Building a greener future

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The Bank of Ceylon (BOC) is a strong believer in, “Sustainable development through social, environmental and economic bottom-line,” as it says so aptly in its vision statement on the subject. As such, a keen focus has existed within the bank for many years. Now, in its mission, “To be a responsible corporate citizen by operating the business in an environmentally responsible, socially equitable and economically sound manner,” BOC takes a new step forward in becoming a positive influence to create a more sustainable Sri Lanka through its policy decisions, and attractive banking products.

To learn more about this, we had the opportunity to speak with Assistant General Manager (Sustainable Banking) S. Sabesan, who shared a few thoughts on the evolution of BOC’s sustainability policy and vision.

More than profit

“Being the state bank and the leading bank in Sri Lanka, we have a duty to look into the welfare of the citizens of this country. Making profit is an important aspect, but more than profit, the individual, their confidence in us, and what the BOC can do to be a positive impact in their quality of life is also important to us,” he shared.

These core values have been a major influence of BOC’s policies in terms of sustainability. As such, Sabesan explained that the bank’s policies, sustainability initiatives and CSR projects all contribute towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Our approach includes having an active sustainability committee, working with top-level management to plot a course for the bank’s growth and future, that remains in touch with sustainability principles and practices from the ground up; from switching off lights when not in use, to financing projects and enterprises that are compliant to sustainable practices, to having branches comply to green standards and redesigning branch layouts and converting branches to roof top solar units for greater energy efficiency and providing around 2.3 Mega Watt of electricity to the national energy grid using solar power, to even a diverse green loan portfolio promoting greener lifestyle through many ways. This includes dedicated loan schemes for roof top solar, electric bikes and bicycles, household bio gas units, organic fertiliser production and green technologies for SMEs. In addition, stepping beyond our business, we do also have dedicated ourselves to partner in massive CSR projects for the benefit of the community.

This includes examples such as the BOC Haritha Arana project, through which BOC planted 80,000 trees in a 100-hectare area, contributing to reforestation process of the Hurulu Conservation Forest, Kubuk tree planting along the river basins of Kalu River for flood mitigation, proper waste collection, recycling and composting pilot projects in partnering with schools and many more.

Evolution more than revolution

This focus on sustainability has been a growing concept that has evolved gradually within BOC, rather than one that has only recently taken up roots. But, Sabesan confirms that as, “The focus has shifted from traditional and conventional banking to the social impact,” BOC is strengthening its focus on how it can contribute to developing a more sustainable Sri Lanka.

Further, we are in the process of taking all necessary steps to align our self with the Sustainable Finance Roadmap of the CBSL with specific action plan in place.

This involves the setup of a completely new ‘sustainable banking unit,’ which will focus on financing ‘green’ projects, a better system frameworks, including incorporating new policies into credit assessments.

“For example, whenever there is a loan facility, the loan proposal that comes in will undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), to ensure business proposals will comply with environmental and social standards, encouraging businesses that work with us to adopt green standards and more.”

In addition to that, we will be introducing more new products to promote the adoption of green energy.” Sabesan explained that this will not only be made available for general customers, but also enterprises as well. 

An influence for good

“The bank has an important role to play in steering the development of Sri Lanka and its future,” Sabesan continued. “And with the framework and policies we have in place, we will ensure that our support is directed towards ventures that will have minimal material impact to the environment. And through this, businesses will be encouraged to take this direction, which will benefit industry, the bank and the country as a whole.”

Looking out and in

Whilst operating as a positive influence for sustainability, BOC itself is leading with example.

“In addition to all this, the bank is also working on its internal processes to minimise its carbon footprint and ecological footprint. We have invested in solutions like workflow automation and document management and we are trying to increase our efficiencythrough process redesign. We’ve drastically reduced our use of paper as a result, and we’ve also encouraged our customers to adopt paperless services such as estatements, epassbook, which will have a significant beneficial impact to minimising our ecological footprint. Replacing our electric fixers with more efficient equipment such as energy efficient lighting systems, air conditioners with environmental friendly gases etc contributes to reduction in our carbon footprint. ”We do also continue to measure our GHG emissions since year 2018 verified as per the ISO 14064-1 standards and take mitigation actions to reduce our GHG emissions where possible.

“We are taking the initiative as a responsible bank, and yes, it’s a collective effort. When everyone gets together and works towards a greener, more sustainable Sri Lanka, I believe we have greater days ahead.”

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage