Back in 1990, Nedbank took a revolutionary step in creating a retail banking product, Green Affinity, that incentivised customers to invest in conservation. This was the beginning of the company’s ‘green’ journey in partnership with WWF. Since then, the number of Green Affinity products has grown to include credit cards, current accounts, savings accounts, investment products and eco-insurance.
In over 20 years, this has raised more than R100 million, more than half of which has come from Green Affinity at no extra cost to the customer. The rest is from Nedbank’s donations as a percentage of Green Affinity transactions and investments.
These funds have been channelled via the WWF Nedbank Green Trust (jointly managed by WWF and Nedbank) to 170 projects from permaculture gardens to climate change adaptation projects reducing vulnerability to extreme weather.
Since 2006, Nedbank and WWF’s relationship has evolved from a early focus on conservation funding into a partnership where WWF works with Nedbank to address its direct environmental impacts. Currently, the partnership focus is on helping Nedbank to better understand how ecological and governance systems impact on the bank’s core business, and how to respond. This takes Nedbank’s sustainability approach beyond compliance to consider risk mitigation issues around responsible lending and investment practices in relation to critical social and environmental issues for South Africa, such as water scarcity.
Nedbank Group was the first African bank to adopt the Equator Principles in January 2006, became carbon neutral in 2010 and signed the CEO Water Mandate of the UN Global Compact in 2011.
In the 1990s conservation was seen as very separate from community development. The Green Trust’s mission was to bring these two isolated concepts together in order to promote the ideals of people living and working in harmony with the environment. Over twenty years later, The Green Trust has funded numerous community-based projects and has proven that a strong people focus is imperative to achieve environmental sustainability and the protection of wild places.
Now the WWF Nedbank Green Trust is investing in natural environments – our ‘living lands’ – and their ecosystem services. This will ensure ecological conservation and help South Africa manage the effects of climate change. Over the next 20 years, The WWF Nedbank Green Trust will continue to invest in projects that build resilience and better management practices in natural ecosystems.
From 1992-2002 the Green Trust supported Abalimi Bezekhaya, a civil society organisation that helps communities to create and restore lush green pockets on the sandy plains of the Cape Flats. The primary goal of the project was to supply locals with low cost resources, such as manure and seeds, as well as the necessary training to start their own gardens.
Abalimi established the first and only non-profit nurseries in the suburbs of Nyanga and Khayelitsha and today operates two ‘people’s garden centres’. These supply mostly indigenous plants approved by the Botanical Society of South Africa, plus basic agricultural inputs. Many locals are therefore able to feed their families and sell surplus organic vegetables to markets in Cape Town. Today, up to 3,000 families a year on the Cape Flats benefit directly from the innovative organic vegetable gardening projects established mainly by women.
Famous last words
“Gone are the days when business was able to shrug off environmental concerns as being incompatible with maximising shareholder value. Surveys show that South African consumers are concerned about climate change and other sustainability issues, and often prefer to support businesses that respond to these issues.”
Tom Boardman, Non-executive director, Nedbank Group and former CEO