The Bank is a stalwart financial institute that embarks on the stewardship of society and the environment through a multi-faceted approach to preserve the social and natural wealth of the ecosystem at its periphery.
Based on its sustainability vision, the Bank has integrated sustainability into its operations, culture, and the value chain. This includes extending outreach into strong and sustained programmes moulded by an environmental conscience. The Bank upholds its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) values by extending its outreach to the most-needy communities at the grassroots level. It also leverages its environmental conscience to engage in the dualism of conservation with emissions management, refining a balance of the two, to proactively safeguard nature while downscaling emissions.
The Bank’s sustainability initiatives are guided and monitored by a cross-functional Sustainability Steering Committee (SSC) comprising representation from key Sustainability-linked functional areas and include a comprehensive measurement mechanism. The partnerships forged over the years and the new collaborations with public, private, and non-governmental organisations both locally and internationally, continue to offer vital support in the achievement of the Bank’s sustainability strategy.
The Bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility Trust (CSR Trust) envisions a future where no one is left behind, and where the financial commitment of the Bank’s outreach programs will uplift societies, especially the younger generations who are the leaders of tomorrow. The CSR applies the foundational strengths of outreach in five sustainable areas targeted to empower communities.
Through these initiatives, the Bank commits to engage in the following SDGs, while also embarking soon on Climate Action (SDG-13) as a safeguard measure against climate change.
The Bank’s CSR Trust mandate is unique in that it dictates that CSR should be undertaken in the spirit of empowering the nation’s citizens to enable them to support Sri Lanka’s socio-economic development objectives, rather than seeking any direct benefits to the Bank or a link to its business objectives. To achieve its stated objectives, the Trust identifies five broad areas to enable the Bank to meaningfully redirect its CSR activities. The Bank’s CSR Trust serves all communities, religions, geographical locations, and races without discrimination.
Bank’s well-planned approach to CSR initiatives:
The Bank has garnered the following awards and accolades for its CSR initiatives in 2022:
The Bank established 27 “IT Labs” in 2022 increasing the total to 280, benefiting approximately 40,000 students
The Bank through its CSR Trust adopts a multi-faceted approach to implement meaningful projects under the Education pillar that account for the largest CSR spend. Since taking a strategic decision to adopt IT Education and digital literacy development among the youth as its flagship CSR initiative, the Bank has made significant progress in increasing its investment in IT education and nurturing a technologically savvy future generation. Continuing on the momentum of commissioning IT labs to rural schools which commenced in 2011, the Bank established 27 “IT Labs” in 2022 increasing the total to 280, benefiting approximately 40,000 students. This initiative has helped to retain students in rural schools and even prevented the closure of some schools that were struggling due to the lack of IT resources.
In 2017, the Bank embarked on developing IT literacy skills among youth through the creation of “smart learning environments”, by investing in skill development initiatives and education infrastructure. These initiatives directly contribute to Sri Lanka’s Sustainable Development Goals; specifically, Goal 4 (Quality Education), which is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Additionally, the Bank strongly supports SDG 17 (“Partnership for the Goals”) as it believes that partnerships help create greater impact and stronger outcomes.
The SMART School project is aimed at digitising the core subjects in the GCE Ordinary Level and Advanced Level grades, thereby creating a digital learning platform to enable secondary school students in rural areas to expand their knowledge and understanding of the core subjects in their school curricula.
To create the infrastructure required to transform the traditional secondary education classrooms into “Smart learning environments”, the Bank entered into a Public-Private-Partnership with Headstart (Pvt) Ltd., Microsoft Sri Lanka, and Dialog Axiata PLC. One of the key initiatives of this project was the teacher training on use of “smart techniques” in teaching. Over 75,000 students from across nine districts benefitted out of the project. The Bank expanded and extended its initiative to popularising STEM education in the country by continuing the “Smart School” concept, where STEM Classrooms, Coding Clubs as well as Math Labs were established in schools.
Representing the next big step in the Bank’s investment in the Education pillar, the STEM classroom project was launched to coincide with the Bank’s centennial celebrations in 2020. A long-term undertaking by the Bank, the traditional classrooms are transformed into STEM centres, using digital learning content developed for the Sipnena online education website giving the project its name: the “100 Sipnena Smart STEM Schools” initiative. The STEM classrooms focus on building content for the 4 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects, which are widely accepted as crucial prerequisites for higher education in numerous IT-related careers. Under this project, the Bank provides selected schools with a computer, a multimedia projector, along with the required furniture and access to digital content including interactive lessons, presentations, diagrams, and illustrated material, specifically developed to create an enhanced learning experience. A total of 43 “STEM Classrooms” were established in 2022, increasing the total to 140, benefiting approximately 50,000 students island-wide. Going forward, the project will be extended to students from Grades one to GCE Ordinary Level.
The Bank established 44 Math labs in 2022 raising the total to 85.
The Coding project, which forms part of phase II of the STEM Classroom initiative was launched in July 2020. This is a collaborative effort between Commercial Bank, the STEMup Educational Foundation and IRIM Croatian Makers, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, Rotary Club Zagreb Centre, and several others. The project aims to bring to life the STEMup Foundation’s mission - to inspire students to pursue STEM degrees and careers. The Bank has setup up computer coding clubs in 100 selected schools across the island to equip students with skills and knowledge in computer programming and encourage them to utilise their skills in creating innovative and functional applications. The Bank’s involvement also includes providing funding for train-the-trainer programmes as well as necessary learning tools such as “Internet of Things” (IoT) kits and other required resources.
The Bank continued this initiative by further collaborating with STEMup Educational Foundation where a full day event was organised and carried out at Bank’s Auditorium in line with “Computer Science Week – 2022”. Over 340 students from around the country participated in this programme, together with their teachers and parents. During the day, the students practically participated in computer programming activities and sessions, while the teachers learnt about how to promote coding among students and the teaching techniques. The struggling parents got insights on how to guide children to start learning coding.
Launched in 2015 to develop the mathematical and analytical skills of school children, the Math Lab project is an ongoing initiative by the Bank. Over the past several years, the Bank has commissioned numerous math labs mainly in rural schools around Sri Lanka. This initiative has attracted young students from diverse age groups who are keen to acquire hands-on experience in interactive mathematical games, sharpen their knowledge of mathematical principles and learn important critical thinking skills. The Bank established 44 Math labs in 2022 raising the total to 85.
|Project||No in 2022|| Total as at end
In 2020, the Bank in collaboration with the CISCO Networking Academy enabled approximately 500 students from government schools to follow basic IT courses of their choice on a virtual platform, free of charge. Whilst the Bank covers the lecture fee of the students, the CISCO Networking Academy provides the courses without any fee.
This collaboration aims to optimise the use of the IT labs donated by the Bank to enable students to pursue IT courses by connecting to the CISCO Networking Academy curriculum and obtain certifications upon successful completion. CISCO’s certifications are in high demand in the IT industry. The Bank has trained more than 2000 students through this programme making them eligible to obtain highly-paid jobs.
Commercial Bank, collaborated with the Vocational Training Authority (VTA) to enable school leavers who have passed their 10th grade to obtain technical qualifications up to NVQ Stage III certification in various technical fields. The 120 Days Training’ initiative has enabled to equip school dropouts with the necessary skills to thrive in the construction industry. Through this ongoing programme, Commercial Bank empowered over 200 youth to be gainfully employed.
The following VTA-enabled training facilities and programmes were conducted in 2022.
Commercial Bank tied up with the University of Moratuwa (UoM) to become the first lending institution in the Country to offer a tailor-made loan scheme to support research candidates accepted into the University’s research programmes. Under the scheme, the Bank provides education loans of up to Rs. 500,000 at a concessionary annual interest rate of 9.5%. The tenure for these loans will be six years, including a three-year grace period. The special loan scheme also offers fee waivers and affordable repayment structures that include an interest-only grace period, to enable students to focus on their research work with peace of mind. During the year under review 236 students availed of this facility.
In 2022, the Bank donated critical care equipment and infrastructure facilities worth Rs. 17.5 Mn. to eight government hospitals. The Bank had made similar donations to over 98 government hospitals, so far. The Bank made monetary donations to the National COVID-19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund set up by the Government of Sri Lanka to enhance the medical facilities of the island during the pandemic. Furthermore, essential medical equipment was donated for the treatment of COVID-19 patients to 25 state hospitals. In particular, two Autoclave machines that help in infection control in the operating theater were donated to the Point Pedro Base Hospital, in response to their request. Furthermore, the Bank contributed towards several community initiatives to provide access to safe water and sanitation as well.
The basic physiological needs of humans, namely food, drinking water, and sanitation when in short supply can reverberate into a host of unhealthy repercussions, of which poor nutrition holds a significant and apex position.
As cited in by the World Food Programme (WFP) in its Household Food Security Survey for November 2022, nearly 37% of Sri Lankan households are currently food insecure, and almost 72% are turning to food-based coping strategies including reducing the number of meals and limiting portion sizes. In this context, WFP invited a number of Sri Lankan banks to be a financial partner, for an outreach programme to prevent malnutrition and support families to access food in Sri Lanka. Following a competitive bidding process of the WFP, the Commercial Bank was selected to be the exclusive financial partner to distribute their funds among selected beneficiaries in Sri Lanka. The MOU of the agreement will be signed in 2023.
As a benefactor, partner, and patron of the partnership with the WFP, the Bank will bolster the grassroots level capacity of 76,500 households to reach their alimentation and nutritive needs.
The Bank continued its popular children’s art competition “Arunalu Siththam” for the third year, extending an invitation to young Sri Lankans across the island to express themselves through their artistic talents.
Going forward, the Bank aims to widen charitable engagement in 2023, by funding traditional hand-made arts and crafts of SMEs (such as the mask industry in Ambalangoda).
The Bank continues to be a partner in social engagement to uplift communities worst affected by economic and climatic events in 2022. The Bank invested Rs. 1 Mn. to construct the Terrace at the Methseva Foundation, Rs. 1.2 Mn. to construct a water tank at Nimalawa Aranya and engaged in school projects investing Rs. 0.7 Mn. during the year under review.
The Bank aims to further broaden its community development outlook and engagement in 2023.
Environmental engagement is in the contemporary a paramount necessity to fight climate change. For many years Commercial Bank has continued to play a pivotal role in environmental advocacy, demonstrating how the local banking industry can contribute towards Sri Lanka’s transition to a low carbon economy. Becoming the first carbon neutral Bank in Sri Lanka in 2020 is a clear testament to the effectiveness of its pioneering initiatives to significantly lower its carbon footprint as well as that of its customers and other stakeholders. The Bank has been awarded the Best Corporate Citizen Sustainability Award for 2021 by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce for its carbon-neutral achievement.
Among the Bank’s initiatives to safeguard of the environment includes a curative mangrove restoration project, funding activities associated with a conservation programme of pollution-threatened turtles, and a regeneration programme to regrow degraded forest land. The initiatives also include lending to support eco-friendly operations, migrating customers to paperless banking, and reducing consumption of non-renewable energy, water, and other resources in its operations.
The Bank has strategically identified localities where the human footprint has had injurious outcomes on nature’s health and well-being, and has renewed and empowered the balance of fauna, flora, and human settlements with a strong and improved sense of equilibrated harmony. A mangrove planting project was initiated in collaboration with Wildlife and Ocean Resource Conservation around Koggala lagoon to prevent the erosion of the land belonging to 21 islands located in the area. During 1st and 2nd Phases of the project, more than 450 barrels with 3,250 mangrove plants were planted to cover 550 meters in the Eastern part of the island. The third phase of the project was launched to extend mangrove coverage by a further 700 metres by replanting 3,750 mangrove plants on two islands in the Koggala Lake, including Madol Duwa, which rose to fame after Martin Wickramasinghe’s celebrated novel.
Conservation of sea turtles (classified as an endangered species by IUCN) at Panama beach, was commenced by partnering with Wildlife and Ocean Resource Conservation. More than 50,000 turtles were released to the deep sea by utilising the natural methodology (in situ Conservation) since 2019. The Bank approved Rs. 5.5 Mn. for turtle conservation in 2022.
Vibhava Solution offers solutions in agriculture, reforestation, waste collection, training, and consultation for corporates to archive their desired environmental and social objectives in line with the SDGs. The proposal presented by the Bank is to deliver a training component for employees to ignite their passion for the environment and apply the gained knowledge to drive environmental sustainability, officially and personally, thereby acting as agents of change. The staff members were provided with a training module to enhance the capacity of employees across the hierarchy to understand the fundamentals of waste management, home gardening, and climate change, and their overarching importance. Also, the Bank aims to use this workshop as a foundation to facilitate planning, designing and implementing community-based climate adaptation and mitigation projects.
100 hectares of degraded habitat belonging to the Kandegama forest in the Dimbulagala range of the Polonnaruwa District was reforested by the Bank under its latest environment-linked commitment.
The reforestation project funded by the Bank ensured the planting and maintenance of 62,500 seedlings of local species and extended to reducing the danger of forest fires by approximately 95% by removing invasive flora such as Mana and Illuk grass that hinder the growth of other plants and are susceptible to forest fires during the dry season. The removal of such species aids natural regeneration and controls cattle grazing.
Forests in the North-East area of the country have a catalytic effect on the North-East monsoon and the reforestation of Kandegama is expected to improve rainfall stability in the region in addition to paving the way for other environmental benefits including climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and habitat improvement.
The Bank also continued the gardening project in the National Hospital by growing CO2-absorbent trees to mitigate the air pollution prevalent in the Townhall area.
The green arm of the Bank engages in preventative, regenerative, and restorative programmes to meet Sustainable Development Goals 7 and 12, namely “Affordable and Clean Energy” and “Responsible Consumption and Production”, to ensure that best practices are pursued to transform the Bank’s ecosystem into a green powerhouse ensuring that each green alternative is preventative or regenerative/restorative to ensure environmental sustainability.
Banking has a minimal environmental footprint of its own as it consumes few natural resources and creates minimal emissions and waste. Nevertheless, the Bank continues to make a conscientious effort to reduce GHG emissions in its operations. Its intention to achieve Carbon Neutral Status was declared to coincide with its centennial celebrations in the year 2020. Efforts since then have been driven by a broad-based Carbon Neutral Strategy to aggressively embed green principles into the Bank’s day-to-day operational processes with the ultimate aim of lowering the Bank’s carbon footprint. The Bank’s Carbon Neutral Strategy complements the Bank’s measures for energy management.
Some of the measures that the Bank has endeavoured to reduce emissions are as follows:
Among the more technologically savvy approaches is the “Flash” mobile application that can accurately measure the customer’s environmental footprint and suggest ways to remediate the impact of the customer’s banking activities by offsetting GHG emissions.
The Bank recently had the distinction of being featured to a global audience as one of 25 banks around the world that are working to promote environment consciousness among their customers. The occasion was the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27) at which Doconomy AB, the Sweden-based Impact-Tech Solutions company that is a partner of Commercial Bank’s Flash Digital Bank Account App, presented a map showing the geographical spread of the 25 banks that are collaborating with the company to help save the environment by using Doconomy’s environmental impact index to calculate the carbon footprint of each transaction performed via their respective apps.
|Reduction of energy consumption||Gigajoules||4,490||2,139||5,251||-338||4,862|
|Direct (Scope 1) GHG emissions||CO2 Tonnes||Pending||1,203||1,079||1,282||1,369|
|Energy indirect (Scope 2) GHG emissions||CO2 Tonnes||Pending||7,144||8,413||10,957||10,838|
|Solar power generated||1,684||1,008||72||1,044||828|
|Solar power generated as % of energy consumption||4.38||2.35||0.16||2.08||1.66|
Having introduced digital tabling and viewing of Board and Board Committee Papers via the BoardPac System over a decade ago, Commercial Bank is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of paperless operations in the local banking sector. The Bank has since continued to make significant strides in its paperless initiatives, including measures introduced in 2022.
Some key highlights include:
Commercial Bank’s need for water is primarily to meet the utility and sanitation requirements of its staff members and customers. Hence the Bank’s water footprint is minimal. Nevertheless, the Bank makes a conscious effort to control daily water usage. In this regard, dual flushing water closets have been installed at all of the Bank owned branch buildings, while a tube well provides water for flushing all toilets at the Head Office premises. In addition, the Bank’s Wellawatte, Galle Fort, and Jaffna branches are equipped with rainwater harvesting systems.
The Bank is a member of the following international and local alliances and affiliations that are rudimentary to being a consolidated force on the ground to curb GHG emissions and to promote green environmental measures, which are at the heart of sustainability, honoured by collective action.