One thing Union Bank Plc tried to do in its sustainability approaches in 2020 was to make an impact in as many of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as it possibly could in a year described as the most challenging of all times due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
The bank in its Citizenship Sustainability and Innovation (CSI) 2020 report, said its approaches contributed positively to many SDGs, including SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 4 (Education), SDG 5 (Gender Equality), SDG 7 (Clean Energy), and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities). Others are SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), SDG 13 (Climate Action), SDG 14 (Life below Water), and SDG 15 (Life on Land).
“By consistently enhancing customer experience and driving social change through distinct causes, our innovation objectives in 2020 contributed towards SDG 8 (Economic Growth) and SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure),” the report added.
However, Union Bank approached these numerous SDGs from three pillars – Citizenship, Sustainability and Innovation to help it “deliver value that aligns our business strategy with our commitment to environmental, socioeconomic and financial development.”
Importance of sustainability reporting
Each year, quoted companies are statutorily required to publish their sustainability reports centred on environmental, social and governance (ESG), distinct from their annual financial accounts presented to shareholders at general meetings.
Therefore, a typical sustainability report indicates an organization’s values and governance model, while linking its strategy and commitment to a sustainable global economy in line with the global reporting initiative (GRI).
Since the late 1980s, sustainability issues began to take centre stage in global development and gained more traction due to ecological (climate change) and economic concerns to achieve a more integrated development globally, and even more so since the UN established the 17 SDGs in January 2016.
The SDGs and set targets are meant to enable governments and corporate entities to adopt a common practice for scalable and sustainable development that helps them to explore and anticipate how the choices they make today affect tomorrow.
Thereafter, many principles have been weaved around sustainability, including conservation of ecosystem; development of sustainable society; conservation of biodiversity; control of population growth; development of human resources; and promotion of public participation.
It is no wonder then that Union Bank tried to capture many of these in 2020, even as it plans to expand its focus on women, sustainability, employees, digital Union, sustainable finance, branding propositioning, and partnerships in the current financial year.
Responsible financial, environmental, socio-economic devt
Chief Executive Officer, Union Bank Plc, Emeka Emuwa, in his message in the CSI 2020, expressed the bank’s commitment to the principles of responsible financial, environmental and socio-economic development, while contributing its quota to a sustainable ecosystem.
He said: “Over the past year, we continued to positively impact individuals and our host communities through initiatives around talent development, agriculture and financial inclusion.
“These initiatives are directly aligned with the Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBPs), and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
He identified noticeable achievements by enriching more lives through simple, smart and easily accessible products, services and unique solutions and improving milestones in energy efficiency, carbon footprint reduction, gender empowerment, and empowering small businesses to succeed.
He explained, “As part of our commitment to environmental responsibility, we added more bank branches to our solar grid, thus increasing our energy efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint. Our buildings across our network are fitted with energy saving bulbs and elevators, as well as motion-sensor escalators and lighting systems.
“We also expanded our partnership with local recycling companies to minimise environmental pollution through responsible and environmentally friendly waste management and disposal.”
He added that “As a Bank, we have continued to embed sustainability in day-to-day operations – from reduced paper usage to vendor onboarding and other key processes.
“Our Sustainability Working Group drawn from several key functions across the Bank including Credit Risk, Procurement and Finance, continues to advise the Bank and ensure that our sustainability strategy is consistently implemented across board.”
Reinforcing achievements in the year under review, the bank’s Chief Brand, Marketing & Sustainability Officer, Ogochukwu Ekezie-Ekaidem, said the bank further reduced its carbon footprints by deploying alternative power solutions such as increasing the number of solar-powered branches and ATMs to 111 and 500 respectively. “We have also minimised the environmental impact of waste through responsible and environmentally friendly waste management and disposal, recycling over 110,000kg of waste since 2017.”
She continued, “Although the world as we knew it changed in 2020, our focus on impacting our communities through strategic partnerships, enabled us to sustain our efforts and scale up in most cases. Our 2020 initiatives and partnerships were interlinked with the common goal to amplify our support for, and commitment to, children, women, social entrepreneurs, and other worthy causes.”
In terms of approach, the management explained that “Through targeted initiatives aimed at incorporating sustainability into our business operations whilst bolstering risk management, we have in the past year recorded significant impact across the ecosystem, reaffirming our position as a sustainability-focused, socially driven and responsible financial institution.”
It noted that the world has endured a lot in recent years – rising income and gender inequality, increasing temperatures leading to extreme weather conditions, a pandemic that continues to disrupt global economies, which continue to impact our environment, health, economies, and societies.
“These disruptions further spur our commitment to continuously reconsider and remodel how we interact with the environment and societies we work in,” it said.