Ac­cess Bank as prac­ti­tioner and ad­vo­cate of sus­tain­abil­ity

Sus­tain­abil­ity is fast be­com­ing the way to do busi­ness and com­pete suc­cess­fully glob­ally, and over the long term.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents - Omobolanle Vic­tor-Laniyan

On De­cem­ber 06, 2017, Omobolanle Vic­tor-Laniyan, Head of Sus­tain­abil­ity at Ac­cess Bank Plc, and Isa­iah Owolabi, Project Di­rec­tor at Hacey Health Ini­tia­tive, were on CNBC Africa's Clos­ing Bell to dis­cuss the ben­e­fits of sus­tain­able busi­ness prac­tices. Af­ter­wards, Ms Vic­tor-Laniyan was in­ter­viewed by Jide Ak­in­tunde, Man­ag­ing Ed­i­tor, Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria pub­li­ca­tions.

Jide Ak­in­tunde (JA): 2017 was a very re­ward­ing year for Ac­cess Bank Plc with re­gard to its com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity. Af­ter scoop­ing five awards at the SERASCSR Awards 2017, the Bank lit­er­ally took all the awards at the maiden Sus­tain­abil­ity Awards of the Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria (CBN). What un­der­lines Ac­cess Bank's com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity? Omobolanle Vic­tor-Laniyan: Sus­tain­abil­ity en­cap­su­lates re­spon­si­ble busi­ness prac­tices. It is the whole gamut of the duty of care a bank, or any or­ga­ni­za­tion, needs to ob­serve. This en­tails the care for so­ci­ety, the en­vi­ron­ment as well as fi­nan­cial per­for­mance.

We are aware of the view that says adding so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sid­er­a­tions to the con­cern for fi­nan­cial bot­tom­line by a busi­ness would im­pair its prof­itabil­ity. Ac­cess Bank be­lieves the op­po­site. In­deed, our be­lief has strength­ened over the years, that lack of com­mit­ment to the so­ci­ety and the en­vi­ron­ment would weaken the com­pet­i­tive­ness and lead­er­ship po­ten­tials of any cor­po­rate or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Some 10 years ago, Ac­cess Bank de­cided to em­bed sus­tain­abil­ity into its en­tire op­er­a­tions. We had the un­der­stand­ing that not do­ing so would be tan­ta­mount to swim­ming against the tide. But given that sus­tain­abil­ity was a rel­a­tively new con­cept then, al­though a very im­por­tant com­mit­ment, Ac­cess Bank de­cided to take on the two roles of a prac­ti­tioner and an ad­vo­cate. This ex­plains our lead­er­ship in this space and the recog­ni­tions that you al­luded to.

JA: My ob­ser­va­tion is that, whereas Ac­cess Bank po­si­tions as a leader in sus­tain­abil­ity – both in Nige­ria and Africa – a lot of your work is col­lab­o­ra­tive. What un­der­pins this ap­proach?

OVL: Sus­tain­abil­ity is about mak­ing real im­pacts. The scope for this, and the needs to ad­dress, are so wide. At­tempt­ing to act alone in ad­dress­ing the needs for so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal in­ter­ven­tions is in it­self un­sus­tain­able. As such, at Ac­cess Bank, we de­fine sus­tain­abil­ity as “sup­port­ing global and lo­cal ef­forts and pro­vid­ing in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions to so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges in the so­ci­ety.”

We do our best to pro­mote so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity in the fi­nan­cial services sec­tor. Whereas our strat­egy in this space is co­op­er­a­tion, we be­lieve the com­pe­ti­tion to do so­cial good and pro­mote en­vi­ron­men­tal preser­va­tion is pos­i­tive, to the ex­tent that we are talk­ing about real so­lu­tions. There­fore, Ac­cess Bank in­no­vates and pro­motes sev­eral sus­tain­abil­ity ini­tia­tives. Some of our ad­vo­ca­cies have evolved into reg­u­la­tory frame­works by the CBN. We reg­u­larly hold learn­ing and net­work­ing events to raise aware­ness and sup­port pro­fes­sion­als in sus­tain­abil­ity in the African fi­nan­cial services in­dus­try. We also work with our clients to en­sure their projects – for which they seek the bank's fund­ing – re­move or mit­i­gate en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial risks.

Ac­cess Bank has also been build­ing wider net­works in the pri­vate sec­tor and in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to ad­dress wider so­ci­etal and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues. We have

been very ac­tive in the health sec­tor, as a key pro­moter of the “Malaria to Zero” ini­tia­tive. Malaria wrecks a lot of havoc on peo­ple and pro­duc­tiv­ity. Es­ti­mated 216 mil­lion cases of malaria oc­curred in 91 coun­tries in 2016, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion. The same year, malaria deaths reached 445,000. Africa shares a dis­pro­por­tion­ately high per­cent­age of the global malaria bur­den. The dis­ease costs Africa an es­ti­mated $12 bil­lion per year in di­rect costs, while it re­duces GDP growth by 1.3 per­cent an­nu­ally. This shows the scale of the malaria scourge, which we can­not con­tinue to ac­cept by not fight­ing it more de­ter­min­ingly.

Ac­cess Bank and the Pri­vate Sec­tor Health Al­liance, with Hacey Health as a lead im­ple­men­ta­tion part­ner, have been pro­mot­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Malaria to Zero cam­paign. The goal is to save one mil­lion lives over the next five years in Nige­ria alone. In the past 18 months of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the ini­tia­tive, we have helped in sav­ing over 300,000 lives. The Bill Gates Foun­da­tion has backed this ini­tia­tive, which sup­ports the na­tional agenda to elim­i­nate malaria by 2020.

The Malaria to Zero ini­tia­tive is a mul­tipronged, holistic ap­proach that in­cludes health pro­mo­tion, sea­sonal malaria preven­tion through the distri­bu­tion of long-last­ing in­sec­ti­cide treated bed-nets, sup­port­ing re­search with fund­ing, and vol­un­teer­ing by Ac­cess Bank's em­ploy­ees. In the past one year, the bank's staff have ex­pended over 1.9 mil­lion hours, vol­un­teer­ing in the com­mu­ni­ties where we op­er­ate.

JA: These com­mit­ments cost money. There has been the view that sus­tain­abil­ity not only in­creases the cost of busi­ness, it could make a busi­ness un­com­pet­i­tive. What has been the ex­pe­ri­ence of Ac­cess Bank?

OVL: You are right, but that view has been in a re­ces­sion. Far less peo­ple still be­lieve that ad­her­ing to sus­tain­abil­ity prin­ci­ples erodes the abil­ity to com­pete, and prof­itabil­ity. On the con­trary, sus­tain­abil­ity is fast be­com­ing the way to do busi­ness and com­pete suc­cess­fully glob­ally, and over the long term. There is now the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals. The SDGs tie global and lo­cal progress to some 17 de­vel­op­ment goals and 169 tar­gets, all pro­mot­ing so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity. To­gether with the Paris Cli­mate ac­cord, the SDGs are the stan­dards for op­er­a­tion and com­pe­ti­tion for any cor­po­rate or­gan­i­sa­tion. And I dare say that the po­ten­tial cost of in­ac­tion in these ar­eas of global com­mit­ment is quite high.

Ac­cess Bank de­votes 1 per­cent of its profit af­ter tax to pro­mot­ing its sus­tain­abil­ity ini­tia­tives. There is Board sup­port for this, and for em­bed­ding sus­tain­abil­ity in our en­tire op­er­a­tions. The re­sources we put into pro­mot­ing sus­tain­abil­ity are viewed by the lead­er­ship of the bank as valu­able in­vest­ments. They en­hance our brand and they are a key fron­tier of the re­spectabil­ity of Ac­cess Bank.

JA: How mo­ti­vat­ing are the recog­ni­tions that Ac­cess Bank has been get­ting for its com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity?

OVL: The awards tell us that we are do­ing the right things. And I be­lieve they also fit into our vi­sion of ad­vo­cacy. We want to in­spire other cor­po­rates and banks to be com­mit­ted as well. How­ever, these awards con­firm the lead­er­ship of Ac­cess Bank as an African FI. In 2016, the Bank be­came the first African fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion to win the Karl­sruhe Global Sus­tain­able Fi­nance Award, which holds yearly in the City of Karl­sruhe, Ger­many. We re­tained what is ac­knowl­edged as the most cov­eted of the awards – the Award for Out­stand­ing Busi­ness Sus­tain­abil­ity – in 2017.

Re­gion­ally, Ac­cess Bank won five awards at the 2017 SERAs-CSR Awards. Our Group CEO, Her­bert Wigwe, was given an award as Sus­tain­abil­ity Cham­pion and I also got an award as the Most Out­stand­ing CSR Prac­ti­tioner for the Year 2017. To crown these, Ac­cess Bank won all the awards at the maiden CBN Sus­tain­abil­ity Awards 2017. Ac­cess Bank won the CBN awards for Most Sus­tain­able Bank of the Year; Ex­cel­lence in Women Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment; Sus­tain­able Trans­ac­tion of the Year (Oil and Gas); and Sus­tain­able Trans­ac­tion of the Year (Agri­cul­ture).

Ac­cess Bank won all the awards at the maiden CBN Sus­tain­abil­ity Awards 2017. Ac­cess Bank won the CBN awards for Most Sus­tain­able Bank of the Year; Ex­cel­lence in Women Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment; Sus­tain­able Trans­ac­tion of the Year (Oil and Gas); and Sus­tain­able Trans­ac­tion of the Year (Agri­cul­ture).

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