BESA launches sustainability drive

Since its foundation, the activities of Banco Espirito Santo Angola (BESA) have been underlined by a serious commitment to sustainable development in Angola. The bank believes that economic growth should go hand in hand with the promotion of sustainability, and that only these factors in conjunction can assure the country and planet of a better future. This position certifies BESA's corporate citizenship, implemented through a close with its local community.

As an economic agent, BESA aims to play an active role in Angola's financial and economic growth, as well as raising awareness of the importance of sustainable development in Angola and in the world.

BESA asserted sustainable development as a fundamental part of its strategy, which led to the creation of a new operational area, fully dedicated to projects aimed at spreading and promoting sustainability: BESA Social Responsibility. Although it is still in its formative years, its actions concur a great cause: a more sustainable world.

The future of the planet depends on the implementation of strategies and actions, between countries, organisations, institutions, the private sector and the civil society. As such, the bank assumes the responsibility of promoting sustainability with the commitment and seriousness which it believes it deserves from all world institutions.

This line of thought led BESA to join UNESCO, first through the Planet Earth International Committee, and now through the Planet Earth Institute (PEI), an organisation that pursues the work developed by the Committee and supports all its initiatives. Through this partnership, BESA participates actively in the initiatives promoted by PEI, drawing attention to the concerns and challenges that threaten the African continent, uniting efforts to strive towards effective change.

CSR activities
In Angola, BESA is pursuing a social responsibility strategy based on three key areas denominated BESAsocial, which supports social and educational initiatives; BESAculture, which promotes and divulges Angolan culture; and BESAenvironment; aimed at calling attention to environmental issues and preservation.
BESAsocial is dedicated to improving living conditions and investing in education to empower the Angolan people with knowledge and awareness on imperative issues.

BESA, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, developed a teaching programme that enabled Angolan refugees – both adults and children – to learn Portuguese. Since the programme's inception in 2007, the programme has benefited thousands of refugees.

These social responsibility initiatives benefit from a diverse range of influential social partners, such as Angola's Ministry of Health and the Angolan Medical Association, which worked with BESA to launch the Health Newspaper of Angola – an effort to spread information about health and preventive healthcare. This monthly publication is the first in the country dedicated to healthcare issues, it is distributed free of charge in hospitals, healthcare centres and pharmacies.

Angola's cultural roots
BESA's efforts to promote Angolan culture, nationally and internationally, have always been a key element in BESA's social responsibility strategy.

The first initiative of the BESAculture Project – the launch of a book to celebrate the 40-year career of António Ole, an Angolan painter, filmmaker and photographer – took place in 2007. Ole is Angola's best known artist abroad.

Following the organisation of several cultural initiatives that involved the promotion of important cultural manifestations, BESA promoted the launch of a book on the photographic work of José Silva Pinto, one of the Angolan photographers with greater projection at home and abroad. The book's launch took place in the bank's headquarters, and was attended by several personalities of Angola's cultural scene and society.

In 2009, BESA added to its repertoire of books with an homage to the written word, by publishing a book of short stories by Angolan authors, including Arnaldo Santos, Ondjaki, Jacques dos Santos, Sónia Gomes, Maria Celestina Fernandes, Ismael Mateus, João Tala, Chô do Guri, Sousa Jamba and Yola Castro.

The BESA/UNESCO Exhibition
BESAculture has taken upon itself the mission of promoting and preserving Angolan Culture, supporting local artists and developing initiatives to enhance Angolan art and artists internationally. Photography has been one of the main fields of intervention of BESAculture. In the past three years, BESA has organised the BESAPhoto competition, addressed to Angolan photographers. The 2008 competition was met with much enthusiasm: 117 amateur and professional photographers living in Angola or abroad participated, sending in 418 works. Indira Mateta, a 23-year old photographer, was awarded with the first prize.

After the success of the 2008 edition, BESA decided to find a partner that would offer new opportunities to Angolan photographers. This led to the beginning of a partnership with World Press Photo (WPPh), an organisation that has contributed significantly to the promotion of photography across the world.

In 2009, 160 Angolan photographers took part in the second edition of the contest, submitting 1,370 works – a dramatic 227 percent increase from the first contest. WPPh defined the working philosophy and selected the members of the jury, which was composed of two foreign and two Angolan photographers.

Candidates were also given the opportunity to take part in a photo workshop, supervised by WPPh. These workshops are an important part of the BESA/WPPh partnership. For BESA, it is a way of contributing to the training of Angolan photographers and thus foster the emergence of new artists in the country. And for WPPh, it was a way of achieving one of its main objectives for Africa, namely to mobilise new visionaries in the field of photography and “to bring to the world images of the African continent captured by the Africans themselves.”

The 2010 competition was also an enormous success, with another improvement in the quality and quantity of works submitted. The jury was again coordinated by WPPh, which brought together prestigious photographers such as Jonathan Torgovnik (Newsweek), Monica Lopez Allende (The Sunday Times Magazine), and Angolan photographer Sergio Afonso, (graphics editor of SENAC – Rio de Janeiro). Mr Torgovnik and Ms Allende also participated in an open seminar for Angolan artists, promoted by BESA.

Another BESA project, developed in parallel with the photography contest, is the “Save and Protect the Planet” Exhibition, also in partnership with WPPh. The companies challenged five African photographers to travel to five Angolan cities and capture images related to sustainable development related themes. Kenyan Felix Maxi focused on “Soil,” Angolan Walter Fernandes chose “Megacities,” Zimbabwean Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi selected “Energy Resources,” Ghanan Nana Kofi Acquah focused on “Earth and Health,” and Tanzanian Mwanzo Millinga elected for “Groundwater.”

This project is part of a strategy to promote photography in Africa. According to WPPh, “the African continent offers a huge potential for photography… in the next few years the world will increasingly see Africa through the eyes of African photographers.” A catalogue of the exhibition was produced, containing information about the project and the photojournalists who took part in the exhibition.

Investing in the planet
BESAenvironment is also developing an active role raising awareness on environmental issues that threaten the country and the continent in general.

In this scope, BESA supported the production of the Environmental Education Thematic Kit, the first project implemented by the Planet Earth National Committee and organised under a partnership with the Ministry of the Environment of Angola. The purpose of this project was to distribute throughout the country a thematic kit of books containing environmental dates, explanations on sustainable development issues, and activity sheets. The kit also included a CD with contents related to the protection of the planet Earth. In a first phase, the kit was distributed to thousands of students in the provinces of Luanda, Huambo and Huíla.

BESA is also a founding member of the Planet Earth National Committee, created in November 2009. The committee's members include governmental institutions and representatives from the private sector. In recognition of its contribution to the Development Committee of UNESCO's International Year of Planet Earth, BESA was named ‘Bank of the Planet' in 2009. The bank's relationship with the committee started with a participation in Planet Earth magazine, a publication that addresses sustainable development related issues.

After receiving this prestigious designation, BESA's cooperation with UNESCO rose to a new level, and it was nominated for the title of  Official Bank of Planet Earth UNESCO, 2010-2020. With this award, UNESCO aimed to further strengthen the cooperation between the two institutions. BESA has made its position clear on continuing to support UNESCO's projects aimed at fostering sustainable development. It is on this basis that the bank positions itself as one of the main partners in the initiatives taken by UNESCO through the Planet Earth Institute, to disseminate messages about sustainability.

This new partnership is the outcome of the bank's active role in promoting sustainable development and supporting a host of initiatives with aims such as revitalising the economy, promoting culture, supporting education and protecting the environment.

The first action jointly undertaken by UNESCO and BESA (in its role as Official Bank of Planet Earth), alongside the International Union of Geological Sciences, was to assert the importance of the private sector's contribution in the promotion of sustainability. BESA was invited to make a presentation to the UNESCO/BESA Planet Earth Partnership conference, held in May 2010 at the UN Partnership Fair, during the 18th session of the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development. This was the first time that an Angolan private institution addressed the UN, giving practical examples of the importance of private contribution, with suggestions on how the participation of private partners may be implemented.

In addition to its presentation on the importance of the contribution of private partners to the promotion of sustainability, BESA was also invited to present the “Save and Protect the Planet” exhibition at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Advancing ambition
For 2011, increasingly ambitious initiatives have been planned. In partnership with the Ministry of Environment of Angola, BESA intends to create five provincial committees of the Planet Earth Institute and launch a training project for activists in environmental education, which will involve Angolan embassies all over the world. The ministry also plans to create an eco-village in South Kwanza province, where natural products will be promoted and several environmental education initiatives implemented.

Internationally, BESA recently presented a proposal at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris for the creation of the first UNESCO Centre of Excellence for the Education of Earth Sciences in Africa, based in Luanda, in partnership with the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology and the Planet Earth Institute.
The centre's academic strategy will be defined by the Angolan Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology, in cooperation with the University Agostinho Neto of Angola, the Planet Earth Institute (PEI) and the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability (NIReS), based in Newcastle University in the UK. The first phase will address the development of highly-trained Angolan/African specialists, who can (within five years) form the kernel of an autonomous capacity based permanently in the Centre of Excellence.

All these initiatives and partnerships are part of BESA's long-term strategy to promote sustainable development in Angola and around the world, participating actively in the process of raising awareness and drawing attention to the importance of the preservation of the planet and its resources for the sake of generations that follow. 

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