Promoting a Better Environment through CSR

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Sterling Bank Plc is taking a fresh look at ways of preserving the environment by committing to projects that promote environmental sustainability, writes Goddy Egene

Given the dwindling resources of the governments, both at the federal and state levels, it is becoming difficult for government to provide all the needs of the citizenry. This is why some corporate organisations have taken it upon themselves to assist in the provision of some of those needs. Most times, the assistance comes in form of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Besides, right thinking organisations understand that their operations and the societies in which they conduct their businesses are in a symbiotic relationship. Hence, they see CSR as core to their business existence because a company is only as successful as the communities where it operates.

For Sterling Bank Plc, the protection, preservation, cleaning, and beautification of the environment remain a priority. Its efforts in this direction have earned it recognition locally and internationally.
As a responsible organisation, the lender believes that the government has a major role to play in fixing the myriad of problems in every community. It also thinks private organisations and business enterprises can partner the government in solving societal problems, especially as it concerns the environment.

The bank has CSR initiatives that are tailored towards meeting these needs of the society. Over the years, it has supported initiatives aimed at identifying and promoting the preservation, protection and beautification of the environment. The bank works in collaboration with public institutions – state and local governments – to create a better environment.

These initiatives have made Sterling Bank’s name synonymous with the environment, earning it both local and international accolades. The reason for this is simple: the environment remains part of the Bank’s CSR focus.
From its waste management partnership with the various waste management authorities in over 15 states of the federation, its tree planting activities with target to plant a million trees in the next one year to checkmate desertification and deforestation; nationwide environmental cleaning exercises under its Sterling Environmental Make-Over (STEM) initiative, Sterling Bank has indeed given a new meaning to the concept of CSR in the country.
The Executive Director, Sterling Bank, Abubakar Suleiman, explained that these projects were meant to create positive impact on the environment and society at large.

Suleiman said: “We want to keep on doing the small things while we plan the big audacious ones. Each time you reach out to a child, mentor a troubled teen or join street sweepers to clean the streets, you are part of an unstoppable force to make our world a better place and that is what we want to achieve with this exercise. What Sterling Bank is doing is to preserve lives. When you look at primary healthcare, you will observe that the Bank sees life preservation as key to the growth of the society.”

Waste Management Partnership
The former Chief Executive of the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), Ola Oresanya captured Sterling Bank’s strides on the environment and the lender’s long-standing partnership with the Lagos State Government thus: “Sterling Bank supports our clean up exercise and also has its own initiatives in the area of environmental cleanliness. If you are going to talk about a cleaner environment, you cannot but mention Sterling Bank as one of the prominent organisations that has been at the forefront of environmental cleanliness not only in Lagos but in all the locations where it has businesses through its nationwide periodic national cleaning exercises. On an annual basis, they give us 25,000 units of uniforms for our cleaners and highway managers. CSR initiatives cannot be better than that.”

According to him, the success story of LAWMA in the last five years could be ascribed to the support received from Sterling Bank, adding the bank is a major partner of the agency.
Oresanya hailed the bank for taking a major risk by putting its name and logo on the outfits of a government institution for individuals often considered to be at the lower cadre of the society.
“We really appreciate that. Not many banks would take this risk. It is a bank that believes so much in us; they believe in our strategy, and they have taken all the risks to make sure that they support us, and we have no regrets,” he said.

Explaining further, Suleiman said the lender always ensures that it prioritises those whose job it is to clean the environment and invests in ensuring that they are protected. To achieve this, the Bank executed the initiative of producing uniforms for highway managers and street sweepers to protect against disease in the discharge of their duties and the elements. The materials are also reflective to ensure the sweepers are easily visible from a distance during the day and in the night, significantly reducing the potential for unnecessary accidents.

Pioneering in Lagos state with the relevant waste management agency, LAWMA and being in partnership for over eight years, the bank has extended this environmental sustainability partnership to several other states including Abia, Ekiti, Enugu, Kaduna, Ogun, Rivers, Oyo, Osun, Abuja, Anambra, Kano, Kwara and Delta states through the provision of this protective kit.

“Sterling Bank as a responsible corporate citizen will continually engage in initiatives that will protect the environment, especially those that are connected to the protection of lives through its renowned partnership with agencies of government responsible for the promotion of a clean environment and good health among Nigerians,” he said.

Staff join cleaning exercise (#STEM)
Apart from providing the right working tools for the various agencies responsible for the cleaning of the environment, the staff of Sterling Bank on a quarterly basis, carry out a nationwide environmental cleaning exercise as part of its Sterling Environmental Makeover (#STEM) series. The exercise, which is part of the CSR initiative of the bank focused on environmental sustainability aims at promoting a clean environment and good health among Nigerians.

In Lagos alone, staff of the bank working in collaboration with officials of LAWMA have cleaned locations such as Oshodi Motor Park, Ikeja, Ladipo Market, Mushin Main Market, Ajegunle and just recently Oyingbo market and other locations considered dirty in other parts of the country. In most cases, people around such locations also joined Sterling Bank staff in the exercise.

“Sterling Bank came up with the national cleaning exercise in 2013 in furtherance of its core purpose of enriching lives. Since then, the Bank has continually engaged in the initiative to promote a healthy environment and lead other organisations and corporates in the drive to ensure a sustainably clean environment in various communities across the country through its renowned partnership with relevant government agencies,” the bank disclosed.

Commenting at a recent cleaning exercise at Oyingbo main market, Suleiman said: “We are here to make a statement, to show the whole world that we care for their wellbeing. We are doing same in other parts of the country. Health is wealth and Sterling Bank as a responsible corporate citizen of this country must demonstrate the value it has placed on human lives. Let’s bring back the dignity in labour and the pride associated not only with cleanliness but with cleaning. Like everything else with real meaning, it will be at the expense of something else, it will be a sacrifice.”

Tree Planting
Asides cleaning the environment and in support of the federal government’s plan to slow down desertification, Sterling Bank has also commenced the planting of over one million trees across the country planned to span the next one year starting with the North Eastern part of the country.

The lender had last August, flagged off the tree planting project in Plateau, Bauchi and Gombe states. The initiative was one of the solutions to cushion the effects of desertification in the country in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Developmental Goals (2016-2030) for environmental preservation, and a way of challenging other private institutions to support the initiative.

“Desertification is the process of fertile land transforming into desert typically as a result of deforestation, drought or improper/inappropriate agricultural practices. Desertification impacts directly or indirectly on all aspects of human life and the environment including the ecological, health, geo-chemical, hydrological and socio-economic facets,” the bank said.

Statistics have shown that a quarter of the earth’s surface is threatened by desertification and out of the 909,890 km2 of the country’s land area, about 580,841 km2 accounting for 63.83 per cent of total land is impinged on by desertification.

Suleiman added that extensive cultivation, deforestation, overgrazing, cultivation of marginal land and bush burning have been identified as major causes of desertification.

“Sterling Bank has decided to join the train because desertification has done a lot of damage to the local economy as it has made farming impossible in affected areas leading to high cost of food items and hunger for farmers and their families. Apart from causing floods leading to poor water supply, desertification in affected areas ultimately leads to poverty. Without food and water, it becomes harder for people to thrive, and they take a lot of time to try and get the things that they need,” he said.

“It was also based on the fact that research has shown that tree planting is a tested solution to stemming the tide of desertification. There is a need to increase awareness on desertification at local, national and global levels. The challenge posed by desertification remains a significant global ecological and environmental problem that must be checkmated and planting and protection of indigenous trees and shrub species coupled with the introduction of sustainable agriculture practices are veritable solutions,” that bank added.

According to the bank, it is willing to work with relevant stakeholders with similar priorities in ensuring that the challenge of desertification is effectively addressed and conclusively dealt with to promote a better environment for the nation’s economy and to ensure environmental sustainability in line with the sustainable development goals.