Redefining CSR for Sustainable Development

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Obinna Chima writes that the establishment of a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy is a crucial component of any bank’s competitiveness in their quest to give back to the society they operate

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become one of the standard business practices for reputable organisations in the country.

It has also helped in enhancing the overall reputation of a lot of organisations, especially in the financial sector where commercial banks strive to outshine each other.

Therefore, since banks provide linkages to all sectors of the economy, they have stepped up their corporate social responsibility activities in all the key sectors of the economy.
CSR is described as an instrument, a concept or even a business model that requires companies to apply a radical change in attitude.

For banks, since the introduction of the Nigeria Sustainable Banking Principles, as a pillar for CSR by the Bankers’ Committee in 2012, a lot of the financial institutions have continued to support the society.
That is why First City Monument Bank (FCMB), through its CSR initiatives is impacting positively on many lives and communities in Nigeria.

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.
Over the years, FCMB has elevated this practice to a commendable height by consciously championing and executing various programmes in a manner that reflects its commitment to the use of CSR as a tool to add value and ensure sustainable development.

The 34-year-old bank has been able to achieve this through its 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 of, ‘Teach a man to fish’.
All these gestures, the bank explained, are in line with its time-tested value as a helpful bank committed to creating opportunities that would further enhance the well-being of individuals, customers, groups and the entire society.

Speaking on FCMB’s CSR drive, the Group Head, Corporate Affairs of the bank, Mr. 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 our commitment to doing the right things at all times to ensure sustainable development across various spheres. This ethos has continued to guide our views and approach to not just business, but also CSR.”

Economic empowerment
FCMB’s CSR philosophy, according to a report from the bank, 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 demonstration of this, the bank explained that in 2016, it extended its support to internally displaced women in Maiduguri, Borno State by providing training and financial support to 100 of them to start any small scale business of their choice.

The financial institution also organised skills acquisition and other capacity building programmes for the beneficiaries. Speaking at the fund disbursement ceremony then, the Borno State Commissioner for Poverty Alleviation, Hajia Inna Galadima, had commended FCMB for making a difference in the lives of the internally displaced women.

Also, FCMB’s intervention in economic empowerment is further seen in its partnership with Wecyclers, a company involved in recycling, on a waste-to-wealth franchise scheme. Through this collaboration, the bank was able to tackle the challenges of waste management by deploying an innovative recycling project aimed at job and wealth creation, while promoting health and sanitation.
To further deepen the project, FCMB had put in place a monthly reward scheme for top recyclers. The first batch of winners emerged in May this year and has been presented with their prizes.

Youth empowerment
Furthermore, FCMB’s economic empowerment activities have also impacted positively on youths. The bank instituted a capacity building programme for youths tagged: ‘Empowered for the Future’.

The initiative which was in partnership with Youth Empowerment Foundation focuses on peer-to-peer economic empowerment and reproductive health education for in- and out-of-school adolescents. It commenced with 50 youths who were trained on various aspects of human development. The beneficiaries were expected to reach out to 750 peers over a one year period, with focus on financial literacy, skills acquisition, sexual and reproductive health, while undergoing vocational training, job shadowing and knowledge building programmes.

Poverty alleviation
For FCMB, poverty alleviation involves the strategic use of tools such as education, economic development, health and income redistribution to improve the livelihoods of the world’s poorest people by governments and organisations. Over the years, the bank said it has been carrying out series of activities, through CSR, to tackle this challenge and its attendant effects

One of such initiatives, according to FCMB was the Priceless Gift of Sight programme which it has been sponsoring 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.

According to FCMB, over 100,000 people across Nigeria have so far benefited from this project since it took up the sponsorship eight years ago.

This year, FCMB sponsored 500 eye surgeries in Kebbi, Cross River and Imo states, while more than a thousand others underwent the screening for cataract during the programme. The bank has previously carried out the programme in Katsina, Adamawa and Ogun states.

A beneficiary of this year’s programme, Mr. Jonathan Nwosu (aged 78) from Umuaro community in Nkwere Local Government of Imo State, described the priceless gift of sight project as a service to humanity.

Also, a former commercial vehicle driver who plied Port-Harcourt and Aba until he completely lost his sight in February 3, 2016 to cataract, Mr. Nwosu had this to say: “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.”

Similarly, the bank revealed that its poverty alleviation activities 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 FNSB towards enhancing the standard of teaching, as well as learning of the blind, who are students of the VCT,” FCMB explained.

The centre was established 60 years ago and so far, over 2,000 visually impaired men and women have benefitted from the various training programmes at the VCT.

FCMB said it is also playing a very important role in the on-going efforts to eradicate Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) – a group of 17 parasitic and bacterial infections that affect over 1 billion of the world’s poorest people.
These diseases reduce economic productivity and prevent affected individuals from being able to work or care for themselves and their families.

The bank’s intervention to eradicate NTDs, 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.

Environmental sustainability
According to the bank, the commitment towards environmental protection and sustainability remains a core pillar of its CSR focus.

Indeed, the bank stressed that it places a lot of emphasis on not just what it achieves as an organisation, but how it achieves it. Hence, it stated that its business activities and operations are designed to ensure that it lends responsibly, promotes financial inclusion, encourages diversity, adheres to health and safety standards, and reduces (or totally avoids where possible) negative impact on the environment.

“A highpoint of the bank’s environmental sustainability activities is its ability to identify and innovatively devise means of converting challenges posed by the environment to opportunities.

“One of such is the bank’s sponsorship of a project that relates to the conversion of water hyacinths to valuable materials in partnership with another NGO, Mitimeth International, since 2015.

“Under this programme, which has so far been executed at Bayeku community in Ikorodu and Epe, hundreds of people have been 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 (such as water hyacinths).

“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,” it stated.
Furthermore, FCMB said it has continued to actively participate in World Environment Day (WED) activities over the years.

At the commemoration of the Day in 2015, the bank collaborated with the Nigeria Conservation Foundation (NCF) to organise series of programmes to further raise awareness on the need to protect the environment.

And as part of efforts to ensure a cleaner environment, FCMB is in an on-going partnership with the Lagos State Central Business District to clean up the Marina/Tinubu square axis of the state.

Through its activities across its three adopted spheres as an institution, FCMB is clearly demonstrating its determination to provide the required support needed to build a viable society.