As the human population grows exponentially thanks to urbanization and industrialization, the call to preserve the environment becomes increasingly urgent. It is this growing demand for action that is driving organizations, governments, individuals, and communities to search for more sustainable ways to live and work.
Thanks to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it’s no longer business as usual in the world of commerce and trade. Creating a culture of sustainability has become a core part of business growth in the 21st Century, as businesses invest in technology and tools to protect the environment they operate in and improve the lives of people everywhere.
The demand for Green Bonds, the environmentally friendly investments, rose by 78% to $155.5 billion in 2017 – showing investors’ appetite to take part in lucrative sustainable growth. While this era of bonds is only relatively new in emerging markets, it holds great potential to catalyze change.
In Africa, this growth is driven by the need to create environmentally friendly business and Access Bank is at the forefront of the revolution. This movement in Africa is seeing funding, knowledge, and opportunities transform ideas into reality and into solutions that have national and international impact.
This is sustainable investment with people and the environment its core.
Pairing sustainable development with banking
While African businesses seek to grow beyond the continent's borders, it remains imperative that their potential environmental impact is a central focus. As the world rallies around SDGs, there lies an opportunity not just in helping to lower carbon emissions, but to align new ventures with funding specifically made available for sustainable initiatives.
In a fast-developing low-carbon economy, this provides funding for eligible sectors, such as flood defense, green housing and buildings, clean water and transportation, sustainable waste management, and solar energy.
Access Bank’s Green Bond initiative took a leading role in funding renewable energy projects in West Africa, which gives businesses leverage to grow.
The Bank has injected 15 billion Naira ($41 million) in creating financial products with sustainability in mind; funding for long term societal and environmental goals is big business for individuals, and for the planet. This included finance and refinancing for projects such as flood defense systems.
The project is estimated to annually reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 730 metric tons of carbon, as well as protect 400,000 residents from flooding.
Renewables, such as solar photovoltaic technology, is also a key area of investment.
The Solar Skills Empowerment Program is training 576 men and women on the entire solar offering, from design, through sales, technical installation, and repair skills. The goal is to create a new wave of renewable entrepreneurship.
Access Bank issued the first Climate Bond Initiative (CBI) certified corporate green bond in Africa and aims to increase access to the credit market. Dovetailing with its "Grow More" initiative, this would give leverage to African businesses seeking to expand their enterprises across and beyond the continent.
By aligning the Bank's core values to drive SDGs and set global standards for sustainable banking, Access Bank is committing to playing a leading role in creating a more sustainable future.
Technology is a key part of achieving these goals, which is why the bank has also partnered with the Naija SDGs Hackathon (2021) which is set to award 30 million Naira (nearly $75,000) to aspiring fintech entrepreneurs.
The Green Social Entrepreneurship Programme is another area of emerging technology that’s receiving significant investment. This initiative replaces old cooking stoves with new technology that makes it possible to convert waste biomass into biofuel, which is an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional fuels.
So far, Access Bank’s partnership has empowered 238 entrepreneurs (70% women) with start-up capital, leading to returns of over 15.7 million Naira (nearly $40,000). The 598 households and 2,100 beneficiaries now using low-cost cooking fuel caused a reduction of 287 metric tons of carbon.
While protecting the environment through reducing emissions is important, wildlife conservation has also been highlighted. The Save Wildlife program raised knowledge and a positive attitude toward wildlife conservation in local communities, as well as clubs in schools, helping to educate over 2,000 people about the importance of preserving natural environments and the creatures which live in them.
Borderless banking is possible
Free and frictionless trade is the goal of all nations, not least of all on a continent the size of Africa. Financial technology and digital products have triggered this transformation, with innovations like an offline mobile payment and pay as you go platform set to ease trade and business across the continent.
With Access Africa, customers can bank across borders – meaning they can instantly transfer money to individuals or businesses. It’s currently available across 15 countries and has helped customers process more than
$41 million in transactions.
Sustainability is the future
With calls for sustainable investments growing louder, it is imperative that businesses take up the responsibility for the environment.
So as institutions such as Access Bank create new finance sources available in a high potential, high growth market such as Africa, there is hope for positive change.