At NBT, our responsibility to all our stakeholders—including our customers, communities, employees and stockholders—and our commitment to good corporate citizenship are based on the principles of community banking that have guided us for over 165 years. The highlights featured here are some of the many ways we are focused on what matters.
Our Board of Directors recognizes that Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) principles are important to the company's various stakeholders, including stockholders, customers, communities and employees, and desires to drive positive social and environmental impact. The Board further believes that the Company's reputation for integrity and corporate responsibility are bedrock principles and the ESG framework provides an opportunity to define, measure and highlight our values to the Company's stakeholders. Accordingly, the Board has committed to the following:
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The Company offers a financing product to homeowners on a national basis which provides an opportunity to power their homes with sustainable solar energy and reduce their carbon footprint at an affordable price. Since the inception of the program in 2017, we have originated over $1.3 billion in consumer solar loans.
NBT customers have embraced our digital tools and adoption continues to increase on our consumer and commercial platforms. Services like mobile and online banking, remote deposit capture, electronic loan payments, eStatements and combined statements enable us to support all customers in their efforts to consume less fuel and paper. We continue to digitize loan origination and deposit account opening processes, reducing trips to the bank and paper documents for our customers. Across our footprint, we host community shred days with multiple confidential document destruction companies to promote safe document disposal and recycling.
The Company is focused on the environment and committed to business practices and activities that encourage sustainability and minimize our environmental impact. Paper reduction and recycling efforts in 2022 compare to saving 4,485 trees, and NBT’s fuel consumption has decreased 62% since 2019. In larger facilities, we conserve energy using building energy management systems and motion sensor lighting controls. In new construction and renovations, we incorporate high-efficiency mechanical equipment, LED lighting, and modern building techniques to reduce our carbon footprint wherever possible. NBT has an ongoing initiative to replace existing lighting with LED lighting to reduce energy consumption.
The Company is engaged in the communities where we do business and where our employees and directors live and work. We live out our core values of community involvement through investments of both money and the time of our employees.
Through our active contribution program, administered by market-based committees with representation from all lines of business, the Company contributed nearly $2.0 million in 2022. Our efforts to distribute philanthropic resources across our footprint ensure alignment with local needs and support for hundreds of organizations that provide health and human services and promote education, affordable housing, economic development, the arts, and agriculture. One example of our commitment to support impactful local initiatives is our relationship with Colgate University and support for their VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program. NBT's support of this program enabled 775 families in need to receive free assistance with tax preparation. This program returned a total of nearly $5 million to Chenango and Madison counties in New York over a three-year period from 2020 to 2022.
In addition to corporate financial support of community organizations and causes, employees are encouraged and empowered to volunteer and be a resource in their communities. They invest their financial and other expertise as board members and serve in roles where they offer direct support to those in need by engaging in all manner of volunteer activities. In 2022, NBT employees logged over 7,000 volunteer hours.
We are also committed to helping the individuals in our communities develop their financial health. NBT offers a comprehensive array of financial products and services with options that are beneficial to unbanked and underbanked individuals. Deposit accounts include low balance savings and checking options that feature minimal or no monthly service fees, help rebuilding positive relationships, and assistance for those just starting a new banking relationship. The new NBT iSelect Account was introduced in 2021 and certified as meeting the Bank On National Account Standards for 2021-2022 and again for 2022-2023. Over 3,500 accounts have been opened. These accounts feature no monthly charges for maintenance, inactivity or dormancy, no overdraft fees, and no minimum balance requirement. An enhanced digital banking incorporates ready access through online and mobile services to current credit score information and a personal financial management tool for budget and expense tracking.
In 2022, NBT Bank and CEI-Boulos Capital Management, LLC announced the launch of the NBT CEI-Boulos Impact Fund, LLC a $10 million real estate equity investment fund with NBT Bank as the sole investor. The fund is designed to support individuals and communities with low and moderate income through investments in high-impact, community-supported, commercial real estate projects located within the Bank's Community Reinvestment Act assessment areas in New York. A Social Impact Advisory Board was also appointed to review proposed investments based on each project's social and environmental impact, alignment with community needs and community support. Areas of the fund's targeted impact include projects that support: job creation; affordable and workforce housing; Main Street revitalization/historic preservation developments that do not contribute to displacement; developments that serve non-profit organizations; and environmentally sustainable real estate developments.
The Company is focused on making home ownership accessible to everyone in the communities we serve. We have supported affordable housing initiatives in the communities we serve by financing more than 130 construction projects for over $800 million that have created over 6,000 affordable housing units. Our suite of home lending products features innovative and flexible options, including government guaranteed programs like Federal Housing Administration and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loans as well as programs developed inhouse like our First Home Loan, Habitat for Humanity, Home in the City and Portfolio 97 programs. Our home lending team includes affordable housing loan originators, and we maintain longstanding relationships with affordable housing agency partners across our banking footprint that offer first-time homebuyer education programs and assistance with down payments and closing costs.
We recognize that small businesses are essential to our local economies, and we support them through an active lending program. In 2022, we increased the number of small business loans over the prior year by 44% and had a 25% increase in dollars. The U.S. Small Business Administration recognized NBT Bank in 2022 as its #1 lender in Vermont and the #2 lender for its Syracuse District in New York.
EPIC Retirement Plan Services is the Company's national benefits administration firm. EPIC RPS offers customized consulting, recordkeeping, actuarial and administrative services for all types of retirement plans. The firm has deep partnerships with clients across all 50 states and is “Helping America Retire” with over 300,000 retirement plan participants nationwide.
An important measure of our commitment to our customers and our communities is the high marks we receive from our customers. In April, NBT Bank was listed as one of Forbes' 2023 World's Best Banks. This is the fourth time in five years NBT has earned this recognition. This year we are also, once again, the highest ranked bank based in New York.
The Company has a long-standing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (''DEI'') and our initiatives remain stronger than ever. In 2022, the Company named a full-time Chief Diversity Officer after several years of leaders executing the responsibility of this role in a shared capacity. With full-time focus, the Chief Diversity Officer will continue to advance our DEI journey with strategies connected to engagement, careers and recruitment, innovation and measurement.
The Company's DEI strategy has a commitment to enhancing our diversity, making us more innovative and effective at meeting the needs of our customers and communities. The Company utilizes a variety of approaches to maximize diversity within each pool of candidates through both internal and external recruitment practices. It is the Company's belief that these efforts will provide equitable opportunities and contribute to improved products and services, better customer engagement and ultimately enhanced stockholder return. In 2022, 60% of NBT managers were women.
Both grassroots and executive-sponsored strategies continue to be critical to our DEI initiatives. Our DEI Inclusion Roundtable supports grassroots efforts focusing on raising awareness of various cultural and diverse interests. The Company has a DEI steering committee comprised of members of the executive team, including the Chief Executive Officer. The plan is shared with our Board of Directors, management and employees, who are often included in implementing specific action items. More information can be located on the Company’s website at: https://www.nbtbank.com/about-us/Diversity-andInclusion/
The Company's main priority is to attract and retain top talent by encouraging and promoting internal development. We invested in a variety of development tools and resources for all employees, including the introduction of LinkedIn Learning Library. The LinkedIn Learning Library is intended to make learning and development accessible to all employees in a concise, easily consumable format that enables employees to get the development they need to achieve individual career aspirations. In addition to the library, there are distinct training and development programs strategically designed to attract top talent early in their careers and to further foster the growth and retention of our high-potential and emerging leaders. These programs have been designed to meet the objectives outlined in our succession plan. Our Management Development Program aims to attract diverse talent, primarily college seniors by offering accelerated career advancement and mentoring with senior executives. The Company also offers two programs designed for high-potential employees, one for employees with prior professional experience and another one targeted to our more experienced employees with direct leadership responsibility. Both programs include a mentor, a coach, 360-degree feedback, individual development plans, presentation skill development and increased visibility to executive leadership. The programs accommodate delivery in both remote and in-person learning environments. To support career development, we employ an internal career manager to work as a liaison with employees and managers. The Company also has a robust annual talent review and succession planning process that includes the Board of Directors and senior management.
The Company offers total benefits that address employees at various stages of their personal lives and careers, including enhanced financial wellness programs, undergraduate and graduate tuition, paid parental leave, more flexibility in work schedules and paid leave benefits, a retirement transition option, and a student loan repayment program. Since the program started in 2020, NBT has contributed $768,048 to student loan repayment for over 300 employees across generations and years of service. The Company's incentive programs recognize employees at all levels and are designed to motivate employees to support achievement of Company success, with appropriate risk assessment and prevention measures designed to prevent fraud.
At NBT, we seek to further refine our culture by soliciting employee opinions using full engagement surveys to assess the overall level of employee engagement and pulse surveys to explore further sentiments behind specific topics, including employee well-being, productivity, and work-life balance. A full Engagement Survey was completed in September 2022, and we were pleased at the high level of engagement and participation in the survey. Positive feedback related to high levels of interaction between managers and employees was received, and the results provided insights leading to specific initiatives to enhance future engagement, including clarity around business strategies, decision making and development opportunities. Divisional and corporate actions have been developed to address areas employees suggested would be helpful. The Company believes engaged employees will drive retention, encourage discretionary employee effort and ultimately produce better experiences for our customers.
NBT is honored to be recognized as a “Best Place to Work” across our banking footprint. Our employees have participated in independent surveys resulting in recognitions in Central New York (third consecutive year), Vermont, Connecticut and New York's Capital Region.
We are dedicated to being a financial industry leader in corporate governance and business ethics. The Company's Board of Directors is composed of individuals with diverse professional and business experience. All our directors, other than the Chief Executive Officer, are independent. They all share a commitment to fostering an effective risk environment coupled with a strong internal audit structure. Their unwavering commitment protects our clients, stockholders and reputation. We currently have a Proxy Advisor Governance Score of “2” from ISS Corporate Solutions.
Our Code of Ethics reflects the Company's expectation for the conduct of our directors, officers and employees. Through recurring training and disclosures, as well as periodic communication related to specific topics, the Company maintains the highest level of ethical conduct. In 2022, 98% of NBT employees completed Ethics training, and 100% completed Information Security training. The completion rate for the Board of Directors for both Ethics and Information Security training was 100%.
Our Board of Directors believes that a fully engaged Board is a strategic asset of the Company, and that knowledgeable and fresh viewpoints and perspectives are important for informed decision-making. The Board of Directors regularly evaluates whether it collectively has the right mix of skills, experience, attributes, and diverse viewpoints necessary for it to drive stockholder value. The results of this evaluation are used to help identify the desirable skills for potential Board of Directors nominees and to screen director candidates. In the past three years, NBT has added three new directors, including two women and one African American, making the Board 23% female or ethnically diverse. The Board will continue to seek and recruit highly talented and diverse director candidates in the future, as we expect several Board positions will become available through natural refreshment due to the Company's age of 72 retirement standard.
In addition to the foregoing commitments, our Board of Directors believes in strong governance practices, including:
Finally, our Board understands the importance of aligning performance with compensation. Our compensation philosophy and programs for executives are balanced and risk appropriate, demonstrate long-term alignment with sustained performance and stockholder interests, and provide a competitive and effective program to attract, motivate, and retain the best talent. In 2022, 97% of NBT shares voted to approve the compensation of our named executive officers.
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