communities across London and the south east. Through ‘Building Lives’ Lakehouse will offer construction and employability training, with the support of Building Crafts College, to assist 100 individuals a year with a City & Guilds qualification in maintenance, as well as ‘green skills’ and a range of short training courses.