By Jeremiah Abutu
Winston Churchill has been quoted as saying many times, “Responsibility is the Price of Greatness.” One can’t think of a more judicious use of words when it comes to the value of CSR and sustainability. Perhaps Mr Churchill meant personal greatness here but then what are companies and organisations if not groups of people. People, who through their own quest for greatness can contribute to making a company truly great.
Outside its people, it is a fact that the profitable growth of any company or organisation depends on the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of its communities across the world. It is therefore in companies’ best interests to contribute to the sustainability of those communities.
Since a business cannot exist in isolation of its environment, it is only pertinent that CSR initiatives targeted at addressing environmental challenges forms part of companies plans. William Clay Ford Jr. Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company looks at this way: “Creating a strong business and building a better world are not conflicting goals – they are both essential ingredients for long-term success.
Wema Bank of Nigeria PLC understands this and also understands that CSR is not to be left as a prerogative of management alone. Indeed, the scope of its CSR is capture as “To ensure a consistent approach across our bank, our Corporate Social Responsibility activities will apply to specific priority areas aimed at addressing societal and developmental issues through corporate activities, as well as through corporate accountability and governance. Such priority areas are: Financial Inclusion, Women and Youth Empowerment, Health and Safety, Environmental Sustainability, Active Citizenship/Volunteerism, and Education.”
This is in line with its CSR commitment statement which reads “WEMA BANK through its commitment to CSR will act with integrity to improve the quality of life of our employees,customers and the communities we serve. We will always strive to be the financial institution of choice, in line with our vision. We will take all necessary steps to deliver memorable and sustainable service experience with our actions, for the common good, to create positive impact in our communities and environment, consistent with our corporate values.”
Participation, according to its CSR scope will cut across the bank, employees, partner bodies and other stakeholders. Impact will be evident in its operations wherever it does business. That is why it has encouraged its staff to engage in charity CSR practices through its Make A Difference, M.A.D initiative. The idea behind the CSR drive is to celebrate people and communities by doing the little things that Make A Difference (M.A.D). The idea is born in the belief that everyday actions that leave a lasting impression in the lives of those around, and in the society.
One of such people-centric and oriented approach to corporate social responsibility is the recent beach cleaning exercise which had many staff volunteers join in cleaning the beach and recycling collected garbage.
The exercise is part of Wema Bank’s commitment to preserving and protecting the environment in order to ensure sustainability of the earth’s precious natural environment for future generations. Other initiatives in this line include ‘Resource conservation’ which it intends to achieve through planting (tree, plants and flowers) and ‘A little corner of green’. Both the bank and its employees will be tasked to create their ‘little corners of green’ publicly and privately. This will help ameliorate the impact of global warming, as well as the sustainable forest agenda.
Outside environmental CSR, the bank prides itself in creating wealth for its people and as a bank that is determined to shape the minds of those around to the fact that wealth is beyond financial fortunes; beyond riches. It is an overall wellness of the entire being. This means wealth is reserved for a few but can be found and experienced in the little things that make a meaningful impact.
Over the years, the Bank has championed this narrative by pursuing meaningful, life-changing initiatives that have transformed lives, empowered people and provided a brighter future for several others.
One such instance is when staff members of the Bank came together as a family to donate a day’s salary towards a noteworthy cause including paying in full the medical bills of patients in public hospitals, providing a brighter future for several children by taking up their school fees, and renewing the hope of families by providing financial aid to support their businesses.
In 2016, a physically-challenged hairdresser bought herself a wheelchair and set up a beauty shop from the funds received from such donations. She is doing well and has started production of her beauty care line. Last year, donations were channeled into paying the hospital bills of patients at the Children’s emergency ward at LUTH, Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital, Old GRA Port Harcourt and Wuse General Hospital, Abuja, ensuring that these kids have another chance at chasing their dreams.
In agreement with Henry David Thoreau, American writer assertion that “Goodness is the only investment that never fails,” the Bank showcased its wealth in all spheres of life by celebrating people and showcasing the wealth of opportunities that abound in communities. In the first 14 days of February, it lined up simple, everyday activities aimed at impacting every segment of society; from kids to the elderly, the underprivileged to the working professional and business person.
The bank also turned inwards, embarking on several initiatives internally, and externally to celebrate its people by telling them, by words and actions, that “You Matter”. It embarked on a ‘NoAngerMonth’ campaign, aimed at encouraging staff members to smile often and ensure their bubbliness is felt by their colleagues. Smileys were shared to every staff as a reminder that anger and negativity are a drawback to productivity.
Externally, it celebrated its servicemen in Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt by paying them a visit, sharing words of appreciation and encouragement and offering them a bottle of water to quench their thirst.
The Bank will be championing several initiatives including donating Malaria-treated mosquito nets to pregnant women and vulnerable people; creating Safety Corners for School Kids; caring for our service men who labour daily to ensure commuting is safe and smooth by offering them a bottle of water to quench their thirst; showcasing the wealth in garbage by cleaning Beaches and recycling the trash collected; celebrating the creativity of our kids by encouraging them to express themselves with art and rewarding those that excel; and supporting a home financially from funds realized its Salary for Love campaign, among other initiatives.
Other priority areas for the bank as far as CSR is concerned is education, health, sports, as well as employee volunteerism. These themes are central to the promotion of social development in the society. Where possible, the Bank supports such initiatives that focus on the physical and mental development of children in a bid to contribute to the sustenance of the next generation of banking customers.
For the bank, education is the bedrock of development and it will focus on schemes for children ages 5-16 years. These schemes will include: – creating enabling environment for studies (physical infrastructure, tools of learning, furniture) in selected schools; capacity building training for teachers in the schools. Etc.
Health is wealth and Wema Bank is committed to encouraging healthy living amongst its target audience. Its Health initiatives will cover preventive as well as palliative schemes. Under the scheme, the bank seeks to create enlightenment and health education programmes to encourage public awareness and living in good health conditions in order to promote the wealth of the nation. Some examples include raising awareness through active involvement in health-related activities and strategic partnership with relevant local and international bodies, like the endemic disorder of sickle cell, its prevention and management, in conjunction with the Sickle Cell Foundation Nigeria (SCFN); sponsorship of health lifestyle Television programmes etc.
For thepalliative scheme, it will enter strategic partnership with organizations in aid of disaster relief: Red Cross for care of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in times of natural disaster or war etc.
The bank also has a strong commitment to Women and Youth Empowerment – this is the process where women and young people will be encouraged to take charge of and improve the quality of their lives. This scheme will include sponsorship of and participation in women and youth-focused arts and fashion activities to encourage ingenuity and innovation.
These actions may be not hit the high notes and make the front pages but they go a long in impacting the lives of those around us and the communities we strive to enhance daily.