Money  

Sustainable banking, development and CSR strategy

Adam Nuru


Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), one of the positive outcomes of a sound corporate governance, is one of the ways of impacting positively on many lives and communities.Indeed, as businesses act responsively and boost their performance, they devote part of their income to giving back to the society by engaging in various life changing activities.
 
Unfortunately, for many reasons, some bothering on economy and outright lack of sheer will, some corporate entities have seen investments in CSR as only cost and waste, instead of ethical bonds that would open up more growth opportunities.
 
Similarly, poverty alleviation should not just be a mere declaration, but deliberate and strategic use of education, economic development, health and income redistribution to improve the livelihoods of the world’s poorest people by governments and organisations.
 
CSR programmes targeted at these areas have lifted socio-economic well-being of the many. These could be direct interventions against diseases that reduce economic productivity and prevent affected individuals from being able to work or care for themselves and their families.
 
Financial institutions’ business activities and operations must therefore, be responsible, promote financial inclusion, encourage diversity, adhere to health and safety standards, and reduce or totally avoid where possible, negative impact on the environment. This is where sustainable banking and development align with CSR strategy.
 
For First City Monument Bank (FCMB), this practice has been redefined and elevated to a commendable height, by consciously championing and executing various programmes in a manner that leaves nobody in doubt as to its commitment to add value and ensure sustainable development.  
 
Over a 34-year period, it has been able to evolve strategic interventions in various areas of human endeavour, especially in its focal CSR areas of poverty alleviation, economic empowerment and environmental sustainability anchored on its mantra: ‘’Teach a man to fish’’. 
 
Besides, it is part of the regulatory requirements as stated by Central Bank of Nigeria in the Sustainable Banking Principles that are made up of nine thematic focuses.The Group Head, Corporate Affairs of the bank, Diran Olojo, said: “We are aware of the challenges faced by people and the society. Hence, our choice of bringing hopes and smiles to individuals, communities and the country at large. This is further proof of our culture of excellence and commitment to doing the right things at all times to ensure sustainable development across various spheres. These have guided our views and approach to CSR, not just business”.

The bank’s CSR philosophy, as far as economic empowerment is concerned, is focused on helping to create an enabling environment for empowerment of individuals, businesses and the nation at large through micro-entrepreneurship, microcredit and skills acquisition. 
 
In 2016, the bank extended its support to internally displaced women in Maiduguri, Bornu State, providing training and financial support to 100 of them to start any business of their choice. It also organised various capacity building programmes for the beneficiaries. 
 
Bornu State Commissioner for Poverty Alleviation, Hajia Inna Galadima, attested to the gestures when she commended the financial institution for ‘’making a difference in the lives of the internally displaced women’’.

 
There is an ongoing partnership with Wecyclers on recycling for a waste-to-wealth franchise scheme. This collaboration is currently helping to tackle the challenges of waste management by deploying an innovative recycling project aimed at job and wealth creation, promoting health and sanitation.
 
To deepen the project, FCMB has instituted a monthly reward scheme for top recyclers and the first batch of winners emerged in May this year and presented with prizes.
 
The lender’s economic empowerment is positively impacting youths, as it instituted a capacity building programme tagged “Empowered for the Future”, in partnership with Youth Empowerment Foundation. It focuses on peer-to-peer economic empowerment and reproductive health education for in- and out-of-school adolescents.
 
Starting with 50 youths who were trained on various aspects of human development, these are expected to reach out to 750 peers over a one year period, with focus on financial literacy, skill acquisition, sexual and reproductive health, while undergoing vocational training and job shadowing.
 
Over the years, FCMB has been carrying out series of activities, through CSR, to tackle poverty, particularly using the Priceless Gift of Sight programme, which it has sponsored since 2009, in partnership with the Tulsi Chanrai Foundation (TCF), a Nigerian-Indian Non-governmental Organisation (NGO).
 
The programme involves eye screening tests, full ophthalmic medical examination, eye surgeries, provision of free medication, eye glasses and counselling for those suffering from cataract, an eye defect that could lead to blindness if not promptly treated.  

So far, more than 100,000 people across the country have benefited from the project in eight years. There is 500 eye surgeries in Kebbi, Cross River and Imo states, while more than a thousand others underwent the screening for cataract, as the bank has previously carried out the programme in Katsina, Adamawa and Ogun states.
 
Jonathan Nwosu, aged 78, from Umuaro community in Nkwere Local Government of Imo State, is a beneficiary. A former commercial vehicle driver who plied Port-Harcourt-Aba route until his sight challenge in 2016, described the project as a service to humanity.
 
“I cannot, but sincerely appreciate FCMB for what I consider as service to humanity. I do not have anything to give to show appreciation, but to pray for the management and staff of the Bank. I did not know a thing like this could fall by my feet just like that without anybody asking me to pay anything. I feel like somebody who came first in a college examination,” Nwosu said.
 
The poverty alleviation activities of FCMB have also been extended to the Federal Nigeria Society for the Blind (FNSB), as it recently donated 15 Braille machines (comparable to a typewriter) to the Vocational Training Centre (VCT) located at Oshodi, Lagos state.  
 
The gesture is aimed at effectively supporting the efforts of the 60 years FNSB towards enhancing the standard of teaching, as well as learning of the blind, who are students of the training centre. So far, over 2,000 visually impaired men and women have benefitted from the various training programmes.
 
The bank’s intervention to eradicate Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) – a group of 17 parasitic and bacterial infections that affect over one billion poorest people globally, in partnership with Sight Savers, an international NGO, covers four severely affected states- Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara and Sokoto.
 
This involves a mass drug distribution approach by an extensive network of volunteer community drug distributors. The bank’s intervention has gone a long way to combat the impact of the diseases.
 
The commitment towards environmental protection and sustainability remains a core pillar of the CSR focus of the financial institution. Indeed, it places great emphasis on not just what it achieves as an organisation, but how it achieves it.
 
A highpoint of the FCMB’s environmental sustainability activities is its ability to identify and innovatively devise means of converting challenges posed to opportunities.
 
The sponsorship of a project that relates to the conversion of water hyacinths to valuable materials in partnership with another NGO, Mitimeth International, since 2015 is a testimony.
 
Under this programme, so far executed at Bayeku community in Ikorodu and Epe, has hundreds of people already trained on how to make handicrafts, such as baskets, lamps, dressing accessories, mugs, vases, table mats and so on, for commercial purposes from invasive aquatic materials. 

With the new skills learnt, women and youths of Bayeku community in Ikorodu Epe and adjoining communities have been empowered to turn an environmental menace into a source of income; courtesy of FCMB’s CSR intervention.

 
Furthermore, FCMB has continued to actively participate in World Environment Day (WED) activities over the years. At its commemoration in 2015, the financial institution collaborated with the Nigeria Conservation Foundation (NCF) to further raise awareness on the need to protect the environment.
 
These activities include a Flora and Fauna Fancy Dress Competition among school children of ages 5-14 years, involving 40 public and private schools across Lagos.  Yearly, the bank also uses the opportunity provided by the WED to visit the Lekki Conservation Centre. 
 
FCMB has sustained a partnership with the Lagos State Central Business District to clean up the Marina/Tinubu square axis of the state, which involves the provision of cleaning equipment, apparels and payment of the salaries of the cleaners.Through these robust activities across its three adopted spheres, a financial institution like FCMB has demonstrated its determination to provide the required support needed to build a viable and sustainable society.



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