Standard Bank and the ICBC joined forces to set global sustainable banking standards. Photo: Supplied

CAPE TOWN – Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the world's largest bank by assets, and Standard Bank, the largest bank in Africa by assets, have joined 26 banks from across the world to develop Principles for Responsible Banking. 

Spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEPI), this initiative aims to provide clear and specific guidance to banks on embedding sustainability into their businesses.  

The draft Principles for Responsible Banking, to be launched on November 25 in Paris, will provide a single comprehensive framework that guides banks on sustainable lending practices and processes. 

Signatory banks will be expected to integrate social, environmental and economic considerations and impacts into their businesses processes, lending practices and reporting.

ICBC and Standard Bank have been involved developing the Principles from the start of the process in April 2018. At least 28 leading global and regional banks – of UNEPFI’s 129 member-banks – formed a core group to steer the process.

ICBC President, Shu Gu, said: “As we celebrate 10 years of successful partnership between ICBC and Standard Bank, we continue to work towards embedding new approaches to measuring social, economic and environmental impacts into our strategy and ways of working. 

Wider impacts

“The Global Principles for Responsible Banking encourage banks to think hard about our wider impacts – both negative and positive – on the societies and environments in which we live and work, and to integrate this thinking into our decision-making and contribute to achieving society’s goals as expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.”

Standard Bank Group chief executive, Sim Tshabalala said: “In the year in which Standard Bank and ICBC celebrate 10-years of collaboration, our joint involvement in developing these Responsible Banking Principles is noteworthy. It has given us an opportunity to shape the Principles in a way that recognises the needs and opportunities of Africa and Africans.

“We understand that the sustainability of our business is closely linked to the prosperity and wellbeing of the societies in which we operate. The UNEP FI Principles for Responsible Banking will help us to focus our efforts on creating value for our business in a way that also generates value for the societies where we operate. We will use the UNEP FI Principles to guide us along our journey.”

The Principles are intended to help banks play an integral role in shaping and financing a sustainable future, and in this way, rebuild trust with society. As such, transparency and accountability are at the centre, with signatory banks expected to identify priority areas where they can have the greatest positive impact in contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and over time to set targets to achieve these. Signatories will also be required to publicly report on progress made

The Principles will be launched for global public consultation on 26 November at the UNEP FI Global Roundtable in Paris. The Principles will be formally launched and signed by the first set of banks in September 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly. 

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