Historically, companies have invested in corporate social responsibility programmes, which have mostly taken the form of philanthropic engagements.
And whilst there is nothing wrong with businesses giving back to the communities within which they operate, this approach is undergoing a fundamental transformation.
This as businesses increasingly realise that these efforts could be more sustainable and impactful if they became part of the core business.
Today, it has become more apparent that businesses can make money by resolving deep-rooted societal, economic, and environmental challenges.
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Various empirical studies indicate that unless affirmative action is taken now, environmental degradation will continue to deplete food production and access to water, with compounded adverse impact on lives and livelihoods.
In line with this, leaders must act today to safeguard not only the future of our children, but also the sustainability of the businesses that we run.
The solution to this lies in the principle of shared value, which advocates creating business value in a way that also creates value for both the society and the environment. In essence, businesses must reconnect company success with social progress.
That’s the bedrock of sustainable business development and the impetus behind the launch of our Absa Sustainability Commitment report last month.
Over the last one year, Absa Bank Kenya has embarked on a journey to embed sustainability as a strategic business principle to create incremental shared value for all our stakeholders, both in the way we do business and the services and products we offer.
As part of this journey, we have marked several milestones, among them the development of a Sustainability Strategy and Implementation Framework.
Last year, we became one of the signatories of the principles for responsible banking, committing to strategically align our business with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. We also became a signatory of the United Nations Global Compact.
Whilst we support the implementation of all the 17 SDGs, we have selected four high impact goals as our primary focus - quality education, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities as well as responsible consumption and production.
We have identified SDG 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions as well as SGD 17 on partnerships for the goals as key enablers to implement and scale our impact.
With our sustainability commitment report, we have committed to focus our efforts on delivering the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit in all our strategies, products and propositions.
We are taking a bold step that will inspire our innovation on social and environmental challenges in line with our commitment to being a more active force for good in the communities where we operate.
As a financial institution, we are in the businesses of lending and, therefore, we have committed to proactively increase our capital allocation and diversify our portfolio to support sectors that drive sustainable developments. These include renewable and clean energy industries, innovation and infrastructure, as well as funding financially excluded groups, and sustainable cities and communities.
We will also advocate and drive responsible consumption and production within value chains. We recognise that diversity forms the fabric of modern society, making it an asset for our business and for that reason we commit to increasing diversity in the supply chain focusing on women, youth, and differently-abled persons.
This is a sure way to foster innovation and creativity while releasing unparalleled levels of productivity that impact business and society.
We acknowledge that we cannot meet the global goals without the involvement of young people, and we have committed to continue investing in their future through skills development with our ReadyToWork programme.
We have also committed to increasing the proportion of women across all levels of management and board positions in our organisation.
- The writer is the Managing Director, Absa Bank Kenya