Nedbank in African carbon neutrality first

29 July 2010

South Africa’s Nedbank says it has attained carbon neutrality across its 13 head office and regional buildings and more than 490 branches countrywide, making it the first African financial services organisation to achieve effective zero carbon status.

Nedbank CEO Mike Brown said the achievement epitomised the group’s commitment to playing a leading role in sustainability through an approach that balanced environmental, social, cultural and economic issues.

“When we first indicated our intention to aim for carbon neutrality, we committed that we would strive to achieve it, as far as possible, by means of behaviour change, reduction targets, as well as operational efficiencies, and we have managed to deliver on that commitment with thanks, in large part, to the commitment of our staff,” Brown said in a statement this month.

Areas targeted for reduction included paper, water, electricity, waste and travel.

Africa’s first REDD initiative

Brown explained that the “reduce first and offset only where necessary” approach was born of the bank’s determination not to “buy” its carbon neutrality.

“We have used carbon credits to offset our unavoidable emissions, and these were obtained from a sustainable project called Rukinga, which is based in Kenya and delivers both environmental and social benefits,” he said.

Rukinga project is Africa’s first large-scale Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) initiative.

In addition to restoring the natural environment and ecosystem in Kenya’s Kasigau Corridor, the project is bringing substantial financial and social benefits to local communities, particularly through education, job creation, and accessible healthcare.

Credible approach

Brown pointed to the credibility of Nedbank’s approach to neutrality as another key enabler of its success, particularly when one considers that carbon neutrality was achieved against a significantly increased scope for bank’s 2009 carbon footprint.

The process included adherence to the Carbon Neutral Protocol, WWF-SA guidance in terms of carbon credit process and selection, CCBA accreditation of the carbon credits, and Ernst and Young assurance of carbon emissions data as part of the overall verification of the 2009 Sustainability Report.

Brown said he believed that achieving carbon neutrality in a verifiable and sustainable manner also served as a further endorsement of the bank’s current position as a leader in the South African Carbon Disclosure Project.

“As national government’s focuses on utilising the opportunities offered by the green economy to address some of the environmental and social challenges faced by our country, Nedbank plans to leverage its carbon neutral status to help them drive the green agenda and deliver value for our stakeholders,” he explained.

Brown said they were already working on number of innovative “green” product offerings, as well as enhancing the carbon solutions offered by the Nedbank Capital carbon team, so as to grow the bank’s share of both the retail and corporate banking markets going forward.

“We are also able to advise our clients and other stakeholders on the most effective ways to benefit from proposed and current legislative incentives arising from government’s commitment to sustainable development,” he said.

Ethos of responsibility

Commenting on the achievement, Richard Worthington from WWF-SA applauded Nedbank for taking the lead on environmental change, and its efforts to cultivate an ethos of responsibility within the financial sector and business environment.

The WWF has worked closely with Nedbank over the past five years in driving better practices with regards their environmental impact, including greenhouse gas emissions.

“What is particularly encouraging is the support from bank’s leadership. They are actively behind the intensity reduction targets, which makes a huge difference to the success of Nedbank’s green endeavours,” said Worthington.

“We look forward to the next five years where we will continue to engage with them in driving ever more innovative practices towards a low carbon economy.”

Still work to be done

Brown concluded that while the bank was obviously pleased to have attained their objective of carbon neutrality, they were acutely aware that there was still work to be done.

“We are determined to continue leading the charge, particularly within corporate South Africa, and intend using our influence wherever possible to ensure that businesses in this country become more aware of the vital role they have to play in mitigating climate change through positive action,” he said.

SAinfo reporter

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