Sustainability at Development Bank of Nigeria

11 Aug 2021
Tony Okpanachi


From inception, we have placed a strong focus on sustainability.

Managing Director/CEO, Development Bank of Nigeria, Tony Okpanachi

This being the speech as delivered by the Managing Director and CEO of Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) at the induction ceremony for the Association of African Development Finance Institutions (AADFI) into the Sustainability Standards and Certification Initiative (SSCI) of the European Organisation for Sustainable Development (EOSD). The CEO Session held virtually on Tuesday, August 10, 2021.

Good morning all. My name is Tony Okpanachi and I am the Managing Director/CEO of the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN). DBN is a wholesale development finance institution conceived by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) in collaboration with global development partners to address the major financing challenges facing Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria.

We are uniquely structured to alleviate financing constraints faced by MSMEs and small corporates in Nigeria, through the provision of finance and partial credit guarantees to eligible financial intermediaries on a market-conforming and fully financially-sustainable basis.

From inception, we have placed a strong focus on sustainability. One can say it is in our DNA. As proof, it is the first core value we espouse as an institution; and this is reflected across our structure, inclusive of people, process, and technology.

In 2020, we made a collective decision as an institution under the leadership of our Board and Executive Management team to deepen our commitment to sustainability by commencing the Sustainability Standards and Certification Initiative (SSCI) process. It is a decision we have since come to recognize as being invaluable to our long-term vision for both our organization as well as Nigeria.

We are fortunate to have strong leadership on our Board as well as Executive Management team who recognize the importance of sustainability and the strategic role it plays in our world today. This strong support has allowed us to innovate in terms of introducing key sustainability related processes right through the spine of our operations. Our Board Ethics Committee provides the necessary oversight and guidance, enabling us to execute on our sustainability mandates. Regular reporting to this Committee has proved crucial for direction setting.

As an organization, we are also deeply committed to ensuring that we have the right resources to aid the realization of our sustainability goals and targets. We currently have dedicated units that oversee both Environmental & Social Risk Management (E&S), as well as Sustainability, to ensure that we are well positioned to implement and execute the necessary processes and procedures as required by local and international sustainability standards. Furthermore, we have undertaken numerous awareness and specialist trainings to ensure that all our employees are educated and informed about the key tenets of sustainability.

Operationally, over the past year, we have focused on creating specialized products alongside reviewing and updating internal policies, procedures, and processes to ensure that sustainability becomes a key driver of how we operate. The SSCI process has been extremely useful in guiding us in this vein.

As CEO, I am very proud of the efforts that the DBN team has put into the certification process. We were forewarned that it would be an extremely detailed and gruelling process, and, indeed, that is true. However, we have emerged an institution with more holistically aligned purpose, goals, strategies, and operations.

Working with the SSCI Octagon framework, we were required to conduct analysis into our structures and processes, and in most cases, review and conduct necessary updates. We created a project team comprised of employees from each department within the organization to help drive the process.

We are already seeing the advantages in refining key processes across our general operations, products business model and technology, but allow me to speak about three major areas that really stood out for us as an institution.

Immense value from the SSCI process was realized in the creation of DBN’s Purpose Statement and High Impact Goals. These have helped to re-focus our attention using sustainability as a driver.

Secondly, we have a newly created Innovation Framework which has caused a resurgence of creative thinking across our operations. We are expectant that this new model will help drive improved financial and non-financial performances across our institution.

Finally, our newly developed Stakeholders Management Framework has enabled us to creatively think about how best to keep a continuous loop of communication with the individuals and groups that matter to us the most.

As I wrap up, I must reiterate that the SSCI process has been invaluable to DBN. It is a process that requires a lot of effort to successfully implement, but I can testify to the value that it adds.

This speech would be incomplete if I did not acknowledge the extraordinary role that the EOSD itself has played throughout DBN’s SSCI journey. We were told at the start that they would be there to provide support; however, they have done more than that. They have become partners and indeed friends. Under the leadership of Arshad Rab, CEO of EOSD, in Germany and Jide Akintunde in Nigeria, we have had extremely strong leadership and guidance.

Please allow me to also acknowledge the Uganda Development Bank who also provided support through the process.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is clear from my submission this morning that I have become an advocate of the SSCI process, and it is one that I highly recommend to any organization. Being here today is a start of this advocacy journey and indeed the entire DBN organization has become an advocate as well.

Thank you for the opportunity to share the DBN experience.