In the fight to tackle climate change and cut back greenhouse gas emissions, individual actions are not enough to turn the tide.
Companies and corporate organisations around the world contribute the majority of industrial greenhouse emissions and this is why it’s vital that these institutions play their part in creating a cleaner, healthier planet.
According to CDP, an international nonprofit that drives companies and governments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, just 100 companies have been responsible for at least 70% of all industrial greenhouse gas emissions globally since 1988.
This makes it clear that while individual actions such as recycling and reducing plastic use are also an important step, the world cannot make the real progress needed towards the goals of the Paris Agreement if businesses do not actively work to reduce their impact on the environment.
In Nigeria, Access Bank is working to do just that. As one of Nigeria’s largest financial institutions, this sort of leadership is important in the country where climate change and sustainability are not mainstream issues compared to poverty and social inequality, for example.
“Sustainability to us is responsible business practices and community investment,” says Access Bank CEO Herbert Wigwe. “Our work in sustainable development primarily focuses on health, arts, sports, education, gender empowerment, and the environment of the bank. At Access Bank, we recognise the sustainability journey is filled with challenges, and we believe that sustainability must be embedded into the fabric of any business.”
Here are seven ways Access Bank is working to be a more environmentally-friendly business to support the urgent mission to defend the planet.
1. Paper and Notebook Recycling
Through what it calls the Paper-to-Pencil Initiative, Access Bank recycles its used notebooks, paper, and newspaper — from brands of both Access Bank and Diamond Bank (which Access Bank acquired in 2019) — and turns them into pencils. According to the bank, the pencils supplied by the programme have benefited more than 10,000 primary and secondary school students to date.
2. Sustainable Waste Management
Bank branches generate a lot of waste, not just from staff, but also from customers that visit the hundreds of banking halls daily.
Access Bank currently has a waste management programme at 75 of its branches in Nigeria through which it recycles paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum cans. It also told Global Citizen it supports its vendors at these branches with recycling trucks to maximise recycling capacity.
Over the years, the bank has also introduced education modules on sustainable waste management for its staff.
3. Tyre Upcycling
Through a partnership with FABE Foundation, a nonprofit organisation focused on environmental health and sustainability, Access Bank collects used tyres across its vehicle fleet and upcycles them into reusable furniture.
It takes one rubber tyre roughly 50-80 years or more to fully decompose, meaning that efforts to prolong the life of the tyres and prevent them ending up in landfill sites is an important step.
4. Powering Some of Its Operations from Alternative Energy Sources
One essential aspect of combating climate change is a global move away from fossil fuels as an energy source, and activists and experts have long called for businesses to invest in sustainable energy sources to help the world achieve net zero emissions.
In this regard, 58 of Access Bank’s branches currently use a hybrid approach combining solar power and other renewable energy sources to cut down on its emissions.
It also uses energy-saving LED bulbs in all its branches, has installed water-saving taps at many of its facilities, and operates 605 solar-powered ATM machines. The bank also told Global Citizen it has a process in place to track its electricity consumption across its branches.
5. Green Social Entrepreneurship Programme
Through a partnership with SME Funds, a social enterprise focused on ending poverty by funding ethical, green, and social enterprises, Access Bank’s Green Social Entrepreneurship Programme trains local entrepreneurs to produce cooking biofuels that are cleaner and safer for the environment.
So far the bank has trained more than 280 entrepreneurs, of whom 70% are women, and provided them with access to start-up capital. These entrepreneurs have already reported revenue of more than 15 million Naira through production and distribution of over 7,500 litres of biofuel.
The programme has also impacted more than 500 households and 2,100 beneficiaries have been able to access low-cost cooking fuel and stoves, leading to the displacement of 287 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to the bank.
During the pandemic, the programme was expanded to support an additional 2,500 families in 100 communities, reaching more than 900 small-business owners. This resulted in daily savings of 1,300 Naira per family, time savings of 225,000 minutes, and eliminated 8,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the bank told Global Citizen.
6. Encouraging Wildlife Conservation
The bank has also run an awareness campaign around conservation in four communities in Enugu State, Southeast Nigeria.
Through a partnership with Glow Initiative for Economic Empowerment — a nonprofit organisation that focuses primarily on climate change, poverty, and unemployment — knowledge and positive practices about wildlife conservation are passed on to local communities, and conservation clubs are established in schools to teach young children about advocating for wildlife conservation.
A total of 280 students and 250 hunters in rural communities were a part of this programme, according to Access Bank, and more than 2,000 people were impacted overall.
7. Solar Skills Training for Young Entrepreneurs
The bank also carried out a training programme for young people in Anambra State on design, repair, installation, and assembly of solar energy equipment via a further partnership with Glow Initiative.
More than 570 young people were a part of this programme and 17 of them have already launched their own solar energy businesses.
“We issued the first Climate Bonds Initiative’s Corporate Green Bond in Africa, valued at about $41 million, to finance and refinance environmentally friendly projects, such as renewables, which would lead to an estimated annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 730 tonnes (carbon dioxide equivalent),” Wigwe said at Global Citizen Live in Lagos. “Other projects include the flood defence system in Lagos, to protect over 400,000 residents from flooding.”
He added: “Let’s always remember that we are first humans, and as individuals and businesses, we have an obligation to drive the recovery of our planet, and to end extreme poverty.”