Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, Head of Sustainability, Access Bank Plc

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  • Corporate Communications
  • Social Development
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainable Development

Sustainable investing as vital to achieving the SDGs 23 Mar 2023

With only seven years left until the 2030 target set for the achievement of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we need to consciously double down on efforts to achieve the goals. Launched in 2015, the 17 SDGs hold the key to a brighter and more sustainable future. Every sector of society and the economy has a role to play in moving the SDGs from idealistic goals on paper to reality.

According to a United Nations 2019 report, the global community has fallen behind across many indices due to devastating crises that have hit the world in the previous four years. The COVID-19 pandemic has also had immense negative effects on progress, pushing an estimated 93 million more people into extreme poverty. This has put the attainment of SDG 1 – No Poverty – at risk. Health and Well-being (SDG 3) also experienced a decline as global health services were burdened beyond capacity, with a vast number of the populace unable to access quality healthcare. This rippled into a drop in immunisation coverage and a rise in deaths from tuberculosis and malaria.

The UN paints a bleak picture of the world falling dangerously behind in the race to achieve the SDGs. Quite alarmingly, 8% of the global population still lives in extreme poverty, with sub-Saharan Africa having the most prevalence. The SDG of Zero Hunger has not gained momentum in the region; rather, a staggering 690 million people are still struggling with hunger and malnutrition every day.

Quality Education (SDG 4) has also taken a major hit and is far from being achieved. Over 24 million students from pre-primary to university level are missing out on opportunities to return to school or receive formal education post-COVID-19 pandemic. The report serves as a wake-up call, reminding us of the urgent need for concerted efforts to achieve a more sustainable and equitable world for all.

In the context of global financial sustainability, the achievement of the SDGs rests on commitment to financing only projects that have a holistic positive impact on people and the planet without compromising profit margins. This can be done through sustainable investing. Sustainable investments prioritise projects that have positive impacts on people and the natural environment while maintaining profitability.

The alignment of the budgets of many national governments with the SDGs can make a direct contribution to ending poverty, protecting the environment, and building a brighter future for all. Many governmental and non-governmental organisations are rising up to the need for contributing their quota to the achievement of the 17 goals through their unflinching commitment to sustainable investments. And there have been strategic collaborations between the public and private sectors to ensure the implementation of the SDGs in many communities.

Many key players in the private sector, such as Access Bank, have shown their relentless commitment to supporting a sustainable environment that will aid the economic and social wellbeing of communities. Access Bank, one of Africa's foremost banks, has contributed immensely towards the achievement of the SDGs via sustainable investment, a financial strategy that takes into account the social and environmental impact of investing. The opportunities for sustainable investment are numerous; they include investing in companies with strong environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices; renewable energy; and community development projects.

In 2021, Access Bank collaborated with 9ijaKids – a platform that helps children fall in love with learning using games – to celebrate Global Money Week. This was with the aim of improving financial literacy, inculcating the attitude of savings, and building entrepreneurship skills in children and youth. This partnership had a tangible impact on the achievement of SDG 4 on quality education. The project included distributing financial literacy books to schools, inter-school financial literacy quizzes, access to financial literacy games, digital literacy worksheets, and informative webinars for parents and children. This endeavour exemplified the power of partnerships in propelling progress towards a brighter future.

In the area of health, Access Bank has developed a portfolio of impactful and life-changing health initiatives. One of such was a partnership with the Nirvana Initiative, an organisation dedicated to tackling the devastating effects of sickle cell disorder and other health concerns. This was an interventional programme executed to mitigate the occurrence of tuberculosis (TB), a life-threatening disease. The interventional programme was done in response to the World Health Organization's (WHO) report that ranked TB among the top 10 leading causes of death globally. We provided public education and awareness was created on the prevention and management of this devastating disease. Through this partnership, an impactful TB programme was launched in Anambra and Kaduna states.  

Still in the area of health, Access Bank is alleviating the impact of HIV/AIDS that has plagued Africa for decades. The bank partnered with the Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS (NiBUCAA) to hold an HIV drive. The initiative positively impacted 10,000 people with counselling on the transmission and management of the virus.

Among numerous sustainable investment projects, Access Bank is promoting capacity building for youth on graphics design and digital marketing in Nigeria to contribute to poverty eradication, in partnership with IFBA. The programme offered in-person training for beneficiaries in Asaba, Delta State. The aim was to equip underprivileged youth in slum areas with the necessary skills in graphic design and digital marketing. Over five days, 76 young people were trained, and they acquired skills that would enable them to improve branding for both their own businesses and their clients’.

Furthermore, Life on Land, a waste pickup initiative, was continued at the 2023 edition of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon to promote environmental sustainability. This exercise recovered 20,107.18kg of waste, keeping up with SDG 15, which is about protecting, restoring, and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.

“At Access Corporation, we believe prosperity, growth, and progress are inextricably linked to ecological buoyancy,” Herbert Wigwe, Group Managing Director, Access Corporation, recently remarked. “We understand that we can only have a vibrant economy with a stable climate. This is why we have consistently developed models and strategies to move our corporation and nation towards the Net Zero target. Our 5-year growth strategy also does not just focus on the financial verticals but also on the environment as well."

Mr. Wigwe further highlighted that Access Bank has an innovative approach towards solving problems and extending the far-reaching impacts of the SDGs. The bank has a long history of participating in sustainable investment programmes. From the Women Connect Campaign, to Act4Wildlife, COVID-19 support, Rural Women Empowerment Program, and many others, Access Bank has been making significant contributions toward creating a better world.

Sustainable investment is a vital component in the pursuit of the SDGs. More organisations should follow the example of Access Bank and provide the financing and support needed to drive sustainable development initiatives forward, in order to achieve the global goals.

Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan is Head, Group Sustainability, Access Corporation.