Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, has emerged ‘CEO of the Year’ for a second consecutive year at the Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility (SERAS) CSR Africa Awards held in Lagos at the weekend.
According to the judges, Onyeagwu was selected for a number of reasons, including engendering a culture that promotes the continued investment in social initiatives in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Under his leadership, the Zenith Bank’s social investments totalled N3.285 billion in 2020, representing nearly two per cent of the bank’s profit after tax, a statement explained.
The judges found Onyeagwu worthy for his commitment to promoting sustainability and responsible business practices in Nigeria, through his frontal leadership of sustainability in Zenith Bank, thereby enabling best industry practices in the banking sector. They also chose him for his passion for reducing carbon emissions in the bank’s operations.
Zenith Bank Plc also emerged winner in four other categories at the SERAS CSR Africa Awards, carting home the awards for “Best Company in Reporting and Transparency”, “Best Company in Infrastructure Development”, “Best Company in Gender Equality and Women Empowerment”, and the coveted “Most Responsible Organisation in Africa”.
The bank was adjudged the “Most Responsible Organisation in Africa,” winning the overall best sustainability award, for its continued commitment to the tenets of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility within its immediate community and in the society at large.
In addition, the bank emerged as winner in the category for Reporting and Transparency for its consistency in disclosing and communicating its sustainability journey and progress annually vis-a-vis environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, in line with the guidelines and protocols set by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Nigeria Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBP), Nigerian Exchange (NGX), United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), and United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI).
The statement added, “The bank also ensures the assurance of its sustainability report by reputable independent third parties. In 2021, the bank’s 2020 sustainability report was assured by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and disseminated through the Bank’s website for the public and sent to all relevant stakeholders, including the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC).
“In the infrastructure development category, the bank was voted winner for its nation-building initiatives and investments, including supporting efforts towards establishing basic services and functional security, governance, and economic and infrastructure systems, especially in Nigeria.
“As a testament to this and in demonstration of its commitment to the development (often referred to as reform, restructuring and rebuilding) of the Nigeria Police Force for the preservation of law and order, protection of life and property, and law enforcement in Nigeria, the bank supported the Lagos State Security Trust Fund with N500, 000,000 for the provision of security-enhancing facilities and infrastructure. This is in addition to contributions to other state security trust funds.”
Zenith Bank was adjudged winner in the category for the Best Company in Promotion of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment for its Z-Woman initiative, which offers credit facilities to women-owned businesses at a single-digit interest rate and for a gender-balanced workforce (women make up about 50 per cent of employees).
During the reporting period, the number of women and women enterprises supported by the bank, through the Z-Woman initiative, grew by 88.7 per cent, from 391 in 2019 to 738 in 2020.
The Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility Awards (SERAS) is an initiative of TruCSR, which celebrates and promotes investments by corporate organisations in the society through CSR and sustainability initiatives. It made its debut in 2007, and participation was opened to other countries of Africa in 2016.
The 2021 awards featured 387 projects by 97 organisations across Africa. The SERAS Jury Board consists of global thought and best-practices leaders from around the world, such as Maria Sillanpaa (Finland); Nyasha Gwatidzo (Zimbabwe); Adesuwa Onyenokwe (Nigeria); Amjed Achour (Morocco); Charles Ojei (Nigeria); Ellen Gunning (Ireland); Gina Din-Kariuki (Kenya); Indira Kartallozi (England); Lampe Omoyele (Nigeria); Paul Kapelus (South Africa); and Scott Walker (England).