Standard Bank, Africa’s largest financial services organisation, has become a founding signatory to the UN Principles for Responsible Banking – a framework aimed at driving sustainable economic development and ensuring the prosperity of current and future generations.
More than 100 banking CEOs from five continents, along with UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative, launched the Principles for Responsible Banking at the annual UN General Assembly in New York on Sunday.
Sola David-Borha, Standard Bank Group’s Chief Executive for Africa Regions, signed the Principles document on behalf of the group, which played a role in developing the framework over the past two years.
“The Principles align with Standard Bank’s purpose: to drive Africa’s growth and uplift her people by doing business the right way. They also support the group’s drive to maximise our social, economic and environmental impacts,” David-Borha says. “Standard Bank sees an opportunity to have a significant impact across the continent, given that we have the largest African footprint of all participating banks.”
Standard Bank, which houses the Stanbic brand, operates in 20 African markets.
The Principles for Responsible Banking are designed to help banks align their business strategies with society’s goals – as expressed in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement – thereby laying the platform for a sustainable banking system. They require banks to embed social, economic and environmental considerations in their processes, practices and decision-making.
All signatory banks are required to conduct impact analyses to identify their biggest potential positive and negative contributions to the societies, economies and environments in which they operate. Based on these analyses, banks must then identify strategic business opportunities to increase positive and decrease negative impacts. Each bank must then set at least two targets that address their biggest impact areas, and work towards achieving them.
Importantly, transparency forms a key element of the Principles – all banks must report their progress to the public. This comes as customers, investors and the broader public increasingly advocate that banks take ownership of the direct and indirect impacts of their funding activities.
Given the significant role that banks play in society, fostering the trust of all stakeholders is more important than ever.
“The launch of the Principles signifies a critical evolution in how the banking industry engages with and accounts to our stakeholders,” David-Borha says.
Standard Bank has identified seven impact areas the group aims to focus on, based on the markets it operates in. These are: job creation and enterprise development; education; financial inclusion; health; environment and climate change; infrastructure development; African trade and investment.
The group aims to build on the progress already made in these areas. As an example, to facilitate job creation and enterprise development, Stanbic Bank Ghana launched a Business Incubator in January 2018. The incubator aims to provide funding and support to 1,500 start-ups. It is helping them to differentiate themselves, access corporate supply chains, and ultimately become more profitable.
“We recognise that it takes more than putting pen to paper to make a global agreement on responsible banking a reality, but today marks a very important starting point,” David-Borha said in a speech at the UN’s headquarters in New York on Sunday. “I am confident we will see the financial services sector stepping up to play a more proactive role in driving growth and prosperity for generations to come.”