We have a responsibility to all BMO stakeholders. Our social licence to operate depends on the ability to address people's diverse needs and points of view – today and over the long term.
A commitment to acting responsibly, to doing the right thing, is integral to the business of our bank. BMO's strategic priorities are grounded in a fundamental sense of responsibility that includes all stakeholders – customers, employees, communities and shareholders – whose support is essential for our continued success.
Inclusiveness is a guiding principle of this Corporate Responsibility Report, just one component in the comprehensive suite of reporting components by which we account for the bank's sustainability performance. This is not simply pro forma compliance – an annual box-ticking exercise. The stories showcased here, and the tangible metrics of responsibility that support them, speak to the values that guide every aspect of how we do our work and frame every decision we make for the future.
True corporate responsibility entails far more than giving back. It's our dedication to providing products and services of the highest quality. It's our drive to develop new platforms and applications that give people greater control over their financial lives. It's the resilient yet flexible networks that enable them to conduct transactions, manage their investments and plan ahead, securely, wherever they happen to be. It's everything we deliver, enhance and invent to fulfill BMO's defining promise – not just to customers, but to all of our stakeholders: We're here to help.
But most fundamentally, managing responsibly – and earning the right to guide financial interests of more than 12 million customers, ranging from young couples saving for their first home to leading corporations with a global presence – is first a matter of trust. And this is reinforced both in how we do business and how we contribute to the stability of the financial system. It means maintaining appropriate levels of capital and liquidity. Taking a prudent and disciplined approach to risk. Practising sound corporate governance. Ensuring openness and transparency in all communications. And working always to protect the security and privacy of customer information.
To gauge our performance in all areas of corporate responsibility, we look first to our own high standards, which are grounded in our core values and supported by a rigorous governance framework. But we also appreciate the recognition of external organizations with expertise in this area. For example, in 2015 we were proud to be ranked among the Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada for the 14th consecutive year by Corporate Knights, the media and investment research organization that is dedicated to promoting sustainability.
A Question of Balance
In order to manage our bank responsibly, we're constantly balancing commitments – to the customers whose loyalty sustains our success, to the 47,000 engaged employees who help our customers pursue their goals, to the communities that rely on us to help drive prosperity and growth, and to the shareholders who benefit most directly from our overall contribution to the economy.
BMO's first responsibility has always been to our customers. As we help them launch ventures, support the people they care about and build long-term security, we foster relationships grounded in fairness, integrity and respect.
Our customers see that we understand their priorities and provide the help they need to turn aspirations into realities. By the same token, we're committed to providing BMO employees with opportunities for growth, and to helping them advance along their career paths in an environment that treats everyone equitably, while respecting diversity. As our people work to meet customers' high expectations, we expect a lot of them. Our job is to ensure they have the knowledge and skills, plus the necessary coaching and support, to achieve their potential.
Our bank is also responsible to the communities where we live, work and do business. Right across the company, we take the opportunity to come together each year to help fight poverty and even the odds. Generosity runs deep at BMO. It's part of a long-standing tradition – one that is reinforced each November. Our giving campaign represents something to which we attach a great deal of importance – we all believe that giving back is something market leaders have always done. In 2014 we achieved unprecedented generosity on the part of people who work here: Our Employee Giving Campaign, one of the largest such programs in North America, had a remarkable 89.3% participation rate as over 42,000 employees contributed more than $17 million to communitybased charities. This emphasis on local impact is equally evident in how we operate as a bank, helping community and regional enterprises invest in business growth, job creation, innovation strategies and expansion into new markets. We facilitate the funding of public infrastructure, including schools, healthcare facilities and cultural institutions, all of which contribute to general social well-being.
And we participate in government led initiatives to foster economic redevelopment and renewal. In 2014, BMO Harris Bank extended 208 community development loans totalling more than $876.4 million under the Community development, affordable housing, revitalization and community services to low and moderate-income neighbourhoods across the United States.
This Is How We Help
Many of the commitments we balance are complementary. In meeting more rigorous regulatory requirements around anti-money laundering, for example, we've come to know our customers better while improving the efficiency and security of our information systems. And as we mark BMO's fifth consecutive year of carbon neutrality*, we complement ongoing conservation efforts within the bank by promoting responsible lending practices in support of environmentally sustainable ventures.
But one of the challenges of corporate responsibility is also understanding when we have to weigh what may be desirable against what is possible, recognizing our obligation to another key stakeholder group – the bank's shareholders, who count on us to deliver sustainable growth and a reasonable return on their investment.
What ensures that we get the balance right, with performance that is both profitable and responsible, is a commitment to doing things better that starts with customers and ultimately extends to all of our stakeholders. From a simple transaction on our mobile app to a video chat with a financial advisor – from our support for a new community centre to the financing of a complex, multi-partner venture that will drive an entire regional economy – this is how we help. And we're committed to doing it responsibly.