Head of Group Policy and Sustainability in Group Risk, Wendy Dobson joined Standard Bank in 2009 after serving in executive roles at both the Department of Trade and Industry and the National Economic Development Labour Council. With three Wits qualifications (including a Master of Arts in Applied Ethics), no one could be better equipped to steer Standard Bank’s purpose – driving Africa’s growth – through sustainability.
Essentially, Standard Bank is a business that provides financial products and services throughout its operations in Africa. However, Wendy explains how we are also more than that. “Africa is our home, and we need to figure out what kind of home we want to live in.” To do this, we must determine the needs of our fellow Africans, because “it’s in the intersection of these where we want to drive our impact.”
The impact Standard Bank aspires to make is SEE; social, economic and environmental. These will be achieved through multiple avenues, such as:
Standard Bank is committed to minimising our direct carbon footprint by adopting green building principles. Our 1 Simmonds Street office is certified as net carbon zero, while 3 Simmonds achieved five stars from the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA). Powered by a 1MW tri-generation plant and with solar-powered chargers for electric cars, our Rosebank offices won several awards for energy efficiency.
Engaged drought-stricken farmers
In 2016, some agric clients were at risk of defaulting on their loans. Together, these farmers were custodians of 50 000ha of productive land; if their businesses failed, 5 000 people would be out of work and over R180 million in revenue would be lost. To prevent this, we restructured their loans over the short to medium term, keeping employees in their jobs and retaining our clients.
Launched in mid-2017, Feenix is a Standard Bank-sponsored crowdfunding platform that helps South African tertiary students raise money towards their education. In less than a year in operation, Feenix raised over R2 million and 33 students were fully funded in their studies.
We’re actively involved in a number of forums on environmental issues. For instance, Standard Bank is a member of the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), an international body that brings together financial institution representatives on environmental management issues. We are also a signatory to the Equator Principles, a risk-management framework for determining, assessing and managing environmental and social risk in project finance.
Standard Bank’s vision is to be the leading financial services organisation in, for and across Africa. Though this seems to be a purely corporate goal, it can’t be achieved without effective sustainability policies: “In the long run, a business’s success depends on its ability to contribute to the prosperity and wellbeing of the society in which it operates through its business activities,” explains Wendy. “We are on a journey to be more than just a bank, we want to be a catalyst for change, putting sustainability at the heart of our business.”