A Talk With Access Bank About Their Sustainability Strategy

Access Bank was recently granted sustainability certification by the European Organisation for Sustainable Development (EOSD) under its Sustainability Standards and Certification Initiative (SSCI). On September 30, 2020, the Bank was presented with the certificate at the Global Sustainable Finance Awards, held in Karlsruhe, Germany as part of the 2020 World Development Finance Forum (WDFF), becoming the first African commercial bank to receive this certification. 

The Global Sustainable Finance Awards honor financial institutions and related organizations and Presidents/CEOs with significant contributions to the field of sustainable banking and finance. Access Bank was also recognized as winner in the ‘Outstanding Business Sustainability Achievement’ category for the fifth consecutive year, recognizing the Bank’s success in incorporating economic, social and environmental sustainability goals in its corporate strategy and business processes.

GBCHealth spoke with Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, Head, Sustainability, Corporate Communications, Access Bank about what the award means for the company in the context of its sustainability efforts. 

What is Access Bank’s sustainability vision? What does it mean for Access Bank to achieve the highest level of sustainability certification under the SSCI program?

Access Bank’s sustainability vision, “To be the Most Sustainable and Respected Bank in Africa, financing and facilitating brighter futures for all our stakeholders through innovative services and best in class operations,” directly builds on the corporate vision, “to be the World’s Most Respected African Bank,” embedding the concept of sustainability and shared value at the core.  

The sustainability vision is linked to the Bank’s strategy and aims to finance a sustainable future for all. We have always and will continue to harness global and local partnerships to develop and execute strategic interventions. These partnerships address sustainability challenges in line with international best practices. Our vision emphasizes fostering growth and creating wealth sustainably, promoting human dignity, environmental conservation and improving the quality of people’s lives.

Access Bank is proud to be the first commercial bank in Africa to achieve the highest level of sustainability certification under the SSCI program. This further affirms the bank’s commitment to sustainability and is a major leap towards the achievement of the bank’s vision.

Access Bank fulfilled the criteria of the world’s first holistic, robust and locally-sensitive set of standards to make value-driven financial institutions more resilient, profitable and key players in the implementation of national development agenda, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and protection of the natural environment in which they operate.

What contributions has Access Bank made to building and developing communities, societies and businesses that led to receiving this certificate?

Since 2008, Access Bank has been a pioneering force in the sustainability industry. With a strong commitment to creating a sustainable future, the bank has in the last decade worked with key stakeholders and partners across industries. Guided by the material issues of relevance to its stakeholders, it developed strategic interventions and initiatives that have facilitated its goal of financing a future that is socially developed, environmentally responsible and economically advanced.

Access Bank initiated and championed the process that led to the development of the Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBPs) – a set of nine principles which have been adopted by all banks operating in Nigeria today. In 2019, the Bank worked with The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative and 27 other global banks to develop the Global Principles for Responsible Banking. Being the only financial institution in West Africa on the core team that developed the principles, the Bank was able to bring in the African perspective and ensure that the principles are relevant to Africa.

The Bank continues to serve a crucial role, helping to transform local and regional economies while making them inclusive, green, digital and sustainable. The Bank issued the first ever Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) certified corporate green bond in Africa to the tune of ₦15billion to finance environmental-friendly projects.

Additionally, the Bank played a significant role in the fight against COVID-19 by donating ₦1billion to Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID). The birth of this initiative was championed by the Bank’s Group Managing Director, Herbert Wigwe, raising over ₦35billion alongside other organizations and individuals. CACOVID has created treatment, testing, training, and isolation centers as well as donating medical equipment to all states in Nigeria. The Coalition also supplied the Nigerian Center for Disease Control with over 60,000 testing kits and unveiled a palliative drive to feed 1.7 million households in Nigeria.

More recently, Access Bank unveiled the #All4One project to provide support to individuals, businesses and communities that were adversely affected by the nationwide protests to end police brutality. This project is focused on rebuilding the country as well as reviving its cultural heritage.

Access Bank is taking the lead in Africa as one of the socially responsible businesses that have embedded environmentally sound policies as core elements in its growth strategy to create sustainable economic values.

Why is it important for private sector organizations to take up a mantle of responsibility towards becoming more sustainable?

Sustainable development and the transition to a green economy cannot be realized without contributions from the private sector. Private sector organizations provide goods and services, generate tax revenues for financing key social and economic infrastructure, and develop innovative solutions to solve development challenges.

When private sector organizations step up their corporate social responsibility, they play a big role in development which extends from the traditional approach to the establishment of more comprehensive and detailed public-private partnerships. 

Beyond financing and investment, and the capacity for introducing innovation, human resources are a key contribution that private sector organizations can make. Also, it is certain that environments for trading and new markets will be developed through ensuring sustainable development. Hence, trillions of dollars of public and private funds will be reallocated to Sustainable Development Goals. Thus, there will be great opportunities for responsible companies to find solutions. 

How do standards like the SSCI help lead to holistic integration of sustainability into an organizational strategy to drive innovation and partnership in the private sector?

SSCI provides an all-encompassing framework for holistic integration of sustainability to drive innovation in organizations. This initiative inspires the creation of business models based on stakeholder value in a fast-changing world, thereby ensuring the long-term viability of certified financial institutions. 

The SSCI is a practical tool for transforming banks. It helps in terms of organizational purpose and setting measurable high-impact goals, which drives institutional policy, governance, organizational culture and business models, among other things

SSCI presents new opportunities for mobilizing funds through multi-stakeholder partnerships to finance businesses and projects creating high social and environmental impact. It also ensures that the work and strategies of certified institutions are congruent with the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and national development agenda.

How will Access Bank continue to strengthen its commitment towards supporting vibrant communities and influencing positive market transformation in the areas wherein it operates?

Access Bank has continually demonstrated a strong commitment to sustainability through various strategic investments, efforts and collaborations for more than a decade. The Bank has supported vibrant and successful communities in every market it serves. This stems from its understanding of the fact that its long-term business success is contingent on the stability of those communities. 

Hence, the Bank is renewing its sustainability approach and making the case for sustainability everywhere. The Bank’s focus is to significantly manage its impact on people and the environment as well as propel the world towards a more sustainable path, while making a positive impact in society. 

Matt RomneyA Talk With Access Bank About Their Sustainability Strategy