Standard Bank says it sees opportunities to have a significant impact across the economy. African News Agency (ANA)
CAPE TOWN – Africa's biggest bank by value, Standard Bank, has joined Absa and the Land Bank to become founding signatories of the Principles for Responsible Banking to align their businesses with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Standard Bank said it had identified seven impact areas to build on progress already made: job creation and enterprise development; education; financial inclusion; health; environment and climate change; infrastructure development; African trade and investment.

Chief executive for Africa regions Sola David-Borha said: “We recognise it takes more than putting pen to paper to make a global agreement on responsible banking a reality, but today marks an important starting point. The bank saw opportunities to have a significant impact across the economy, given it had the largest footprint of all participating banks.”

Financial services groups globally have begun aligning their operations towards a sustainable future by taking a tougher stand on climate change.

Signatory banks are required to conduct impact analyses to identify their biggest potential positive and negative contributions to the societies, economies and the environments in which they operate. Based on this, banks must then identify strategic business opportunities to increase positive and decrease negative impacts.

Each bank must set at least two targets to address its biggest impact areas and work towards achieving them.

In South Africa, Standard Bank, FNB and Nedcor have joined a number of global financial groups in drawing up corporate policies to limit their funding of coal projects. Nedbank has reported on its role in meeting SDG goals for two years.

“A banking industry that plans for the risks associated with climate change and other environmental challenges can not only drive the transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient economies, it can benefit from it,” UN Environment Programme executive director Inger Andersen said in a statement on Tuesday.

Absa group chief executive for responsible banking René van Wyk said they would set, publish and implement ambitious targets to scale up positive, and address any negative impacts, in line with global and local goals.

Land Bank acting chief executive Konehali Gugushe said their clients, customers and businesses could only thrive in an inclusive society founded on human dignity, equality and the sustainable use of natural resources.

“When the financial system shifts its capital away from resource-hungry, brown investments to those that back nature as solution, everybody wins in the long-term,” Andersen said.

Absa, Standard and Land Bank joined 130 banks worldwide, representing more than $47trillion (R700trln) in assets, that signed the Principles for Responsible Banking.

The launch of the Principles for Responsible Banking took place at the start of the UN General Assembly. It marked the beginning of the most significant partnership to date between the global banking industry and the UN. The UN Principles for Responsible Banking are a guide for global banking to respond to, drive and benefit from a sustainable development economy.

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