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With industry jargon increasing as quickly as the average carbon footprint, Australia's major banks are embracing corporate social responsibility in a big way.

By building up dedicated CSR teams, big banks like Westpac, National Australia Bank (NAB) and ANZ are moving to adopt processes that are seen - both internally by employees and externally by suppliers and investors - as ethical, transparent, environmentally friendly and sustainable.

NAB, through its institutional banking and capital markets division nabCapital, this month agreed to adopt global social and environmental benchmarks for financing projects greater than US$10m.

According to Dr Leeora Black, founder and managing director of the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ACCSR), Australian banks are leading the world in sustainability.

The bad news is that CSR roles per se don't seem to be the kind of things bankers might rush into. A recent ACCSR survey found that up to 40% of people employed in CSR had backgrounds in corporate relations or marketing, with the other 60% extremely diverse.

"There are lots of good disciplinary backgrounds for working in this area and some of those might include corporate relations, marketing, human resources, strategy, finance or legal," says Black. "They all have a useful role but increasingly people with a strategy background are starting to get involved in this area."

Recruiters are experiencing increasing involvement in the CSR area, yet most say it is still a limited field given the size of the industry and the small teams the banks are running.

"I think it's an area where the banks want to be seen to be taking action," says one senior recruiter, who preferred to remain anonymous. "Do they really care? They definitely care about their image."

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