By Jeremiah Agada
As the world gears up to celebrate the World Environment Day (WED), Brand Communicator’s focus on Eco-Friendly Brands in the Nigerian market falls on Nigeria’s premier and perhaps the strongest financial institution, First Bank of Nigeria Limited. The focus is on the Bank’s environmental policies and its impact on the global environmental issues.
This brings to fore the importance of environmental sustainability in our world today. Environmental sustainability is one of the biggest challenges and most important targets of the present times. Stakeholders (researchers, academicians, scholars, governments and non-government organizations involving individuals, communities, countries, and the continents, are increasingly focusing their attention on how to tackle the challenges associated with driving environmental sustainability. Key stakeholder concerns include the constant exploitation of the environment due to economic development. While the current generation is enjoying the fruits of economic development, they tend to be oblivious of the uncertainty and dangers that future generations would confront as a result of scarce natural resources and polluted environment. It is therefore, our responsibility to leave the planet as a self-sustainable system providing equal opportunities of survival not only to our future generations but also to all other species co-habiting with us.
In Nigeria, studies have shown that various sectors of the economy are vulnerable to climate change. These include human settlements and health; water resources, wetlands and freshwater ecosystems; energy, industry, commerce and financial services; agriculture, food security, land degradation, forestry and biodiversity; coastal zone and marine ecosystems.
Because of the seriousness of climate change and the impact it poses to the environment, an organization like First Bank of Nigeria Limited is leaving nothing to chance in ensuring an eco-friendly society. Its recognition of the environmental and social impacts of its operations has made it adopt policies and procedures that minimize negative environmental and social impacts.
In doing business, the Bank, which is Nigeria’s first and arguably its most prestigious, takes cognizance of potential environmental risks with a view to nipping them in the bud. This it has done by constant interactions with stakeholders, driving sustainable insurance and putting necessary frameworks in place towards ensuring that its actions as a corporate entity does not impact negatively on the environment.
As such, the sustainability of the societies and physical environments in which the Bank operates are critical to its own sustainable success. Therefore, the Bank has shown over the years that it is committed to making positive contribution wherever it does business while avoiding or minimising any direct or indirect negative impact on communities and the environment resulting from its activities, beyond its responsible lending and investment efforts.
The acknowledgement of the fact that its environmental impacts can be indirectly linked to climate change and its global effects has led the bank to adopt an approach to environmental sustainability which is two-fold based on its direct and indirect impacts. The approaches to reducing the direct impacts of its operations include approach to minimising carbon footprints and carbon offsetting; work towards carbon neutrality as well as promote wildlife and biodiversity conservation and preservation.
In minimising waste, the Bank works to improve energy efficiency in its data centres and offices as well as reduce air travels and implement safe paper use initiatives. It also increased the use of conference calls for meetings as against attending physical meeting schedules thereby minimizing fuel consumption and carbon emission from vehicles. Its ‘Going Green’ efforts have also seen the Bank purchase renewable energy; promote tree planting initiatives and the indirect impact of its activities focuses largely on responsible lending.
The Bank’s key objectives of minimizing carbon footprints through the planting of trees, creating awareness among school children of the need to preserve wildlife and biodiversity, developing and educating environmentally conscious students through partnerships with reputable NGOs and institutions, are huge. The challenge in implementing this project is not just in identifying suitable locations with the right soil and climatic conditions for tree planting, but also ensuring students’ participation.
These objectives and FirstBank’s responsible approach to protecting the environment has seen it partner with Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Nigeria’s premier non-governmental environment conservation foundation dedicated to nature conservation and sustainable development in Nigeria. Its on-going partnership with the NCF has seen it actively support annual activities promoting conservation and preservation of wildlife and biodiversity.
The FirstBank Conservation Initiative is part of our long-term approach to promoting sustainability, which involves minimising our direct and indirect impacts on the environment. And the success of this initiative is dependent on our meaningful engagement with our stakeholders.
With its huge expertise in environmental issues, the Bank found a worthy and perfect partner in the NCF to help implement this programme successfully. The NCF used its experience and influence to engage the various stakeholders to support the programme. This included utilising its conservation clubs, which provided educational sessions for the students on the importance and benefits of conservation and supporting biodiversity. The subsequent enthusiastic participation of the students, and the encouragement they received from the Ministry of Education and school authorities, enabled the programme’s objectives to be achieved.
So far, 240 trees have been planted at the Lagos State Civil Service Model College Igbogbo in Ikorodu, and Evboesi Mixed Secondary School, Benin City. More than 1,000 environmental sustainability champions have also been appointed in these locations. These champions are young people who look after the trees and ensure that they are adequately cared for to help the bank achieve its afforestation goals. “The planting of trees is just part of our efforts to contribute to Nigeria’s green economy and to combat deforestation/desertification, while recognising the key role of children and young people in the sustainability agenda,” the Bank in a statement disclosed.
Through its partnership with Junior Achievement Nigeria (JAN), FirstBank sponsored the National Company of the Year (NCOY) Competition. The competition is an extension of the COY programme that brings secondary students together to form a company, choose a business name and elect officers to oversee operations of the company for the programme duration. It teaches students to put theory into practice in order to fully understand what financial literacy and entrepreneurship is. At the end of the programme, the students that complete the programme successfully, compete in the regional competition and represent their school in the National Company of the Year competition in Lagos. In 2020, the New Phase from Brookstone Secondary School, Port-Harcourt, Rivers state emerged winner, producing an eco-friendly block. The eco-friendly construction blocks were made from plastic waste. These sustainable blocks are the next wave of sustainable construction.
Beyond the initiatives above, responsible lending remains one of the strategic pillars in delivering the sustainability goals of the FirstBank Group. FirstBank has put in place an Environmental, Social and Governance Management System (ESGMS) to help the Bank integrate environmental social and governance considerations into its decision-making processes. This includes an ESG policy and procedures for screening transactions. The ESG policy is based on existing policy documents and international best practice, while procedures to screen transactions are aimed at conducting ESG due diligence on potential transactions. These are based on Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Banking Principles, IFC Performance Standards, and international best practice and are tailored to FirstBank’s procedures, risk management framework, risk appetite and tolerance, and adapted to its strategic objectives
The key objective of this policy is to ensure that all the transactions that FirstBank is considering funding, include adequate provision for actions necessary to prevent, control and mitigate negative impacts on the environment and communities, and improve environmental quality.
With this, FirstBank has shown its commitment to integrating social and environmental principles in all its operations; promoting good corporate governance and ensuring social and environmental considerations are included in the business decision making; reviewing and managing potential social and environmental risks in its lending and investment processes and activities and reviewing all borrowers against the criteria like exclusion list; the International Finance Corporate Performance Standards, and other applicable international standards as well as the Nigeria Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBP) requirements.
Others initiatives are, providing constant education and training for all staff on issues of environmental and social responsibility relevant to the business; regularly communicating to all stakeholders on progress of commitments including achievements, challenges and future direction; continuous improvement on the way in which it identifies, assesses and manages Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) risks within its businesses.
The successful and productive implementation of the ESGMS has propelled the bank to integrate the associated checklist (which is usually completed by a relationship manager and verified by an analyst against the EIA report), into the bank’s credit application platform designed for reviewing credits. The goal is to ensure efficiency through automation as relevant implementation documents such as the environmental, social and governance risks screening checklist will be fully automated.
These initiatives over the years and activities have shown that environmental sustainability remains a key corporate responsibility & sustainability focus for FirstBank.
FIRSTBANK’S SMECONNECT PLATFORM CONTINUES TO HELP BUSINESSES THRIVE
Small Medium Enterprises are the ultimate drivers of the economy, and when they are under-utilized and not given the much-needed support to thrive, it has an overriding effect on the overall growth and development of a Nation. In a demonstration of its continuous commitment to National development, FirstBank’s ‘’SMEConnect’ continues to create an atmosphere for SMEs to build, grow and scale.
SMEConnect is FirstBank’s value proposition geared towards building the capacity of SMEs to deliver business goals and contribute even more significantly to national development. It is a digital platform through which SMEs can access the bank’s plethora of services. The portal is designed to help SMEs access the Bank’s unique propositions and identify various gaps that hinder their business growth. With FirstBank’s over 127 years of impacting the economy, the portal helps proffer tailored services solutions, whilst creating avenues for business improvement, profitability and sustainability. Currently, there are 4,225 registered businesses and 20,880 users on the platform.
SMEConnect was birthed out of the need to bridge the gap and connect SMEs to resources, products and services that will enable them to overcome the challenges of poor business structures, lack of infrastructure, poor market penetration, limited access to information and professional services, inconsistent government policies amongst others, hence the bank has identified seven strategic pillars considered essential for the sustainability and growth of SMEs.
The pillars are: connect to infrastructure, connect to talent, capacity building, connect to policy and regulation, connect to resources, connect to market as well as connect to finance to further reinforce the Bank’s role in putting SMEs at an advantage whilst contributing to national growth and development. SMEConnect serves as a medium of connecting SMEs to these solutions from the comfort of their offices, homes, and anywhere they are in the world. The uniqueness of the platform lies in the fact that these offerings are either free or substantially discounted.
The unique selling proposition of SMEConnect is the congregation of value-adding products & services on one platform for easy access and at rates (prices) that are competitive and (in most cases) discounted. The SMEConnect has special features such as the Business Diagnostic tool which has been specifically developed to evaluate one’s business and give one a business effectiveness score, it goes further to tell one what one has done well and what one needs to improve on. One is also able to request a business coach on the portal and get up to a 34% discount.
SMEs can also have access to free business advisory services through the business diagnostic tool, they can showcase their products and services at no cost at all, interact with their customers and other SMEs alike, Connect to free capacity building workshops, seminars and webinars and get regular updates on policies and regulations impacting SMEs. All these interesting features combine to make FirstBank the first-choice bank amongst SMEs.
Other features of the SMEConnect platform include enlightening blog articles that provide tips on growing businesses, e-newsletters, and useful webinar content.
What are the pre-requisites for SMEs to be listed on the portal?
SMEs can join the SMEConnect community by visiting https://smeconnect.firstbanknigeria.com/ to sign up seamlessly for free. Users only need to enter their email addresses and create a password to get started. Businesses must be registered and have a corporate account with FirstBank to list their business on the business hub and access all the beneficial offerings on SMEConnect.
Furthermore, individuals and businesses can register to be users of SMEConnect without listing their business. SMEConnect is open to businesses operating across all sectors.
Businesses who wish to list their businesses on the business hub in addition to being registered and having a corporate account with FirstBank must accept the terms and conditions of the platform.
There are some exceptions, however, businesses that deal in cryptocurrencies, sports betting and other similar business ventures that do not align with the Bank’s T&Cs (https://smeconnect.firstbanknigeria.com/terms)are currently not allowed to be listed on the business hub.
Visit https://smeconnect.firstbanknigeria.com/ to sign-up and enjoy the rich benefits the FirstBank SMEConnect offers.
Culled from Nairametrics
Coalition of Events Professionals in Nigeria Hold Inaugural Event Safety Summit
In a bid to align the Nigerian events industry with global professional safety standards, the coalition of events professionals in the country held its inaugural Safety Summit on Tuesday June 21, 2021 at the Harbour Point Event Center, Victoria Island Lagos.
The Events Safety Summit with the theme ‘MAKING SAFETY OUR PRIORITY’ was segmented into sessions of speeches and lectures by different stakeholders in the industry as well as a panelist of speakers who all spoke on the salient issues bordering the Events industry as well as the importance and need for safety during events which cut through different sectors of the industry including, event venue owners, caterers, food handlers, decorators, planners, managers,etc.
Speaking on the need for event venue owners to always be safety conscious, Director General and CEO of the Lagos State Safety Commission, Lanre Mojola in his goodwill message said, “This event you may agree with me is long overdue in the event industry and it is with every sense of responsibility that I congratulate the organizers of the initiative which is geared towards curbing incidents, accidents, diseases and fatalities in the event industry and by extension Lagos State.”
The Governor of Lagos State speaking through the Commissioner of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile Yussuf, delivered by the permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mrs Princess Adenike Adedoyin-Ajayi congratulated everyone who was part of the team that put the event together, saying it couldn’t be more apt to have a summit as that, in the face of our new reality
“The event shows the determination of relevant stakeholders here to take the issue of safety seriously and to prioritize the well-being of their masses. The theme of the event being a collaborative effort between event professionals speaks volumes to the fact that the professionals in this sector are not solely after profit making but also care for their clients who are also members of the body. The Lagos State Government is always keen about safety by the users of our event centers and those patronizing our hotels and other tourism and hospitality outlets. “
We will continue to partner with such organizations and professionals that help promote the safety culture in any of our public spaces, which is very key to tourists and investors alike; and we will continue to address this holistically. In our effort to attract more tourists and investors to our dear state.”
It is my hope that the objective of this event which is to educate professionals in the event industry on safety protocols of operating during the pandemic and even after that, to also enable event industry professionals to network with one another and foster healthy relations through education, while promoting ethical conduct will be achieved by the summit.”
“We are aware of the multiplier effect that a single event can bring to our citizens who are service providers, artisans, technicians, etc., and the entire economic and value chain in the state.”
There were various topics of discussion by the panelists which comprised high worth stakeholders in the industry and touched the entire gamut of event planning and management with safety at the core of it all.
Food is at the very core of events and the safety of food cannot be overemphasized as it could either crown any event if properly and professionally handled or mar it otherwise. To buttress on this point, a specialist in food Mrs. Nike posited thus;
“It is important to always ensure food safety at events. Whether a big or small event, food is a major component. Food safety refers to the protection of consumentals and well-being by safeguarding the food that we want to eat from anything that can cause harm.”
Given the fact that planning and managing events can be quite overwhelming for every stakeholder in the entire events value chain, the importance of mental health also cannot be overlooked. Health and Wellness coach, and CEO of Refreshed Healthy Living, Duntan West who is a graduate of economics with a master’s degree in energy engineering as well as a certified events and destination management professional from George Washington University in the US, spoke extensively on the importance of physical exercises, sleep, food, spirituality, socializing, connection with self, finances etc to a good mental state.
Fielding questions from reporters after the event, on some of the issues raised such as the need for event venue owners to have kitchens at event centers and other accessories that would ensure safety and conservation of food at their appropriate temperatures, as well as with other issues bordering safety, president of Association of Professional Party Organizers and Event Managers of Nigeria (APPOEMN), Mrs. Adefunke Kuyoro said;
“First of all, we now have an association for food handlers who are newly inaugurated and are part of the coalition. This goes beyond APPOEMN. You know when one man sings, the voice is not loud but when many people sing it becomes louder. This is the beginning of a good page in the industry. When we had the vendor’s meeting for this event, the safety people gave us the criteria that was used today in distributing food. The food handlers association came on the heels of Covid-19. When we were all in lockdown, they started training themselves, getting HCS certificates in food handling. A lot of people have to be innovative and that is the problem we are proffering solutions to. We have event centres that have no good kitchenettes for instance. How do we do it? We are now going to look at new ways of doing things to keep ourselves safe, our guests safe and to keep the environments that the work is being done safe.”
Adding her voice to the various issues of inadequacy with respect to facilities at event centres, president of the Association of Event Venue Owners, Lagos Nigeria, Mrs. Omolara Adwelusi averred thus:
“A lot of issues were raised but I’d like to take us a bit back. A lot of these venues got approval from Lagos State and we believe that at that point, there would have been some set of guidelines with respect to the facilities that should have been put in place. A lot of our venues, I must be sincere are marquees; they don’t come with so many other add-ons. However, I believe that what we have learnt from this summit, going forward, we will go back to the drawing board as venue owners and see the kind of adjustments we can make in our venues. Secondly, I believe this will also help us to talk to the planners especially and our clients that, look this is my capacity, this is what my venue can provide, so if you want something more, then you may need to look for somewhere else. It’s an avenue to enlighten the public as well as the venue owners to give what we have and not over-promise but stick to what we actually have to provide to our clients.”
The summit came to a close with a vote of thanks by the President, Venue Owners Association, Lagos State, Mrs. Adelusi who thanked all the coalition partners which included, Association of Professional Party Organizer and Event Managers of Nigeria,Event Safety Summit, Association of Event Vendors Nigeria, Rental Professional Society of Nigeria, International Live Events Association Nigeria Chapter, Association Professional Food Service Producers of Nigeria and also everyone who labored one way or another to make the event a success, as everyone looked ahead to a more improved Events industry in the country at the time of the second summit next year.
TONY ELUMELU FOUNDATION TRAINS OVER 200,000 AFRICAN ENTREPRENEURS ACROSS 54 AFRICAN COUNTRIES
The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), Africa’s leading philanthropy empowering young African entrepreneurs from all 54 African countries, has successfully trained over 200,000 entrepreneurs in core business management skills as part of its 2021 TEF Entrepreneurship Programme.
The Business Management training was conducted exclusively on TEFConnect, the Foundation’s proprietary digital platform that provides capacity-building support, advisory and market linkages to over 1 Million Africans and counting.
The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme Business Management Training equips entrepreneurs with critical skills required to launch and run their businesses at the early growth stage. With a unique curriculum that encompasses topics on Starting Your Business, Business Management & Fundamentals, Leadership & Business Growth, Selecting and Building a Team, amongst others, entrepreneurs are effectively armed to achieve business growth, profitability, and sustained success.
Entrepreneurs were hosted to weekly information sessions, as part of the training, to address relevant concerns and share vital programme updates. All entrepreneurs received active support from coaches and mentors who provided technical guidance, counsel and one-one interaction throughout the duration of the training programme.
The training, which is one element of the 7 pillars of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme, was carried out in the official African languages including English, French, Portuguese and Arabic, and over 40 percent of trained participants were women.
Commenting on this milestone, Ifeyinwa Ugochukwu, CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, said “Every year, our commitment to transform Africa is further strengthened with the passion, resilience and talent of the high-calibre entrepreneurs who onboard our flagship programme. Our curricular provides a holistic opportunity for entrepreneurs to learn, grow and contribute to the development of their communities.”
The Chief Executive Officer added: “Furthermore, it is a testament to the eagerness and readiness of African entrepreneurs across all of Africa to make themselves available to transform the continent for good. I would like to commend these entrepreneurs for their discipline, dedication and hard work throughout the training and look forward to the immense impact of their businesses across diverse sectors in Africa. We remain committed to empowering African entrepreneurs with the required resources and support that will ensure that their businesses can scale and drive sustainable change on the continent”.
The TEF Entrepreneurship Training is immediately followed by a Business Plan review process for each entrepreneur. The top-performing entrepreneurs subsequently participate in the Pitching phase of the Programme after which successful entrepreneurs receive a non-returnable seed capital of US$5000 each.
The leading African philanthropy also hopes to train and empower thousands more across the African continent as part of its commitment to catalyze economic growth, drive poverty eradication and ensure job creation.
In 2020, the Tony Elumelu Foundation marked ten years of impact, having empowered and funded nearly 10,000 African entrepreneurs from all 54 African countries as part of its US$100 million TEF Entrepreneurship Programme. The Tony Elumelu Foundation is inspired by Tony Elumelu’s economic philosophy of Africapitalism, which positions the private sector, and most importantly entrepreneurs, as the catalyst for the long-term social and economic development of the African continent.