Muscat: Bank Muscat, in association with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), hosted a workshop yesterday on Environmental and Social Risk Analysis (ESRA) under the auspices of Sheikh Mohammed bin Said Al Kalbani, minister of Social Development.
The opening ceremony was attended by Royal family members, dignitaries, senior government and private sector officials. The two-day workshop at the bank's head office is aimed at identifying environmental and social risks in lending and investment projects as a consequence of the activities of the financial and banking sector. The participants include risk managers and analysts from banks; CSR and sustainability professionals, government representatives and consultants.
Bank Muscat's first 'Sustainability Report' compiled according to the accredited international criteria known as GRI Index was also unveiled by the guest of honour. The GRI Index aims to translate the initiatives undertaken by the bank into tangible data and statistics that can be analysed and improved upon.
According to GRI Index, the bank's 'Sustainability Report' has been rated as category B, which is considered an excellent achievement that truly reflects the bank's commitment to sustainability.
Al Kalbani congratulated Bank Muscat for organising the workshop, adding that, "Such initiatives relating to social responsibility would motivate financial institutions and corporates to work for community in a scientific way and thereby achieve the objectives that serve economic and social development. The involvement of global organisations like UNEP will enrich the experience of Oman and contribute to the exchange of relevant information and ideas, which in turn will contribute to sustainable development."
Sulaiman bin Mohammed Al Yahyai, vice-chairman of Bank Muscat, said: "Stemming from a long-standing commitment to sustainable development, environment and corporate social responsibility, Bank Muscat is proud to present the first 'Sustainability Report' using GRI reporting principles. The initiative heralds a new era of responsible banking for the flagship financial services provider in Oman.
"Our focus is clear — creating a sustainable financial platform for society and business, thereby contributing to economic growth, while also generating returns for all stakeholders. The bank remains committed to building the nation by creating opportunities through helping individuals and businesses to prosper and grow."
AbdulRazak Ali Issa, chief executive of Bank Muscat, said: "In line with sustainable development that has evoked global attention, Bank Muscat accords priority for various economic and social roles. The hosting of the workshop confirms the bank's commitment to sustainable development as part of the UNEP Finance Initiative.
"The bank endeavours, through its vision and support offered by the board of directors and executive management, to ensure its commitment to social responsibility by offering support to activities and events that aim to serve the local communities, and its adoption of policies with the ultimate objective of realising sustainable development in addition to encouraging citizens to actively participate in voluntary social activities that benefit society."
Jessica Wanger, UNEP representative and Ben Wareing from Ernst & Young addressed the workshop.
Sustainability reporting has become important as investors, regulators and employees are becoming increasingly concerned about how companies are tackling sustainability issues, such as responsible investment, climate change and social issues. As a result, companies need to demonstrate how they are contributing to sustainable development in a measurable way. For financial institutions in particular, the financial crisis has highlighted a need for increased transparency and trust between corporations and their stakeholders.
A 'Sustainability Report' is a way for an organisation to methodically measure and monitor its contribution to sustainable development. Sustainability reporting allows stakeholders to hold organisations accountable for their sustainable development goals. A 'Sustainability Report' can also help companies to identify non-financial risks and opportunities to improve its overall performance.
Bank Muscat's first sustainability report is a benchmark for the bank to start measuring it's progress in contributing to Oman's sustainable development. Ernst & Young assisted Bank Muscat in preparing the report, using the global reporting initiative guidelines as a framework.
As the largest financial institution in the country, Bank Muscat believes that it should demonstrate how it is putting into practice its 'Let's do more' vision in terms of contributing to the economy, society and environment.
Commitment to sustainability is important for the bank. The bank's membership of the UNEP FI, which aims to develop and promote linkages between sustainability and financial performance, highlights this commitment.
Implementing the 'Equator Principles' ensure that the bank's projects conform to benchmark international environmental and social standards.