One year after embedding sustainability as a key driver in its corporate strategies Absa Bank Kenya PLC released an annual Sustainability Commitment Report to showcase its journey, the challenges it has encountered during the pandemic and the strategies it has implemented towards achieving distinct SDGs.
The sustainability Commitment Report, which introduces the public to the company’s 100-year track record of serving people, further delves deeper into the changes, challenges and milestones Absa has covered, while on their journey to live up to Africanacity and the mantra of becoming a #ForceforGood. The report was launched on Friday, find the highlights here – Absa Illustrates The Importance Of SDGs
On a general level, the Sustainability Commitment Report is a way of proving accountability to stakeholders, customers and the community at large, while highlighting what the company is doing to stick to its promises. But at a closer range this report, showcases the diverse strategies, business initiatives, projects and implementations the company has put in place in order to become a force for good around the community and the planet, now and in the future.
According to Absa, sustainability is the wind beneath any forward-looking organisation. It is even so important because it enables any organisation to impart a higher purpose to its employees, reduce costs, improve operational efficiency, drive innovation all while impacting the society, economy and the environment positively.
Absa attests that through sustainability, it has been able to strengthen its ability to respond to an ever-increasing competitive landscape and still remain relevant. Sustainability has further led to a concept known as shared value which permeates the bank’s operations altogether.
Why Sustainability and what’s the importance of supporting SDGs
Absa swears by its commitment to be a #ForceforGood to its stakeholders, customers and the community at large. However, over the years, this commitment has grown, including the company’s citizenship agenda, encouraging the organisation to contribute towards the attainment of sustainable global goals. This action does not only ensure that Absa continues to provide sustainable financial solutions and support enterprises, but also facilitate economic growth and impact the society accordingly.
Additionally, Absa has operated in Kenya for over 100 years. This has led to the company gaining a deeper understanding of the fundamental challenges that affect the Kenyan society. Thus to respond to these challenges which include unemployment, slow economic development, climate change, poor governance, corruption, access to quality education, healthcare and social services, Absa has selected 4 high impact global goals to focus on.
SDG 4: Quality education
Education is paramount to all facets of life and the lack of it, be it because it is not available, or not affordable, further contributes to inequalities within people and countries. This is why Absa has outlined different commitments and strategic solutions to address this challenge effectively all while leveraging SDG 17 which encourages partnerships to achieve goals. These solutions include;
Partnering with HELB to provide scholarships and enable both male and female tertiary students to access local universities. The scholarship covers tuition fee, upkeep costs and provides a laptop for studies.
To reduce the rate of unemployment and the number of youths lacking the training and skills needed in the market, Absa introduced the ReadytoWork program which prepares young people to be work-ready. The programme was introduced in 2016 to provide a digital learning experience to job seekers, entrepreneurs, or people getting back into the job market and thus preparing them for the market. 4 modules are covered in the online skill development course. They include work skills, people skills, money skills and entrepreneurial skills.
After going through the ReadytoWork program, Absa provides internships and placements to young people according to their respective professions. To date, 170 youths have gotten internship positions through the bank and 28% of these interns retained as employees in 2018.
SDG 8 also involves protecting labour rights and promoting a safe working environment for all employees. Absa has embedded a new culture in line with its goal to be among the top 10 best places to work in the country and within the African continent by 2025.
In regards to this, the company has implemented policies targeted at gender and marginalised groups which ensure a safe and economically viable business.
Other milestones that the organisation has covered to support SDG 8 include:
Enhancing benefits to employees.
Through development programs and staff empowerment.
Absa tracking its economic value contribution and the economic impact of the company’s supply chain.
Creating job opportunities for the youth.
Training and development of staff and suppliers to facilitate the dissemination of information underpinned on responsible banking principles.
Colleague engagement through WEMA.
3. SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production
In response to SDG 12, Absa has implemented a couple of measures to ensure there is responsible consumption and production. These include;
Replacing the company’s existing water dispensers with water purification units which are eco-friendly and resource-efficient. The cost of implementing the systems was free to the bank and furthermore, installing this integrated supply eliminated the collection and delivery of large plastic water bottles thus reducing the organisation’s carbon footprint. Absa reports that the company’s staff have embraced the use of cups and mugs to drink water, instead of using styrofoam cups. This has not only saved the company significant costs but as an environmentally friendly strategy, it promotes staff wellness and generally responsible consumption.
Recycling e-waste to minimise waste streams. Absa has recycled furniture, billboards, plastic and e-waste, contributing to SDG 4, 8 and 12 accordingly. Currently, the organisation in partnership with Fun Kidz and Computer for Schools Kenya has upcycled, repurposed and donated over 1000 computers to 66 institutions across the country. Check out; the importance of safe disposal, handling and recycling of E-waste.
Using metal waste to make hands-free foot pedal sanitizers in response to the COVID-19 prevention measures.
By supporting local suppliers. This cuts down on fuel emissions and overall carbon footprint that is detrimental to the environment. It also cuts down the costs that could’ve been spent on importing supplies from other countries.
Through the provision of affordable and clean energy, and improved implementation of innovative technologies.
Adoption of renewable energy in the organisation’s operation and hence supporting SDG 7.
Partnering with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to restore 10% of the nation’s forest cover by 2022. Thus far Absa has participated in the 2 Billion planting tree campaign and the company plans to conduct tree planting exercises in the 66 institutions where the computer labs will be handed over. The goal is to plant 10 million trees and seedlings in 5 years, which supports SDG 15 – Life on land.
4. SDG 10: Reduced inequalities
To reduce inequalities within and among countries, SDG 10 calls for reducing income inequalities as well as inequalities based on gender, disability, origin, race, religion, economic or any other status within a country. Aside from increasing the access to education for both male and female students from all 47 counties in Kenya, Absa has sought to reduce inequality by supporting gender diversity at board and across all other levels. The organisation’s aim is to surpass the 1/3 threshold which has been established as the benchmark by the constitution.
Why is this important?
Supporting gender diversity is not solely about women empowerment. In fact, Absa reports that’s increasing gender diversity leads to better financial performance, and thus increased economic stimulus. Other benefits include reduction of poverty, reduced inequalities, and community upliftment.
Nevertheless, aside from ensuring that women suppliers are well represented, Absa has also supported gender diversity by tracking their loan portfolio to ensure there is women empowerment and inclusive financial solutions.
Other practises that the company has implemented to reduce inequalities include;
Providing sustainable and inclusive financial services such as Timiza, as a measure to reduce poverty, foster inclusivity and accessibility. This measure contributes to the national development goals as stipulated in Vision 2030 and the government’s big four agenda on affordable housing, manufacturing, universal health care and food security, all key sectors for Absa.
Through Wezesha Biashara loans which feature; Unsecured Working capital for Shs 10million, Timiza which has returns of up to 5% interest,
Training over 3,000 women entrepreneurs.
Partnering with USIU, Africa to promote access to information, mentorship and coaching through the SME Academy. This initiative also supports SDG 17 (Partnership to reach goals) and it promotes economic growth through the strengthening of businesses. Absa reports that the first cohort graduated in January 2020.
Milestones covered by Absa to support SDG 4: Quality education, SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth and SDG 10: reduced inequalities.
PC: AbsaIt’s noteworthy to state that the company has not restricted its efforts to the aforementioned SDGs only. In fact, through the holistic approach that Absa has taken in their aim to be a #ForceforGood, it has touched on other SDGs namely SDG 7, 9,11, 15 16 and 17.
In line with the SDGs, Absa has also been on the frontline to alleviate the conditions of vulnerable groups who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.
"Financial institutions are in a privileged position that underpins how we drive social change. How we apply the capital and finance different initiatives and projects directly influences sustainability." Moses @AbsaKenya#AbsaSustainabilityCommitment#ForceForGood
Being an essential service provider and a vital part of an infrastructure that ensures food, medical supplies, salaries and other payments are effected, Absa has had to implement key strategies as a way to cope with the COVID-19 crisis. These include;
Enabling 66% of employees to work remotely while 56% of employees can now work permanently from home.
Becoming a force for good to the external environment through activities such as donating 200,000 masks to Boda Boda riders and Newspaper vendors.
Contributing Ksh 50m as part of the COVID-19 fund.
Through food donation to Laikipia county and Eliud Kipchoge foundation.
Supplying 210,000 masks to 4 national hospitals including KNH, KUH, Coast General
Donating over 4000 umbrellas to policemen across the country.
The organisation also recognises that SMEs are the backbone of Kenya’s economy contributing up to 40% of Kenya’s GDP. For this reason, Absa has provided information and solutions such as the loan relief program so as to cushion and help SMEs adapt in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. The loan relief program is meant to reduce monthly financial obligations for SMEs so as to improve their cash flows.
So how can you take part in the sustainability journey with Absa?
Walking, riding a bicycle or using public transport to go to work or run errands reduces your carbon footprint and impacts the environment positively.
Whether it’s by bringing a potted plant to work or investing in reusable bottles or even repeating your outfit, all these factors will not only save you money but they will set you apart as an ambassador of sustainability.
Making compost for old food scraps might not be plausible if you live in a limited space nonetheless, there are other practises you can implement to make your home green. These include eating less meat – to reduce your carbon footprint, recycling your technology responsible – nowadays there exist collection centres for e-waste, growing vegetables and herbs. Check out other practises you can implement to reduce your carbon footprint.
Absa Group goal is to become a leading purpose orientated African bank that’s deeply rooted in the countries it serves and one which recognises that its own sustainability is directly linked to the sustainability of the communities, in which it operates. For more information, you can access the full report now available on the company’s website.
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