Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) is working in Bangladesh with a promise to provide banking services to promote social and economic development. The bank has already reached beyond traditional banking by introducing innovative activities with a belief in inclusive growth.
Bitopi Das Chowdhury, head of corporate affairs, brand and marketing of the bank, has shared the visions and practices of SCB in the overall development of the country.
The brand promise of Standard Chartered is "Here for good". What does that mean in terms of the bank's commitment to our society?
For 116 years, we have been providing banking services that help people and companies to succeed, creating wealth, jobs and growth opportunities. We are committed to promoting economic and social development in Bangladesh and doing so sustainably and equitably. It is our mission to enable individuals to build a positive future for themselves and their families; to help businesses thrive and grow, and to deliver economic prosperity for the wider community.
Supporting sustainable and responsible growth, including delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is an integral part of our brand promise.
What are the other milestone CSR activities in different areas that Standard Chartered is undertaking?
Our current global flagship community programme Futuremakers is designed around three pillars including education, employability and entrepreneurship, areas where the youth need support to learn, earn and grow.
To accelerate women empowerment, Standard Chartered's initiative Goal began its journey in Bangladesh in 2013 in partnership with Brac and Women Win. Between 2013 and 2018, this initiative helped empower 44,000 youths.
Our Financial Education for Youth programme in Bangladesh started in 2016. The curriculum covered topics including borrowing, budgeting, expenditure, income, making financial choices, money basics etc. Between 2016 and 2019, we reached 60 schools and 3,000 youths from rural communities in Cox's Bazar and Chattogram.
Our Agrow Awards recognises the leaders and innovators that are taking our agriculture industry forward. Over six editions, the award has honoured 43 heroes (individuals and institutions) to date.
One of our signature initiatives Celebrating Life was a national level competition that aimed to leverage art and culture and the creativity of our youth as a force for good in our society. The contest invited entries from non-professional artists in three categories: film, photography and lyrics.
Another project close to my heart was our integrated livelihood initiative in partnership with Brac in the ex-enclave communities in Lalmonirhaat and Kurigram.
What motivates you to work with these communities? How are you helping them bounce back from Covid-19?
Bitopi Das Chowdhury: Standard Chartered is focused on enabling long-term economic recovery while addressing the immediate need to save and sustain lives. In the short term, mobilising resources across the public, private and developmental sectors rapidly and efficiently is the key. To meet the immediate challenges, we realised we could play a key role in complementing the government's efforts to reach aid and essentials to the people hit hard by the pandemic.
TBS: Could you tell us more about the specific measures taken to respond to the challenges of Covid-19?
Bitopi Das Chowdhury: The bank is currently focusing its community support measures in five key areas:
- Providing life-sustaining food and hygiene support to 240,000 individuals, providing over 7,000,000 meals and personal hygiene material. Distributing fresh supplies for 200,0000 distressed individuals sourced directly from 2,000 smallholder farmers.
- Supporting life-saving 14-day intensive medical care for 740 critically-affected Covid-19 patients. Donating medical oxygen generation plants in three community hospitals, with a total installed capacity that will support up to 400 patients per day.
- Supporting education by contributing $1.3 million to Unicef to be used for protection measures and remote education of vulnerable children. Funding remote learning for more than 4,000 children for rural communities.
- Supporting the healthcare workers fighting on the frontlines by contributing $300,000 to Red Cross programmes.
- For long-term livelihood support and economic reintegration, we are supporting 1,700 economically vulnerable beneficiaries with employable skills, job placements and business development support.
TBS: How should other corporate bodies come forward in the fight to overcome setbacks from Covid-19?
Bitopi Das Chowdhury: At the end of the day, what is good for the communities is good for businesses. The private sector, with its responsibility to be the engine of job creation, will have to work closely with the government and non-governmental sectors, to help build a future-ready workforce, ready to rise to the new challenges ahead.
TBS: What are your thoughts on the future of CSR in Bangladesh?
Bitopi Das Chowdhury: I think CSR will cease to exist as something distinct for the core business of brands, and become ingrained in our very DNA, guiding each action of a socially-responsible business. I believe that it makes good business sense to adopt ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) reporting; and gradually implement 'sustainability' as a core principle in operations.
TBS: What challenges do you face while working in communities around Bangladesh?
Bitopi Das Chowdhury: There will inevitably be challenges when you are undertaking initiatives that make meaningful changes. However, when faced with these challenges, we also found solutions and kept moving ahead.
We need to work together so that collectively we can achieve the large-scale impact that is a necessity at this juncture.