Nedbank has become widely known and recognised as South Africa’s ‘green’ bank. In this article Brigitte Burnett gives us insight into Nedbank’s green commitment, incorporating practical ideas that can be applied in our own organisations. She also gives us a glimpse into their annual Deep Green Day that is aligned with the bank’s Deep Green aspiration to be highly involved in the community and environment.
by Brigitte Burnett
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brigitte Burnett is the Head of Sustainability: Nedbank Enterprise Governance and Compliance.
Green is not a destination, it’s a journey There can be no denying that green is the world’s most fashionable colour these days. While there are a few businesses that are unaware of the requirement to incorporate environmental considerations into the way they do business, many others fail to recognise that effective greening of any business cannot be achieved by means of a metaphorical coat of paint.
True green runs far deeper than that. It requires strategic commitment, a holistic approach and in many cases, a 180 degree turnaround in corporate mindset and culture. When businesses acknowledge this fact, and begin to realize that the environmental aspects of long-term business sustainability rely on a comprehensive paradigm shift in their organisations, it becomes clear to them that green is not a destination, it’s a journey. If it is to be successful, the responsibility for undertaking it cannot simply be assigned to a sustainability or corporate governance department. This is a journey that has to be completed by all the people in a company, with the company’s executive management firmly in the driving seat.
The important role of HR practitioners Of course, if we accept that green is a people issue, the implication is that achieving a green culture requires complete buy-in from an organisation’s Human Resources department, since this is primarily the area from which the blueprint for any company’s culture is developed and rolled out. As such, HR practitioners have a significant part to play in the environmental awareness of the entire organisation, determining to a large extent how deep the organisation’s green commitment ultimately becomes.
As the financial services organisation that has become widely known and recognized as South Africa’s ‘green’ bank, the Nedbank Group has long been acutely aware of the fact that green is far more than a corporate colour. As a result, what started out some 20 years ago as a commitment to conservation of our country’s natural heritage, through a working relationship with WWF-SA, has developed into a core strategic thread that runs through the entire organisation - informing its decisions, operations, associations, partnerships, and perhaps most importantly, its culture. So much so that environmental awareness forms an integral part of Nedbank’s performance scorecards at every level of employment and management in the organisation. And if the results are anything to go by, it seems apparent that the often glibly applied maxim that if you want something done, you need to measure it, really can be applied when organisations are working towards entrenching a green culture amongst their staff members.
However, incentivising employees and managers to think green is only one small piece of the puzzle. As an employer, in many cases of thousands of people, an organisation’s range and extent of influence should never be underestimated. Most organisations, particularly large corporations, are in the enviable position of being able to create and maintain a level of environmental awareness among their staff members that could never be achieved via traditional media channels. If HR departments are committed to harnessing that influence among staff, thereby encouraging positive and pro-active action, ‘green’ becomes far more than an effect, it becomes a cause – and the influence of a company in promoting that green cause can ultimately extend way beyond the walls of the organisation, as environmentally committed employees internalise their green values and spread their green message via their friends and family members.
Nedbank’s commitment to emission reduction targets
Nedbank has publicly committed to a Climate Positioning Statement, making it one of the very few companies in South Africa that has publicly committed to support climate change initiatives.