Sustainable finance is set to play a pivotal role as a facilitator of socio-economic growth, both nationally and across the broader Gulf region, says a new environmental, social and governance (ESG) intelligence report.
Produced by Oxford Business Group (OBG) in partnership with the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK), the report titled “Sustainable and Responsible Banking in the Gulf”, provides in-depth analysis of the ESG strategies being adopted in the financial services sector in an easy-to-navigate and accessible format, supported by key data and infographics.
The report maps out the benefits that sustainable finance frameworks can deliver across the banking sector and wider economy, which range from a more diverse range of funding sources to systemic safeguards against risks.
Pivotal role of digitalisation
It also explores the pivotal part that digitalisation is set to play in accelerating the introduction of ESG principles in the banking sector through advancements that include more inclusive financing options and a reduction in the need for cash and paper.
The opportunities banks have to spearhead social responsibility is another topical issue analysed. In this section, the report highlights key areas identified as ripe for development, such as strengthening support for underrepresented segments of society.
The report tracks NBK’s ESG journey to date, documenting the steps it has taken to implement policies that dovetail with national and international frameworks for sustainable development and long-term value creation.
It also looks at the measures introduced by the bank focused on social responsibility, which include boosting funding for staff training and community initiatives, increasing financial support for SMEs and working with more local suppliers.
Commenting ahead of the launch of the report, Isam Jasem Al Sager, CEO, NBK, said that integrating ESG principles into banking practices will be instrumental in spearheading the Gulf’s socio-economic development, while also enabling GCC financial service providers to attract higher levels of international investment.
“By aligning strategies and operating models with international frameworks such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Reporting Initiative, we believe we can generate a positive long-term impact on the economy and society at large,” he said. “The introduction of robust risk and crisis management frameworks also puts us in a stronger position when it comes to anticipating and mitigating economic shocks,” he added.
Shifts under way
Jana Treeck, OBG’s Managing Director for the Middle East, said the report highlighted the shifts under way across the regional finance sector’s regulatory landscape, with GCC banks becoming increasingly aware of the need to introduce ESG policies into their operations, in line with global trends.
“Gulf economies are taking steps to devise and implement key regulatory frameworks, although progress is inevitably uneven,” Treeck said. “Our analysis shows that the region’s banking institutions are recognising not only the importance of having sustainable finance frameworks in place and promoting responsible, inclusive lending, but the benefits that these strategies can deliver".
This ESG intelligence report forms part of a series of tailored studies that OBG is currently producing with its partners, alongside other highly relevant, go-to research tools, including a range of Future Readiness reports, sector-specific Growth and Recovery Outlook articles and interviews.
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