Sustainability columnAsk me another oneSometimes the most straightforward questions are the hardest to answer. What, forexample, is sustainability? It’s a good question and like any good question, the answeris: it depends.It depends first of all on what kind of company you are. And, just as importantly, whereyou’re located. If you’re an energy company like Shell or Exxon, then the answer’s likelyto be the environment, climate change or safety. But if you make clothes or sportswearlike Nike then you’d probably say ‘labor standards’ or ‘my suppliers’.The point is: there’s no right or wrong answer. You have to come up with your owndefinition.What about location? How does that affect your thinking?In two ways:Firstly, it helps determine the kind of issue you’re likely to be confronted with. Forexample, a mining company operating in a conflict zone has to deal more often withissues such as corruption, security and human rights.Secondly, it determines the backdrop against which you operate. The fact is politicaland social attitudes differ. Europe is not the same as the United States, nor is Asia thesame as Latin America. It’s this that often influences the way you manage yourbusinesses and take your decisions.So what about for AEGON? It’s really no different for us. It’s about behaving responsibly with the resources we have – financial, material and human. It’s about taking a 360-degree view of the company – not just as a provider of life insurance and pensions, but also as an investor, an employer and a business partner. It’s also about asking yourself: Where can we support our business objectives? Where can we make a difference? Where can we influence things for the better.Like other companies, we have to pay attention to what others are saying to us. Ourshareholders. Our employees. Our business partners. And particularly our customers.And we have to balance these various interests – especially where they come intocontention – and, on key issues, provide leadership and stand up for what we think.
It’s not easy. And often the ground shifts. One year the big issue for us might be ourinvestments, the next it might be the transparency of our products. So we have to stayon our toes.What is sustainability? Easy question, complex answer.The views and opinions expressed in this document are solely those of the author and do notnecessarily represent those of AEGON N.V. This document is for information purposes only andany reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk. AEGON N.V., its affiliatesand the author cannot be held responsible for the accuracy or reliability of the contents of thisdocument.