FirstBank 2022 CRS Week: Raising The Bar for Corporate Social Investment

FirstBank 2022 CRS Week: Raising The Bar for Corporate Social Investment

Israel Bolaji-Gbadamosi

“Businesses cannot be successful when the society around them fails. Corporate social responsibility therefore isn’t only about a particular programme, it’s what we do every day, maximising positive impact and minimising negative impact.” This assertion was the key take-out at the 2013 Responsible Business Summit in London and it aptly captures FirstBank’s philosophy about business, environment, people and society.

First Bank of Nigeria FBN is a firm believer in spreading the milk of kindness through the basic daily interactions and not waiting for the big show. The financial giant is driven by the maxim that creating a strong business and building a better world are not conflicting goals; they are both essential ingredients for long-term success.

Over time, the bank has evolved strategies that enabled it thrive and blossom as a business interest while at the same time providing essential benefits to various sectors and sections of the society through innovation, consistency and genuine advocacy.

Recall that during the Covid-19 pandemic which ravaged the world, FirstBank was a key force in the Nigerian private sector led Coalition Against Covid -19 (CACOVID) group through which it provided palliative food packages to combat widespread hunger, and robust e-learning platform for one million students amongst other strategic interventions. This aligns with its mantra of being woven into the fabrics of the society and not just a commercial interest.

As a business that thinks beyond ‘profit making’ and ‘profit maximization’ by incorporating corporate ethics and contributes to the society at large, through its well defined corporate social responsibility policy, the company is one that is poised to withstand the test of time and meet sustainable growth in the market having operated for 128 years.

To deepen the practice and entrench the culture of showing kindness to all, FirstBank established the annual Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability week. The nation’s premier banking institution leverages the opportunity to showcase and rally its corporate social investment engagements.

The yearly CRS Week is a dedicated week designed to offer FirstBank staff, customers and the public opportunities to demonstrate the milk of human kindness that flows in them and give their time and resources to defined causes. It seeks to amplify FirstBank’s innate culture of giving and volunteering as embodied in its Employee Giving and Volunteering.

As FirstBank gears up for its 2022 CR&S Week scheduled to hold between August 22 and 26, it promises to feature a bouquet of life touching activities and engagements that will translate to far reaching results and impacts through numerous touch points including schools, healthcare, orphanages, widow support groups and others.

The initiative will be rolled out across Nigeria and other Africa countries where First Bank is located through its subsidiary; FBN. These subsidiaries include, FBN in the Republic of Congo, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Sierra-Leone, UK, Senegal etc.

Speaking ahead of the forthcoming programmes, Group Head, Marketing & Corporate Communications, Folake Ani-Mumuney, said the week was set aside to reignite acts of kindness in our society and the events are tailored towards re-orientating the society along the right values; encouraging the citizenry to intentionally create positive impact in their immediate environment.

“From the inaugural edition in 2017, the programme has been a reflection of FirstBank’s brand promise to always put its customers first while reinforcing the Bank’s role in driving sustainable development in the communities where it operates ” She noted.

In 2017, FirstBank had kick started the CR&S Week innovation between 25 – 29 September 2017 as the first of its kind in the financial sector and has since not slowed down.

The historical inaugural FirstBank CR&S week themed ‘Promoting Kindness; Putting You First’ witnessed the culmination of the bank’s interventions in social responsibility, promoting random acts of kinds across communities in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria and FirstBank subsidiaries in United Kingdom and sub-Saharan Africa.

One of the major highlights of the week has been dubbed the SPARK initiative originally translated as Staff Promoting Acts of Random Kindness. It was later changed to S.P.A.R.Kwhich now stands for Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness. Though originally the “S” stood for “Staff”. It was changed to “Start” to broaden the initiative beyond just staff and encourage everyone else to be part of the kindness brigade. Also, “P” originally stood for “Promoting” but was changed to “Performing” to convey the sense that participants are equally involved in actually doing kind acts and not only promoting kindness.

The week-long activities saw the bank’s employees giving time and resources to promote random acts of kindness within their communities, driving welfare through giving and visits to orphanage/less privileged homes and IDPs.

The bank’s executive management also had career counselling and financial literacy sessions with secondary school students.

Another key highlight was the nomination of Baby Ijeoma as a beneficiary of corrective heart surgery in India in partnership with Vama Wave Foundation. The impact of the first edition went beyond Nigeria as FirstBank’s subsidiaries in sub-Saharan Africa and the UK also participated, benefitting people and at least 22 charities in six countries.

FirstBank Says Branch, Head office, not Sealed

In 2018, the event progressed. Themed ‘Touching Lives; You First’, it was also utilised to give time and resources in the service of humanity. Going a notch higher, it focused on five key initiatives, including impacting over 10,000 senior secondary school students on financial literacy and independence via the FutureFirst programme, providing vision screening and eye glasses for 10,000 low-income earners in partnership with VisionSpring, empowerment for over 500 widows through provision of start-up capital and capacity building as part of the UN International Widows’ Day commemoration in partnership with International Women’s Society (IWS) in Lagos, staff needs assessment and donation to 26 charities across eight countries as well as the SPARK initiative during the second edition between June 19 – 23.

During the commemoration, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, the bank’s Managing Director, speaking at Yaba College of Technology Secondary School, said the week-long event was the bank’s brand promise to always put stakeholders’ needs first.

He reiterated the initiative as a move to reinforce the bank’s role in driving sustainable development in the communities where it operates.

In 2019, the CR&S Week held from 1 – 6 July 2019 with the theme “Ripples of Kindness: Putting You First”. The theme was informed by the bank’s belief that every act of kindness (regardless of how little or in whatever form) ignites a ripple effect that goes on without end.

The year’s CR&S Week focused mainly on the SPARK initiative, which had gained significant attention.

The edition also featured visits to schools – secondary schools across Nigeria – where students were educated on acts of kindness, encouraging them to make kindness a lifestyle. A crowd-funding initiative was birthed in 2019 and as at August 2019, nearly N7 million had been raised through the crowd-funding initiative.

The regular activities were also retained in 2019, including visits to orphanages/less privilege homes and widows’ empowerment in collaboration with International Women’s Society (IWS) Nigeria to empower a select number of widows across Nigeria. The implementation in Nigeria covered the six geopolitical zones with activities held in four states per zone, amounting to 24 states in all. Six subsidiaries of FirstBank also implemented the programme in their markets/countries – UK, Ghana, DRC, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Senegal. In all, 25 schools benefitted with 6,000 students participating in terms of the School Engagement; 50 charities and NGOs, including Leap Africa and IWS, were partnered. Over 20,000 orphans/less privilege people including widows were also reached.

In 2020, there was no formal ceremony due to Covid-19 movement and health restrictions yet Firstbank didn’t stop its demonstration of kindness to all. To minimise the disruption to children’s education, ensuring that they remained fully engaged during the difficult period and are not left behind by their peers across the world, Firstbank produced a brilliant e-learning intervention. Working with partners, such as IBM, UNESCO, Robert & John, Curious Learning and the Lagos State Government, it launched an e-Learning Initiative designed to move one million children onto safe online learning platform. There are already over 150,000 students benefitting from the e-Learning initiative in the height of the COVID-19 crises.

In 2021, as part of the CR&S week which held from Monday, July 26 to Friday, July 30, First Bank featured Kind Comments Days, visits to orphanages/less privilege homes, and held a webinar tagged “Making the Cyberworld a Kinder Place.” through which it continued its spirited calls to all on practical display of kindness and making same a second nature.

Truly, FirstBank has demonstrated uncommon consistency over the years to its Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Week and the ideals it seeks to project through the platform.

As it sets to hold the 2022 CR&S edition in an unrelenting pursuit of its demonstrated commitment and advocacy, it seeks to galvanise and encourage people everywhere to step out of their comfort zones, shift attention from themselves and their personal needs to others in society who have not been as fortunate as they have and perform a random act of kindness towards them.