SDG Pioneer for Sustainable Finance and Development

Karine Bueno

Executive Superintendent of Sustainability

Santander Brasil


Karine Bueno’s passion for making positive change was sparked two decades ago when she worked with the Paralympic Games in Australia.

“It was the first time that I saw the athletes, people with disabilities,” she says. “That  opened my mind to the power of humanity and the power, the transformational power

that we have.

“So when I came back to Brazil, I just realized that I needed to change my career, and I started to work with sustainable business,” she says. “Without knowing how to do it, I just knew that that was the right direction to go.”

At Santander Brasil, Bueno is responsible for establishing goals involving the generation of green businesses and the consumption of renewable energies.

For her achievements at the bank, she has been selected by the UN Global Compact as the 2021 SDG Pioneer for Sustainable Finance and Development.

Under her leadership, Santander established four focus areas for social and environmental business: infrastructure, focusing on renewables and sanitation; sustainable agribusiness; financial inclusion; and social impact.

In two years its portfolio of social and environmental businesses increased by 500 per cent, reaching R$13.6 billion  ($2.7 billion U.S.) in 2019.

Bueno led the creation of a financing product for solar generation systems that was marketed by Santander's branches.

“I realized that I would have to have a product that would make sustainability tangible for commercial teams, with financial appeal to customers,” she says.

In 18 months Santander financed more than R$1.5 billion, contributing directly to SDG No. 7 on affordable and clean energy.

To promote sustainable agribusiness, Bueno and her team helped structure the first ESG-linked loan in Brazil, offering differentiated interest rates linked to the fulfillment of environmental, governance or social goals.

“I work to integrate social and environmental issues into business strategies, both from an opportunity and a responsibility perspective, particularly with the financial system,” she says, “using its catalytic power to mobilize resources towards an inclusive and low carbon economy, helping to drive money flows to a better future for all. 

“We can drive change and we can do everything that we want.”

The key is driving capital and driving finance for clients to make changes like a transition to renewable energy. That means finding the right directions that benefit Santander and its clients, she said.

“The most challenging, but also fascinating, part of the job that I do, and of the job that I chose actually to do, is to really find the right approach to different partners,” she says. 

“So I need to understand them and I need to have the right approach, not to convince them, but to put the right arguments, actually, for them to make the change.”

Imagine, she says, “if all the banks in the world could focus their efforts to generate profits but also to drive capital to the changes that we need.

“If every company actually assumes the responsibility to make positive change, this is quite powerful,” she says.

“We are living in a sustainability revolution,” she says. “From that moment when I changed my career to work with sustainability, I realized that this is my passion.”

  • News