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World Environment Day 2021: FirstBank is 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 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 has 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 minimising waste, the Bank works to improve energy efficiency in its data centres and offices as well as reduce air travels 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. Its ‘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 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 on-going 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 minimising 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 recognising 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 practice, 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.

Others 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 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

Half-Year Performance: Transcorp Plc Shows Powerful Growth as Profit Leaps by 713%

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Transcorp Hotels

Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp) has released its unaudited results for the half-year ended June 2021, recording significant improvement across its major income lines.

The Conglomerate with strategic investments in the Power, Hospitality, and Energy sectors, recorded a profit after tax of N6.5bn, rising by 713% up from N0.8bn recorded in June of the previous year. Other key highlights of the result include the following:

  • Revenue rose by 53%, from N35.0bn in June 2020 to N53.3bn in the period under consideration.
  • Gross profit grew by 60%, from N14.7bn in June 2020 to N23.5bn in June 2021.
  • Profit before tax rose by 689% from N0.9bn in June 2020 to N7.1b in June 2021.

Commenting on the performance, Transcorp’s President/Group CEO, Mrs. Owen Omogiafo, reiterated the Conglomerate’s commitment towards producing long-term value and sustainable impact. “We are pleased to see the sustained growth in our group performance, which was achieved as a result of the improved performance across all the sectors we operate in. The revenue achieved in our power business grew by 48%, as a result of improved gas supply and increased generation capacity”, she stated.

Commenting on the hospitality sector, Omogiafo stated that the company’s strategic actions have resulted in a growth in revenue of up to 84%, despite the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on the Nigerian and global hospitality industries. She expressed confidence in the company’s recovery strategies, citing the recent official launch of Aura, the company’s digital hospitality platform, as a testament to that confidence.

On the Group’s capacity to sustain its performance, Omogiafo said, “We do not plan to rest on our oars. We will continue to sweat our existing assets and explore new frontiers, as we continue to deliver on our purpose of Improving Lives and Transforming Nigeria.”

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Rethinking safe-haven assets and building resilient portfolios with Xend Finance

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As with most things in life, feeling overwhelmed as a newbie is simple, and this is especially true in such a volatile market as the world of cryptocurrencies. Regardless of the uncertainty and worries, the world of cryptocurrency has the potential to have a unique and substantial impact on anyone’s financial stability.

Government Bonds, treasury bills, and other forms of fixed income investments are undeniably considered as safe haven investments due to their low risk, but with inflation on the increase, the question arises how safe is money locked up for a specific period of time?

It is therefore important to build a resilient portfolio able to minimize risks and mitigate volatility, diversity into multiple unrelated investments, deliver steady returns and also able to recognize changing market conditions, new opportunities and respond accordingly.
Enter the world of Stablecoins. A less volatile cryptocurrency asset pegged to a cryptocurrency, fiat money, or to exchange-traded commodities (such as precious metals or industrial metals).

Compare to other forms of cryptocurrency assets like bitcoin, or altcoins the advantages of stablecoins are stabilized by assets that fluctuate outside of the cryptocurrency space that is prices are pinned to real-world assets.
Most stablecoins are pegged to the US Dollar as they are an easy way to get exposure to the crypto space without having to worry about volatility.

You can build a resilient portfolio with stable coins by having a good foundation on which you can build and protect your investment portfolio. This is necessary to provide a buffer when the markets are volatile or things go south.

These stablecoins also provide diversification as Investor Phillips Hodges mentioned in an interview emphasized the importance of balancing factors affecting the returns you can get across the different than the classes themselves. Stable coins also provide the extra diversification a portfolio needs to stay afloat in a stormy market, minimize losses due to their low volatility.

Be rest assured as an investor that your portfolio can only said to be strong when you have investments that can stand the test of time. Inflations and rickety market conditions.
If you’re a fund manager looking to get exposure to the crypto space through stable coins, send an email to [email protected] and someone would be in touch with you.

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Market formation framework, driver to optimally develop solid mineral sector- Ifie Sekibo 

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Ifie Sekibo

MD/CEO of Heritage Bank Plc, Ifie Sekibo has said that the market formation framework is the key to optimally exploit Nigeria’s precious metal and solid minerals endowments. He disclosed this during a webinar organized by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development with the theme, “Financing the Solid Minerals Sector through the Capital Market and the Critical Role of Commodity Exchanges.”  

Sekibo explained that a fully established market formation process that would lead to having a Corporation as an integrated solid mineral institution like NNPC which allows the collateralization of assets those banks can rely on for alternative funding options.

According to him, this will guarantee other creative ways of raising funds for financing commercial activities relating to solid minerals and viable projects along its value chain.

Sekibo who was represented by the Divisional Head, Strategy and Business Solutions, of the Bank, Olusegun Akanji, said for the sector to be viable, it requires lots of converged government interventions because for any development focused sector to kick-off around the world, it needs government intervention to lay the foundation for the private sector and funders to step-in and pool their resources.

“Once, we can collateralize these assets, whether they are under the ground or being determined, you use different instruments to bring liquidity into them. Then investors will follow up once we have established there is enough they can explore.” the MD stated.

He further suggested that finance sector regulators need to expand their Prudential Guidelines to accommodate the instruments such that precious metal-backed or solid minerals-backed assets could qualify as part of the computation of liquidity ratios.

“Once banks start injecting their resources, customers would certainly follow that trend. You can start arranging for sophisticated solutions like bonds, bullion-backed assets and pension notes. Again, banks will have to be poised to hold the funding that comes from this sector; that way, they can open new transactional frontiers either locally or internationally.

“At the base of this, are the issues of pricing and integrity of the market. Once banks play in that sector and we have a government institution like the NNPC type to hold all this documentation, it would be very easy to establish price discovery on an ongoing basis. This will in turn attract international funders, hedge funds and retail investors. Today, we have retail bonds in the same way; we can have gold-backed or any of the solid mineral assets where retail investors can put in the funds,” Sekibo explained.

Meanwhile, it would be recalled that Heritage Bank Plc has said its involvement in the private sector collaboration with Dukia Gold & Precious Metals Refining Co. Limited is set to unlock the over N344 trillion market worth of gold investible instruments in the solid minerals sector.

However, he reiterated that a consistent packaged framework, which could only be held by an established government institution, as part of the layers of the framework, would help to tackle major challenges in trying to support Dukia Gold’s clients.

“With a consistent packaged framework, it will be easier for Dukia Gold and help in less spending. If Dukia Gold should speak of their challenges, they will speak about tonnes of documents they have to produce. But with a unified source of documentation, it makes the process easier and improves cost management. These are some of the challenges we have experienced in trying to support a few clients we worked with,” Sekibo stated.

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