Rola Abu Manneh, Standard Chartered UAE’s CEO on pioneering sustainable finance solutions for the UAE

Region’s first conventional sustainable account and the first sustainable Islamic account among innovative products
Rola Abu Manneh, Standard Chartered UAE’s CEO on pioneering sustainable finance solutions for the UAE
Rola Abu Manneh, CEO of Standard Chartered UAE

Standard Chartered UAE CEO Rola Abu Manneh emphasizes the bank’s commitment to sustainability as the cornerstone of its business philosophy. A trailblazer in sustainable finance, the institution has introduced groundbreaking solutions that resonate with its dedication to sustainability. Notable achievements include the launch of the region’s inaugural conventional sustainable account and the first-ever sustainable Islamic account in this part of the world.

In this interview, Abu Manneh delves into Standard Chartered’s strategic three-pronged approach to achieving net-zero status encapsulated in the principles of reduce, catalyze, and accelerate. This insightful conversation offers a glimpse into the bank’s innovative initiatives and underscores its pivotal role in fostering a sustainable future.

Economy Middle East: What is Standard Chartered’s sustainability strategy, and how does it align with global sustainability goals such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals?

Rola Abu Manneh: At Standard Chartered, our approach to business revolves around integrating sustainability into all of our decision-making processes. This is central to our day-to-day business, global operations and the communities in which we operate. We aim to promote social and economic development and achieve sustainable results. This is in support of the U.N. SDGs.

We have published our interim targets and methodology on our path to net zero by 2050 in October 2021. We further refined this approach in March 2022. Our net zero approach has three aims:

  • Reduce the emissions associated with our financing activities to net zero by 2050. Setting 2030 interim targets in our most carbon-intensive sectors and restrictions on coal.
  • Catalyze finance and partnerships to scale impact, capital and climate solutions to where they are needed most. This includes a plan to mobilize $300 billion in green and transition finance by 2030. Within this, $75 billion will be invested toward sustainable infrastructure and renewable energy by 2024.
  • Accelerate new solutions to support a just transition in our markets. This includes a new dedicated Transition Acceleration Team to support clients in high-emitting sectors and launch sustainable products and partnerships.

Economy Middle East: What role do you see financial institutions playing in advancing the global climate agenda?

Rola Abu Manneh: Financial institutions play a pivotal role in advancing the global climate agenda. We act as intermediaries between capital providers and capital users, channeling funds toward projects that align with sustainability goals. By integrating environmental, social and governance considerations into our lending and investment decisions, we can encourage and incentivize responsible practices.

In addition, financial institutions also contribute to creating innovative financial products and services that support the transition to a low-carbon economy. Moreover, we engage in advocacy, promoting policies that encourage sustainability and climate action within our industry and globally.

Economy Middle East: Standard Chartered has made commitments to reach net-zero emissions in its operations by 2025, and in its financing activity by 2050. Could you provide insights into how the UAE branch is working to achieve this goal and the specific measures in place?

Rola Abu Manneh: Standard Chartered is committed to supporting the UAE’s sustainability agenda. We have a dedicated team in the country that looks after environmental, social, corporate governance and sustainable finance for the region. We are well-positioned to deploy our resources strategically to support the UAE in achieving its net goal by 2050.

For the UAE, we are committed to supporting our clients in transforming their businesses to become more sustainable. We do this by providing them with sustainable financing, technology and technical expertise. Meanwhile, we leverage our global network to support our clients in achieving their sustainability goals.

This is in addition to advising as well as sharing and strengthening cooperation with companies, across the country, that are at the forefront of solving the technical challenges required to reach a low-carbon economy. 

Standard Chartered

Economy Middle East: What kinds of sustainable finance products and services does Standard Chartered UAE offer to its customers? How do you engage with clients and stakeholders to promote sustainable practices?

Rola Abu Manneh: Standard Chartered UAE offers a wide range of sustainable finance products and solutions to clients. These include the region’s first conventional sustainable account and the region’s first sustainable Islamic account. These are innovative products offered to large companies, which our clients with the opportunity to contribute to sustainable development while maintaining daily access to its financial resources to meet critical liquidity management needs.

Additionally, we have launched several financing initiatives related to sustainability such as the region’s first sustainable financing facility for Siemens. Moreover, we launched the region’s first sustainable supply chain financing program with Majid Al Futtaim. This is in addition to many bilateral and syndicated loans related to sustainability, structuring green bonds and sukuk as well as other instruments that are ESG friendly.

It’s worth noting that in engaging with clients and stakeholders, we collaborate closely with them to understand their sustainability goals and challenges. We provide insights and expertise on sustainability and ESG issues, including risk assessments and opportunities for improvement. We aim to develop tailored solutions that meet our clients’ financial needs and contribute to their long-term sustainability objectives.

Read: COP28: Michael Izza, CEO of ICAEW, on businesses achieving climate targets

Economy Middle East: What challenges and opportunities do you foresee for the financial sector in the UAE as the region moves toward a more sustainable and climate-resilient future, and how is Standard Chartered UAE preparing for these changes?

Rola Abu Manneh: The financial sector in the UAE is currently going through a transformative journey. This comes as the region intensifies its commitment to sustainability and climate resilience.

The shift presents both challenges and opportunities. Challenges include the need for increased awareness among businesses and consumers about the benefits of sustainable finance. As the demand for sustainable finance products grows, financial institutions must adapt to evolving customer expectations and regulatory requirements.

That said, this also brings with it a set of significant opportunities. The UAE’s strategic investments in renewable energy, sustainable infrastructure, and innovation present a growing market for sustainable finance. By pioneering new financial products, Standard Chartered UAE is aligning its growth with these national sustainability objectives while helping clients make the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Standard Chartered UAE is actively adapting to these changes by staying at the forefront of sustainable finance innovation. We’re investing in further developing cutting-edge financial solutions that meet the evolving needs of our clients while supporting the UAE’s sustainability goals.

We’re also expanding our ESG expertise to better assist our clients in understanding and integrating sustainable practices into their businesses. By collaborating with local and international stakeholders, we aim to create a resilient and sustainable financial ecosystem that aligns with the UAE’s vision for a sustainable and green future.

About Rola Abu Manneh

Rola Abu Manneh is the chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bank UAE. She has held this role since August 2018 when she became the UAE’s first Emirati woman to head a bank.  She was responsible for transforming the UAE business into one of the biggest five markets for the Standard Chartered Group.

Abu Manneh is a champion for women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship. Before joining Standard Chartered Bank, she was the Head of Corporate & Investment Banking for Abu Dhabi at First Abu Dhabi Bank.

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