Experts Task Financial Institutions On Sustainability Strategies

Critical stakeholders have charged financial institutions to identify and pursue sustainability strategies, and also the need to measure their achievements and integrate them into their sustainability reporting process for a viable future.

These and many more dominate discussions at Day II of the week-long event to commemorate Access Bank Sustainability Awareness Week 2019 with the Theme ‘Together For A Sustainable Future’ at their headquarters in Victoria Island, Lagos.

In her remark, the Head Sustainability, Access Bank, Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan said Access Bank is totally committed to sustainability because it believes that sustainability is the only and the right way to do business.

“We formalised this commitment about 11-years ago when we established our Standard Sustainability Function and ever since then, we have been going along on the journey.​ Five years into our journey, we initiated the Legal Development of the Nigerian Sustainability Banking Principles which today is adopted by World Bank that operates with the Central Bank of Nigeria, so, on an annual basis we celebrate what we refer to as the Sustainability Awareness Week and bring on board stakeholders to share experiences, share knowledge and hold our various stakeholders to go together on the sustainability journey.​

Speaking further, Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, said “Today happens to also be the day that we celebrate our Employee Awareness Day, so across our banks, you would have seen our various employees in their various T-shirts with the range of their groups projects written on it. Ranging from school adoption project to community health project to safe water initiative, among the whole range of others.

“And the aim also is to let everyone know that we have our individual roles to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. So being a banker or working in a bank does not exempt you from being a leader in the community or in the society and contributing your individual quota to ensuring the society is a better place,” she added.

One of the panelists at the Day II event, Dr. Tayo Taiwo, an environmental expert, identified environmental, social and financial risks as factors why financial institutions must embrace Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) because of its ambitious and wide-ranging set of global environmental, social and economic targets.

Dr. Taiwo, who is also the MD of Xploits Consulting Limited explained that considering environmental and social risks as part of the risk appraisal process for transactions helps a financial institution to decrease its exposure to overall risk and contributes to its long-term financial viability.

According to him, a financial institution can do so by developing an Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS), which can be integrated into its existing risk management framework including the risk assessment process for transactions.

“A well-developed Environmental and Social Management System can lead to decreased exposure to environmental and social risks, increase market opportunities, and an enhanced reputation, which help contribute to the long-term financial viability of the company,” he added.

In his own comment, Chief Responsibility Officer,​Parallel Point Consult, Abiola Oshunniyi, said there is a broad consensus that the financial services industry, of which Access Bank Plc plays an important role has a vital role to play promoting sustainable development.

He said given the strategic importance of banks in the value chains of critical sectors such as agriculture, energy and trade, the role of banks in the sustainable development of Nigeria cannot be underestimated.

According to him, the goals are chiefly designed to promote the transition to a more viable future. “These goals are ambitious and embrace a wide range of environmental, social and economic issues, including climate change, energy, water stewardship, marine conservation, biodiversity, poverty, food security, sustainable production and consumption, gender equality and economic growth.”

Executive Director, HACEY, Ms Rhoda Robinson, also a member of the panel, said leading financial services companies should identify and measure their contributions to the SDGs, integrate their achievements into sustainability reporting processes and commission comprehensive external monitoring. Finally, fundamental concerns regarding the contradicting trends of sustainability and continuing economic growth.

Ms Robinson argued that sustainable banking integrates Environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria into traditional banking, and sets ESG benefits as a key objective.

She said the adoption of SDGs by banks will clearly pave the way for better diffusion of sustainable banking, noting that Banks are highly committed to sustainability but need key success factors in place to realize the full benefits of their sustainable banking efforts.

“By incorporating sustainability principles into corporate strategy funding decisions and product/service definition processes, banks can be influential in supporting and promoting environmentally and/or socially responsible projects and enterprises.

“Innovative products and services that target certain populations (e.g. women) or that encourage purchase of green products (e.g. green credit cards) go a long way to promoting sustainable practices,” she added.

Other participants at the event includes; Manager, Future Wox, Ademulegun Olowojoba; Country Manager, G.B.C Health, Ochuko Keyamo-Onyige; CEO, Victory Bridge, Victor Okhai and many other key decision makers in the sector.