Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, Head of Sustainability, Access Bank Plc
Follow Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan
Subjects of Interest
- Corporate Communications
- Social Development
- Sustainable Development
Access Bank's environmental leadership 21 Jul 2023
Today, humanity finds itself facing an unprecedented crisis. The planet we call home is facing devastation; its delicate ecosystems is being strained to a breaking point. These are a direct result of human actions, and they are now catching up with us. The threat to environmental sustainability is, indeed, serious.
There is a need to shed light on the severity of these challenges. The following narratives highlight the imperative of urgent and concerted efforts to restore ecosystem balance and biodiversity that make the world habitable.
Extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, heat waves, and heavy rainfall, are becoming more frequent and severe. In the past decade, the number of recorded weather-related disasters have more than tripled, compared to the corresponding previous period. These events not only pose immediate threats to human lives and infrastructure but also have long-term consequences for ecosystems. The delicate balance of the world's ecosystems is being disrupted, leading to the loss of biodiversity, and threatening the survival of countless species.
The intensification of heat and its changing precipitation patterns are exacerbating drought conditions in many regions. This poses significant challenges to agriculture and food production, as water scarcity affects crop yields and livestock. According to the United Nations, more than 820 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger, and climate change further compounds the issue. It is estimated that by 2050, climate change could lead to a 10-25% reduction in crop yields, worsening food insecurity and increasing poverty levels.
Also, our planet is facing an alarming crisis, as the depletion of natural resources and biodiversity loss reach critical levels. The following are some jaw-dropping numbers that should spur necessary restorative actions. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that every year the world loses an estimated 10 million hectares (24.7 million acres) of forests, equivalent to 30 football fields per minute. Around 2.2 billion people worldwide lack access to clean water, and by 2050, it is projected that 5.7 billion people could be living in water-scarce regions, according to UN Water.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) says soil degradation affects nearly one-third of the Earth's land, threatening food security and livelihoods for millions of people. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says that demand for resources is skyrocketing, with global extraction rates of minerals and fossil fuels expected to triple by 2050. It is also estimated that species extinction rates are now 1,000 times higher than the natural background rate, also known as the normal extinction rate. Over one million species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades, including 40% of amphibians, 33% of corals, and 25% of mammals.
Per the annual report from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Global Monitoring Lab, global average atmospheric carbon dioxide was 417.06 parts per million (“ppm”) in 2022, setting a record high. The increase between 2021 and 2022 was 2.13 ppm – the 11th year in a row where the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased by more than 2 ppm.
With regard to biodiversity loss, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators responsible for one-third of global food production are facing significant decline. In some regions, pollinator populations have dropped by 50% or more, according to FAO. And overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction have resulted in a devastating decline in marine biodiversity. It is estimated that over 90% of large predatory fish populations have been depleted, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
These statistics paint a dire picture of our planet's future. However, it is not too late to act. Governments, businesses, and individuals must prioritise sustainable practices, conservation efforts, and the preservation of natural habitats. Transitioning to a circular economy, investing in renewable energy, promoting responsible consumption, and supporting protected areas are crucial steps towards reversing these trends.
In the face of increasing global environmental challenges, Access Bank Plc has emerged as a leading force, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to combating climate change, preserving biodiversity, and spurring Africa’s private sector into aggregated action.
In its determined efforts at mitigating the adverse impacts of harmful environmental actions, Access Bank has introduced a range of initiatives dedicated to reducing carbon emissions and advancing Nigeria's transition towards a global net zero future. With a strong commitment to environmental sustainability, the Bank has spearheaded several ground-breaking projects.
Within our internal operations and processes, we are dedicated to reducing our environmental footprint. By embracing renewable energy sources, particularly solar power systems, we actively work towards reducing our carbon footprint and championing responsible energy consumption. We have equipped 167 offsite locations and over 600 branches of the bank with solar-powered ATMs. This demonstrates our commitment to clean energy adoption. Energy-efficient LED lighting permeates our facilities, ensuring optimal energy efficiency, while motion-sensitive lights and water-efficient taps minimise resource consumption and waste. Through robust monitoring systems, we continuously evaluate and optimise our electricity usage, fortifying our commitment to energy conservation.
Access Bank took the lead in promoting sustainable waste management within the Nigerian banking industry, serving as a role model for others. As part of our commitment, we have expanded our recycling operations to cover 75 locations nationwide. To date, we have successfully recycled over 200,000 kilograms of waste cans, paper, plastics, and glass generated from our various facilities. Access Bank's Paper-to-Pencil initiative elegantly transforms branded paper materials into functional and stylish pencils. Over 10,000 of these pencils were donated to primary school pupils.
Furthermore, our 'No Paper Initiative' harnesses automation to streamline processes, resulting in a significant reduction in paper consumption and enhancing overall operational efficiency. By actively engaging in waste management and recycling practices, the bank aims to minimise its carbon footprint and contribute to a greener and more sustainable future for all.
In line with our commitment to making a meaningful impact in the communities where we operate, Access Bank actively participates in community-based environmental initiatives. These initiatives aim to bring renewable energy solutions to underserved communities, resulting in reduced carbon emissions and improved livelihoods. Such notable programmes include "Our Light Up Project" and "Solar for School Community Programmes," which have successfully provided training to students and community members on solar PV appreciation and entrepreneurship, specifically in sales and marketing of solar systems.
Access Bank, in partnership with SME Funds, launched the Green Social Entrepreneurship Programme. This programme empowered 238 entrepreneurs in the field of clean cooking stove technology. The programme has yielded impressive results, with beneficiaries producing and distributing 7,500 litres of bio-gel, and generating returns exceeding $39,317. This has directly impacted 598 households, benefiting around 2,100 individuals, and resulting in the elimination of 287 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions.
We have also organised communities and beach clean-ups. Our Save Biodiversity initiatives have trained over 5,000 students and reached 3,000 community members, with over 7,500 trees planted, working hand-in-hand with both local and international partners.
Access Bank is the first commercial bank in Africa to obtain the highest sustainability certification under the Sustainability Standards and Certification Initiative (SSCI) of the European Organisation for Sustainable Development (EOSD). This notable accomplishment further solidified the bank’s position as a leader in environmental sustainability. The bank's exceptional commitment to sustainable practices has earned it several global recognitions, including prestigious awards such as the Karlsruhe Award for Outstanding Business Sustainability Achievement, Global Finance Award for Best Bank for Sustainable Finance in Nigeria, the World Finance Award for the Most Sustainable Bank, amongst many others.
Access Bank’s commitment to environmental sustainability should serve as an inspiration to other African and global institutions. It is crucial that we all take immediate action to ensure a stable planet for future generations. We must prioritise the preservation of our natural resources and the protection of the incredible biodiversity that enhances our lives and supports our ecosystems. The time to act is now, to secure a sustainable future for all.
Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan is Head, Group Sustainability, Access Corporation.