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Standard Bank Group uses sustainable strategy to mesh commercial reality and social relevance

Embedding sustainability thinking and sustainable business practices at every level of its business is paying dividends for both Standard Bank Group and its markets. Its 2012 Sustainability Report demonstrates this:

  • Prevented fraud to the value of R1.1-billion
  • Created R60-billion in wealth
  • Banked more than 661 000 small to medium enterprises across Africa
  • Enabled Standard Bank South Africa to spend R125-million in corporate social investment
  • Increased Standard Bank South Africa's Inclusive Banking customers to 6.2 million (2011: 5.4 million)
  • Increased the number of women managers to 47% (2011: 46%)
  • Increased training spend from R484-million in 2011 to R609-million in 2012
  • Increased black representation at senior management level from 35% to 37%
  • More than doubled the number of participants in leadership development programmes from 1 101 in 2011 to 2 498 in 2012
  • Committed R9.4-billion to renewable energy projects in South Africa
  • Enabled financing of 16 Equator Principle projects (2011: nine)
  • Abated 19 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions through carbon financing.


  • "Only a banking group that is organisationally and financially healthy can deliver these kinds of sustainability results for its internal and external stakeholders," says Karin Ireton, Head of Sustainability Management for Standard Bank. "So, our sustainability priority is to ensure that we operate in a way that makes business sense for us.

    "The maturing of our sustainability reporting gives us the ability to articulate and assess the value that sustainability management has for the Group. Making a commitment to better reporting to our stakeholders has the potential to improve the business." An example of the objectivity of Standard Bank's reporting is the fact that this year's report shows that the CO2 emissions for Standard Bank South Africa were 412 089 metric tons in 2012 as against 180 403 in 2011.

    This is not because the bank's carbon footprint has worsened but because its measure of energy usage has improved. The bank has designed an innovative methodology by means of which it can understand the costs of energy in an organisation running hundreds of sites, most with different energy suppliers, all billing in different ways.

    "The information we now have enables us to make better decisions about reducing our carbon footprint across both our ATM network and our multiple branches and offices all with different lighting configurations and different levels of computer, air-conditioning, and photocopier usage," Ms Ireton says.

    Standard Bank Group not only ensures that all strategic decisions incorporate sustainability related insight and analysis as well as intelligence gained from its stakeholder engagement activities, it also focuses on instilling an inclusive business culture and leadership style through its operations. As a consequence, some of the success stories in the 2012 Sustainability Report include advances in transformation, inclusive and responsible banking products and services, and infrastructure, renewable energy, affordable housing, and agriculture financing. "One of the reasons SBG has reached the venerable age of 150 years, is that it has always been responsive to the issues of the times," Ms Ireton says. "In the modern era, sustainability is the issue, and the Group is responding to it holistically and in an integrated way."

    Local and international acknowledgement of Standard Bank Group's sustainability strategy includes:
  • Corporate Knights Inc. 2013 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World- Standard Bank Group was the only African company included, ranking 98th
  • Newsweek Green Rankings- of the largest 500 publicly traded companies globally, Standard Bank Group ranked 21st in the financial sector category and 64th overall
  • Bloomberg New Energy Finance Clean Energy & Energy Smart Technology League Tables- Standard Bank Group ranked as the seventh international lead arranger for renewable energy financing
  • 2012 JSE Socially Responsible Investment Index- Standard Bank was identified as a best performer, for the sixth consecutive year.

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