Standard Bank Group's sustainability is dependent on its ability to "always seek opportunity where others see risk."
So says Standard Bank Group Chairman, Fred Phaswana, in his statement in the bank's Sustainability Report for the 2011 reporting year, referring to the innovation needed to address the unrelenting challenge and uncertainty in the banking environment. "I believe that Standard Bank Group has demonstrated its ability to respond effectively to the challenges of our times."
That effective response is founded on Standard Bank Group linking its own sustainability with that of Africa- in light of the fact that emerging markets are growing faster than the developed world and that there is enormous scope for expansion of banking services in sub-Saharan Africa. The Group is redesigning its business architecture, supported by an enhanced technology infrastructure, to be able to deliver the specific products and services needed by Africans, including those currently outside the economic mainstream, to generate wealth.
"The total wealth we created in 2011 was R50 billion, an increase of 12% from 2010," Mr Phaswana says. "We regard the provision of financial services to marginalised communities as a valuable opportunity, to participate responsibly in the growth potential of a transforming South African economy. We also recognise that the private sector has an additional responsibility to assist governments in finding solutions to development challenges, particularly in emerging markets.
"Also, the impact of climate change and other environmental risks is likely to be most severe in emerging markets, affecting their growth and development. As an African financial services provider, we have the ability to positively influence our customers and people in managing their environmental impacts, and we have the opportunity to effect broader change through lending responsibly and financing the growth of the 'green economy'."
Group Chief Executive, Jacko Maree, says in his statement in the Sustainability Report, that Standard Bank has an inherent edge within the African continent. "While our international competitors have the benefit of more efficient capital structures and large balance sheets, we have the benefit of our African heritage, on-the-ground operations and people who are all passionate about Africa."
The Sustainability Report documents in comprehensive detail, the ways in which Standard Bank Group's operations as well as its engagement with stakeholders and business partners, enable it to achieve its sustainability objectives.
As Karin Ireton, Director of Group Sustainability Management, points out, achieving these objectives starts with business as usual for the bank. "As a financial services group our most important contribution to sustainable development is to support and facilitate growth and development. By providing access to credit, savings and insurance products, we enable individuals to improve their quality of life and enhance their financial security. By providing finance to large and small businesses, we facilitate economic growth and job creation and by financing infrastructure and the development of key sectors, we help solve global challenges such as energy and food security, resource depletion and climate change.
"These social and environmental challenges present risks, both to our own sustainability and to the development and growth prospects of economies, particularly in emerging markets. However, the very nature of our business positions us to help our customers and stakeholders manage risk and invest for the future, which in turn contributes to the sustainable growth of local markets and national economies."
The bank's growth-generating activities are both comprehensive and pioneering, covering areas as diverse as affordable housing, funding and education for emerging farmers, climate finance and carbon trading, empowerment financing, environmental and social risk management, inclusive financial services, investment in communities, skills development, small and medium enterprise support, transformation, and the reduction of the carbon footprint of the bank's own operations through energy efficiencies and alternative energy technologies.
To view the full Sustainability Report, visit https://sustainability.standardbank.com.
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