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FirstBank: Nigeria’s Premier Eco-Friendly Financial Brand

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By Jeremiah Agada

As the world gears up to celebrate World Environment Day (WED), Brand Communicator’s focus on Eco-Friendly Brands in the Nigerian market falls on Nigeria’s premier and perhaps the strongest financial institution, First Bank of Nigeria Limited. The focus is on the Bank’s environmental policies and its impact on global environmental issues.

This brings to fore the importance of environmental sustainability in our world today. Environmental sustainability is one of the biggest challenges and most important targets of the present times. Stakeholders (researchers, academicians, scholars, governments, and non-government organizations involving individuals, communities, countries, and the continents, are increasingly focusing their attention on how to tackle the challenges associated with driving environmental sustainability.

Key stakeholder concerns include the constant exploitation of the environment due to economic development. While the current generation is enjoying the fruits of economic development, they tend to be oblivious of the uncertainty and dangers that future generations would confront as a result of scarce natural resources and a polluted environment.

It is, therefore, our responsibility to leave the planet as a self-sustainable system providing equal opportunities for survival not only to our future generations but also to all other species co-habiting with us.

In Nigeria, studies have shown that various sectors of the economy are vulnerable to climate change. These include human settlements and health; water resources, wetlands and freshwater ecosystems; energy, industry, commerce, and financial services; agriculture, food security, land degradation, forestry, and biodiversity; coastal zone and marine ecosystems.

Because of the seriousness of climate change and the impact, it poses to the environment, an organization like First Bank of Nigeria Limited is leaving nothing to chance in ensuring an eco-friendly society. Its recognition of the environmental and social impacts of its operations has made it adopt policies and procedures that minimize negative environmental and social impacts.

In doing business, the Bank, which is Nigeria’s first and arguably its most prestigious, takes cognizance of potential environmental risks with a view to nipping them in the bud. This it has done by constant interactions with stakeholders, driving sustainable insurance, and putting necessary frameworks in place towards ensuring that its actions as a corporate entity do not impact negatively the environment.

As such, the sustainability of the societies and physical environments in which the Bank operates are critical to its own sustainable success. Therefore, the Bank has shown over the years that it is committed to making a positive contribution wherever it does business while avoiding or minimizing any direct or indirect negative impact on communities and the environment resulting from its activities, beyond its responsible lending and investment efforts.

The acknowledgment of the fact that its environmental impacts can be indirectly linked to climate change and its global effects have led the bank to adopt an approach to environmental sustainability which is two-fold based on its direct and indirect impacts. The approaches to reducing the direct impacts of its operations include an approach to minimizing carbon footprints and carbon offsetting; work towards carbon neutrality as well as promote wildlife and biodiversity conservation and preservation.

In minimizing waste, the Bank works to improve energy efficiency in its data centers and offices as well as reduce air travel and implement safe paper use initiatives. It also increased the use of conference calls for meetings as against attending physical meeting schedules thereby minimizing fuel consumption and carbon emission from vehicles. It’s Going Green’ efforts have also seen the Bank purchase renewable energy; promote tree planting initiatives and the indirect impact of its activities focuses largely on responsible lending.

The Bank’s key objectives of minimizing carbon footprints through the planting of trees, creating awareness among school children of the need to preserve wildlife and biodiversity, developing and educating environmentally conscious students through partnerships with reputable NGOs and institutions, are huge. The challenge in implementing this project is not just in identifying suitable locations with the right soil and climatic conditions for tree planting, but also in ensuring students’ participation.

These objectives and FirstBank’s responsible approach to protecting the environment has seen it partner with Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Nigeria’s premier non-governmental environment conservation foundation dedicated to nature conservation and sustainable development in Nigeria. Its ongoing partnership with the NCF has seen it actively support annual activities promoting conservation and preservation of wildlife and biodiversity.

The FirstBank Conservation Initiative is part of our long-term approach to promoting sustainability, which involves minimizing our direct and indirect impacts on the environment. And the success of this initiative is dependent on our meaningful engagement with our stakeholders.

With its huge expertise in environmental issues, the Bank found a worthy and perfect partner in the NCF to help implement this programme successfully. The NCF used its experience and influence to engage the various stakeholders to support the programme.

This included utilizing its conservation clubs, which provided educational sessions for the students on the importance and benefits of conservation and supporting biodiversity. The subsequent enthusiastic participation of the students, and the encouragement they received from the Ministry of Education and school authorities, enabled the programme’s objectives to be achieved.

So far, 240 trees have been planted at the Lagos State Civil Service Model College Igbogbo in Ikorodu, and Evboesi Mixed Secondary School, Benin City. More than 1,000 environmental sustainability champions have also been appointed in these locations. These champions are young people who look after the trees and ensure that they are adequately cared for to help the bank achieve its afforestation goals.

“The planting of trees is just part of our efforts to contribute to Nigeria’s green economy and to combat deforestation/desertification while recognizing the key role of children and young people in the sustainability agenda,” the Bank in a statement disclosed.

Through its partnership with Junior Achievement Nigeria (JAN), FirstBank sponsored the National Company of the Year (NCOY) Competition. The competition is an extension of the COY programme that brings secondary students together to form a company, choose a business name and elect officers to oversee operations of the company for the programme duration. It teaches students to put theory into practice in order to fully understand what financial literacy and entrepreneurship is.

At the end of the programme, the students that complete the programme successfully, compete in the regional competition and represent their school in the National Company of the Year competition in Lagos.

In 2020, the New Phase from Brookstone Secondary School, Port-Harcourt, Rivers state emerged winner, producing an eco-friendly block. The eco-friendly construction blocks were made from plastic waste. These sustainable blocks are the next wave of sustainable construction.

Beyond the initiatives above, responsible lending remains one of the strategic pillars in delivering the sustainability goals of the FirstBank Group. FirstBank has put in place an Environmental, Social and Governance Management System (ESGMS) to help the Bank integrate environmental social, and governance considerations into its decision-making processes. This includes an ESG policy and procedures for screening transactions.

The ESG policy is based on existing policy documents and international best practices, while procedures to screen transactions are aimed at conducting ESG due diligence on potential transactions. These are based on Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Banking Principles, IFC Performance Standards, and international best practice and are tailored to FirstBank’s procedures, risk management framework, risk appetite, and tolerance, and adapted to its strategic objectives

The key objective of this policy is to ensure that all the transactions that FirstBank is considering funding, include adequate provision for actions necessary to prevent, control and mitigate negative impacts on the environment and communities, and improve environmental quality.

With this, FirstBank has shown its commitment to integrating social and environmental principles in all its operations; promoting good corporate governance and ensuring social and environmental considerations are included in the business decision making; reviewing and managing potential social and environmental risks in its lending and investment processes and activities and reviewing all borrowers against the criteria like exclusion list; the International Finance Corporate Performance Standards, and other applicable international standards as well as the Nigeria Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBP) requirements.

Other initiatives are, providing constant education and training for all staff on issues of environmental and social responsibility relevant to the business; regularly communicating to all stakeholders on the progress of commitments including achievements, challenges, and future direction; continuous improvement on the way in which it identifies, assesses and manages Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) risks within its businesses.

The successful and productive implementation of the ESGMS has propelled the bank to integrate the associated checklist (which is usually completed by a relationship manager and verified by an analyst against the EIA report), into the bank’s credit application platform designed for reviewing credits. The goal is to ensure efficiency through automation as relevant implementation documents such as the environmental, social, and governance risks screening checklist will be fully automated.

These initiatives over the years and activities have shown that environmental sustainability remains a key corporate responsibility & sustainability focus for FirstBank.

BUSINESS

Another Shot In The Arm For Adeduntan As FirstBank Wins Global Banking And Finance’s Retail Banking CEO Award

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While the age-old saying and philosophy of virtue being its own reward (or seeing doing good as its own reward) remain a strong motivating factor in doing good persistently, it helps when virtue gets recognition from time to time. Even though anyone or organization committed to doing good will keep doing so with or without recognition, recognitions for virtue tend to act like a shot in the arm for such people or organizations, spurring them to commit even more to do good.

That is what the recent award of “Retail Banking CEO of the Year Nigeria” to Dr Adesola Adeduntan, CEO of First Bank of Nigeria Limited, is to both him and the bank he leads. It is a shot in the arm of this foremost CEO of Nigeria’s most enduring financial institution that is also the pioneer in retail banking development in Nigeria, the premier bank in West Africa, and the leading financial inclusion services provider in Nigeria for over 127 years, to keep steering the bank in the right direction, energizing and expanding retail opportunities for all Nigerians in the process. It is a well-deserved recognition for a man and the institution he leads that would rather keep off the spotlight and focus exclusively on attending to Nigerians’ banking needs as best as they can – which is what has kept them going for 127 years and counting.

This critical role is one FirstBank is better suited to lead than any other lender given the robust retail banking framework that the bank has in place, that is riding on its innovative technology-driven operations, over 750 branches across the continents, and 100,000 Firstmonie Agent banking network spread across 772 local government areas in Nigeria. It is little wonder that FirstBank, which is intricately woven into the fabric of Nigerian society, has been an essential player in the retail space, empowering Nigerians of all walks of life by providing them bespoke and innovative financial products and services that address their multidimensional needs. The bank has been at the forefront of bridging the financial exclusion gap and enabling customers and the general public to carry out both individual and corporate financial activities which contribute to the growth and development of the national economy.

The award by Global Banking and Finance Magazine, according to Dr Adeduntan, “speak[s] to the investments we [as FirstBank] have made over the past years in…enhancing financial inclusion….” It is a loud testament to the incredible strides FirstBank has made and continues to make in the retail space under the able and dynamic leadership of the management team led by Dr Adeduntan.

The strides are in turn underpinned by the bank’s resolute commitment to putting the customer and other stakeholders at the heart of its business. Dr Adeduntan reiterates this view when he wasted no time in dedicating the award to all the bank’s “customers, as the trust they reposed in us being their bank of the first choice in meeting their business and financial needs has been instrumental to the success we have achieved in our existence of over 127 years.” “We remain committed,” he continued, “to putting you, our customers, first as we contribute to the growth and development of our host communities.”

Organized to identify the banks across the world that have excelled across a number of areas, including corporate governance, sustainability, and innovation, and have played a key role in the industry’s growth, the Global Banking and Finance Awards reflect the innovation, achievement, strategy, progressive and inspirational changes taking place within the global financial community. The awards were created to accord recognition to companies of all sizes which are prominent in their areas of expertise and excellence within the financial world. For Dr Adeduntan and FirstBank, the award is further proof of FirstBank’s enduring commitment to providing excellent retail banking services to all its customers as reflected in the bank’s strategic vision, diverse and inclusive workforce, and performance-oriented organizational structure.

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UBA, DEG Sign $50m Term Loan To Support Small Businesses In Nigeria

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Pan African financial institution, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, and Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH, the German Development Finance Institution, have entered into a partnership aimed at supporting small and medium scale businesses (SMEs) in Nigeria.

To this end, both institutions have signed a USD 50m Term Facility Agreement. The facility with a tenor of six years is targeted at supporting SMEs and family-owned businesses in Nigeria.

UBA America’s Chief Executive Officer, Sola Yomi-Ajayi, who spoke about the partnership, said as a financial institution, UBA remains passionate about the growth of the private sector and small businesses which according to her, remains critical for any developing country. She noted that the passion to see this sector succeed is what led both organizations to collaborate on this laudable feat.

Yomi-Ajayi, who is also the Global Head for Financial Institutions, Multilateral and Development Organizations, said, “At UBA Group, we are proud of this collaboration with DEG, particularly as it supports our financial intervention in the SME space, enabling financial inclusion, as well as facilitating economic empowerment.

Continuing, she said, “These objectives remain core aspects of our strategy, particularly as regards to facilitating the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals on the African continent.”

In his comments, DEG’s Regional Director for West Africa, Bernhard Tilemann, said, “DEG is delighted to enter into long-term cooperation with UBA in Nigeria and the region. This cooperation will address the current economic challenges of the country while fostering private sector growth and impact in the largest economy of the continent.”

According to Tilemann, the funding provided by DEG is partly supported by EB-SME Finance Fund Emerging Markets, while the fund’s adviser is a 100% subsidiary of Evangelische Bank (EB).

The Regional Director noted that DEG has offices on the African continent in Lagos, Abidjan, Johannesburg, and Nairobi; and pointed out that the move is a major milestone for DEG’s Regional Representative Office in Lagos which was opened in 2019.

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Ecobank Appoints Babajide Sipe As New Head Of Marketing And Corporate Communications

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Great visions attract the best people, and so is the case at Ecobank Nigeria. The Nigerian franchise of the Pan-African financial institution is making good on its mission to empower Nigerians with all the tools to take control and make the most of their finances.

With the recent revamp of its full-stack mobile banking solutions – *326#, Ecobank Mobile app, OmniLite, Omni Plus, EcobankPay, and NQR, the Bank’s Marketing, and Corporate Communications department is being built up to connect customers to greater value in banking and to ensure that the innovative products are effectively articulated to the public.

Led by the seasoned Pan-African financial services expert Mr. Patrick Akinwuntan, Ecobank Nigeria has been bolstering its digital capabilities and human capital with the goal of delivering optimum value for clients and shareholders across several value chains.

It is in this line that Mr. Babajide Sipe was recently appointed to Head the Marketing and Corporate Communications department for Ecobank Nigeria.

An experienced Marketing & Brand Manager, Mr. Sipe’s multi-faceted career, which cuts across several fields, industries, and regions within the country and abroad will come to play in leading and enriching the Bank’s Marketing and Communications efforts with in-depth expertise, top-notch creativity, and an extensive breadth of value-adding networks.

Under Mr. Akinwuntan, who is both the Managing Director and Regional Executive for Ecobank Nigeria, the Bank has strongly positioned itself as a key stakeholder and supporter in the growth of the real sector of the Nigerian economy.

Recently, Ecobank announced that it would be empowering MSMEs with N100 Billion, a special fund set aside for business growth and to reduce unemployment in Nigeria; and also the Ecobank Female Entrepreneurship Initiative (EFEI) targeted at boosting female entrepreneurship, amongst others.

Ultimately, Ecobank’s goal is to remain the go-to bank for Pan-African trade facilitation and payments. This would mean leveraging the full value of its unrivaled Pan-African footprint covering 33 African countries to create greater market access and financing opportunities. The Marketing and Corporate Communications department, under the leadership of Mr. Sipe thus has a huge task to position the Bank for the future. With the fine blend of experience, expertise, and cutting-edge solutions, growth seems certain, if not near.

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