A cooperative as a type of business organisation and the cooperative ideology add to continuity and community spirit in OP's operating environment. OP is strongly committed to its customers and operating environment. Thanks to our long-term knowledge of our local operating environment, we can finance households and companies – even during challenging times. Financing of local businesses is, indeed, one of the key prerequisites of regional prosperity in the long term. OP has a local impact across Finland, as with its 440 or so branches, the Group's branch and service network is the most extensive and has the best coverage.
OP pursues its mission not only through its business role but also through its social role. This means fostering the livelihood and prosperity of the operating environment, for instance, through support to non-profit organisations, donations and sponsorship. OP cooperative banks can make independent decisions to support local cultural life and the physical education of children and young people provided by local sports clubs, for instance.
In 2016, 30 cooperative banks offered a total of around 900 summer jobs to young people aged from 15 to 17 in local non-profit organisations. As an example, to celebrate its 110th anniversary, OP Etelä-Karjala offered a summer job for 110 young people in some 60 associations at OP’s expense. The bank's support to employers was 360 euros per summer employee.
In October 2016, we announced large-scale donations to Finnish universities. OP cooperative banks and the central cooperative donate a total of 6.3 million euros to universities. These donations to universities are our contribution to safeguard the success of university-level education and research and Finland as a whole.
OP also participates in the Taloustaito project, launched by the President of the Republic, by donating the working time of its experts to help young people who have trouble with payments and debt. In 2016, 14 regional OP cooperative banks took part in the Taloustaito project.
A large part of OP's economic impacts also involves indirect impacts on local and regional economic vitality. For example, OP is a major employer in many municipalities. At the end of 2016, OP employed 12,227 people (12,130). Of these, 93 per cent (93) were in permanent employment, while 7 per cent (7) had temporary contracts. A total of 11,787 employees were based in Finland, 191 in Estonia, 113 in Latvia, 134 in Lithuania and two in Russia. OP employed a total of 492 (483) summer employees and trainees during the year.
In several municipalities, OP cooperative banks are among the largest taxpayers, and at Group level, OP is one of the biggest taxpayers in Finland. OP Financial Group's current tax for the financial year 2016 totalled 223 million (251) euros.
A pilot project involving three OP cooperative banks has been initiated in order to study the regional impacts OP cooperative banks have when playing their business and social roles. The purpose of the project is to identify measures enabling OP cooperative banks and their stakeholders to better assess to what extent the bank’s mission has been accomplished.