Almost a decade ago, the majority of Lebanese banks were unfamiliar with the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility. It wasn’t until a few years back that most of the country’s financial institutions became aware of the significant impact that CSR can have on their profitability. Yet, only a few banks have actually moved beyond charitable donations and occasional initiatives toward fully incorporating CSR strategies into their daily business operations.
Among the few banks that did is Banque Libano-Française (BLF), which has recently joined the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the world’s largest voluntary corporate responsibility initiative.
The program sets strategic policies that allow businesses to align their operations with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor standards, the environment and anti-corruption.
BLF’s decision to sign the UN Global Compact last October was simply a way to further integrate and institutionalize CSR strategies that the bank has implemented since its inception, BLF General Manager Raya Raphaël Nahas, told Responsible Business.
“We were already doing everything in line with those principles, so why not join the UNGC compact?” she asked.
“By partnering with the UN Global Compact, we have formalized our commitment to CSR and sustainable practices that have always defined the bank’s business strategy,” Nahas added.
She explained that BLF has recently redrafted its mission statement to emphasize the sustainability aspect of its CSR strategies and highlight shared value principles.
The bank has also formulated a new dedicated CSR strategy to promote sustainable banking in Lebanon guided by a solid corporate governance framework focused on four main pillars: marketplace, workplace, community, and environment.
Covering each of those four pillars, the strategy aims to promote sustainable banking through: sustainable lending; sustainable financial innovation; sustainable support to the community and a sustainable environmental strategy.
“We believe that our business should foster economic growth while contributing to the development of society and protecting the environment,” Nahas stressed.
The new mission statement and strategy were formulated based on the results of a gap analysis touching on the ISO 26,000 7 core subjects including organizational governance, labor practices, human rights, environment, fair operating practices, consumer issues as well as community involvement and development.
An Integrated Approach
In a further demonstration of its strong commitment to spearhead the drive toward sustainable growth and create shared value, BLF has also put forward an ambitious action plan based on the principles of ISO 26000.
In April 2013, BLF was selected by the Lebanese Standards Institution (LIBNOR) amongst several applicants to participate, as a pilot organization, in the uptake and use of ISO 26,000 guidelines. The ISO 26,000 provides guidance on how businesses and organizations can operate in a socially responsible way.
“By following ISO 26,000 principles, BLF aims to further integrate social responsibility in its behaviors, business operations, and interactions with all stakeholders,” Nahas said.
The guidelines outlined in the ISO 26000 and the UNGC principles will also serve as the reference based on which BLF will be reporting its progress on the CSR front, she added.
Among the widely recognized and ongoing CSR initiatives that BLF has launched in 2013 is a payment solution that supports the implementation of the UN World Food Program in Lebanon.
In collaboration with MasterCard, BLF has rolled out an innovative electronic voucher program that drove the financial inclusion of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and met their food needs.
The innovative program is a global precedent and offers real value to the community, Nahas said.
She explained that the use of electronic vouchers to purchase food at designated sale points in Lebanon ensures transparency in the distribution of food while helping the UN agency cut its logistical costs, allowing it to channel more funds toward humanitarian aid.
BLF doesn’t charge any additional fees beyond the direct cost of the program, which has won so far three international awards, further demonstrating the bank’s commitment to incorporating CSR in its daily business activities, Nahas added.
“The program shows our commitment to contribute to a better society beyond charitable donations and cultural patronage,” she said.
Source: Responsible Business Magazine