Nigeria: Access Bank - Facilitating Sustainable Future

10 January 2022

With sustainability at the central core of Access Bank's operations, the bank has embarked on numerous initiatives targeted at different areas of society to contribute it quota to the improvement of the Nigerian economy and aid Africa's attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Access Bank's sustainability strategy has continued to evolve as the financial institution constantly seeks to meet the demands of a dynamic and fast-changing world.

The bank has kept its finger on the pulse of sustainability innovation in Nigeria as well as in other parts of the world where it has presence, as it continues to improve performances in its core business, environmental footprint and the social wellbeing of the communities where it operates.

With a strong reputation as a responsible business in Africa, Access Bank aims to become, "the world's most respected African bank."

Accordingly, the bank has continued to embed economic, sustainability and governance (ESG) policies as core elements of its growth strategy. It says it aims to catalyse opportunities to deliver financing for sustainable development. Approaches such as blended finance and green investment, which offer unique opportunities for investors to gain a foothold in emerging markets in Africa, are actively embraced and promoted by the bank.

Indeed, Access Bank's innovative and optimal risk management strategies are aligned with the bank's core business strategy. This has enabled it to maintain its lead on the frontiers of sustainability in the financial services industry.

Having established itself as Africa's leader in sustainability, winning the 'Outstanding Business Sustainability Award' at the Karlsruhe Sustainable Finance Awards; 'Most Socially Responsible Company of the Year (Overall Winner)' at the Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility Awards (SERAs), among others, the bank has continued to offer support to SMEs integrating social and environmental considerations into their business operations.

In 2021, Access Bank more awards, in recognition of efforts by the Herbert Wigwe-led management to promote sustainability.

For instance, the bank was named the 'Best Commercial Bank in Nigeria' at the International Banker Awards 2021. It received the prestigious award on account of its significant strides in becoming Africa's gateway to the world. The International Banker Awards is a respected industry event that celebrates and recognises top-ranking individuals and organisations setting new benchmarks for performance and pushing the boundaries within the financial industry.

Commenting on the recognition, Wigwe had said: "We are grateful for this recognition of our relentless efforts in becoming a world-class financial institution. The significant position we occupy today in the African financial sector has been achieved through a robust long-term approach to client solutions - providing sustainable and innovative services.

"As part of our growth strategy, we remain focused on mainstreaming sustainable business practices into our operations. This recognition serves as an encouragement for us to continue to build on our successes and invest even more in sustainable economic growth that is profitable, environmentally responsible, and socially relevant," he concluded.

Wigwe was also recognised as Africa's Best Banking CEO of the year. He was awarded for his visionary, innovative and transformational leadership in spearheading the market expansion of Sub-Saharan Africa's largest bank despite the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under Wigwe's stewardship, Access Bank launched the Nigerian Green Bond Market Development Programme. The initiative, organised in partnership with FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange, Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Africa, Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), was set up to develop a non-sovereign green bond market that will entrench the principles of sustainability into the Nigerian capital markets.

Access Bank had also invested over N10.25 billion in various corporate social responsibility efforts, impacting over 194 communities and 43 NGOs. These projects focused on our CSR priority areas which are Health, Education, Sport, Arts, Environment, Women Empowerment and Social Welfare.

Some other awards won by the bank included, the 'Best Bank (Nigeria) and Sustainable Bank of the Year (Africa)' at the International Investors Awards. According to the awarding body, the recognition was a testament to Access Bank's innovative and pioneering activities in predetermined areas, as stipulated by the independent jury including Thomson Reuters. It noted that the bank had successfully consolidated its position as 'Africa's Gateway to the World', expanding its operations rapidly into the Cameroonian, Kenyan, South Africa and other markets. Furthermore, it noted that the bank had pioneered many innovative sustainability initiatives, becoming a founding member of the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), the creation of a digital, toll-free platform to address gender violence - in partnership with HACEY Health Initiative, among many others.

"Access Bank continues to innovate as it seeks to realize its vision of becoming the world's most respected African Bank. The importance of offering best-in-class services, while keeping an eye on the future, with the implementation of sustainable business practices is given utmost recognition within the bank," the organisers also noted.

Also, last year, Access Bank was also honoured with the 'Best Bank Nigeria', 'Best Private Bank Nigeria', and Pan-African 'Sustainability Award' during the 2021 EMEA Finance African Banking Awards.

According organisers of the award, the bank stands tall as the first Sustainability Certified African Commercial Bank, achieving the highest level of sustainability certification under the Sustainability Standards and Certification Initiative (SSCI) program. This, it noted, was a further affirmation of its leadership in sustainability, demonstrating its strong commitment to influencing positive market transformation.

Access Bank was recognised at the inaugural 2021 Sustainable Finance Awards by Global Finance. The bank emerged the winner in two of the award categories: Outstanding Leadership in Sustainability Transparency, Africa; and Outstanding Leadership in Green Loans, Africa.

In addition, the bank clinched five awards at the 2021 Global Brand Magazine Awards. A breakdown of this showed that the bank emerged the winner across five categories, namely - Best Mobile Banking App, Africa; Best Agro Banking Brand, Nigeria; Best Digital Banking Brand, Nigeria; Best CSR Bank, Nigeria and Best Bank for Investor Relations, Nigeria.

Access Bank Plc was also honoured with the 'Best Bank Nigeria', 'Best Private Bank Nigeria', and 'Pan-African Sustainability Award' during the 2021 EMEA Finance African Banking Awards.

Similarly, the Global Finance recognised Access Bank as the first African bank to qualify for the 2X Challenge, an initiative founded by the G7 Development Finance Institutions, because of the bank's continued commitment to mobilising investments that advance women's economic empowerment.

Among other awards, the Group Head, Corporate Communications, Access Bank, Amaechi Okobi, was last year, also recognised with the "COVID-19 Response Banker of the Year Award" at the recent 56th annual bankers' dinner organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers' of Nigeria. The award category recognised and celebrated players in the industry who innovatively went beyond the call of duty to ensure business continuity and drive the protection of lives, property and business interests during the global pandemic.

Receiving the award, Okobi had said, "Indeed, COVID-19 disrupted our lives and our business procedures. Before the pandemic, I, and many others in this room, could meet with teammates, visit favourite relaxation spots and move around freely. COVID-19 altered all of that. Being someone who takes relationships seriously, I was determined to do my part in restoring a form of normalcy to society while protecting lives and business interests."

"However, all my bright ideas would not have come to life without the amazing team at Access Bank and extensively, CACOVID, who worked tirelessly to ensure we impacted lives through a truly testing time."

Commenting further on the awards, Wigwe, said, "We, at Access Bank, are dedicated to setting the bar for responsible business practices, demonstrating corporate brand commitment to tackling social, economic, and environmental challenges as part of our relentless endeavor to offer more than banking. This, combined with our vision of becoming the world's most respected African Bank, has led us to take the lead in promoting sustainable banking practices, financial inclusion, and the diversification of our local economies through altruistic CSR initiatives that have impacted the lives of many people,

"Today, we are one step closer to that vision, and we are honoured to have received these awards as we continue to work towards offering value to all our stakeholders."

Access Bank has over the past decade consistently delivered on its goal to set the pace in sustainable banking practices in Africa. The bank has also continued to deliver value to its burgeoning customer base and provide innovative solutions for the markets and the communities where it operates.

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