Interview With Kevin Whitfield, Head Of Carbon At South Africa’s Nedbank

Nedbank Group is one of South Africa’s largest banks and a leader in sustainability. I recently interviewed Kevin Whitfield, head of Carbon at Nedbank via email.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman: Nedbank Group has a reputation for being South Africa’s “green bank,” and has been committed to sustainability principles for 18 years. Why did Nedbank start to take sustainability into consideration almost two decades ago?

Kevin Whitfield: Nedbank’s sustainability journey was initiated by visionary foresight and leadership that recognized not only a need expressed by our clients to address environmental issues but also understood that the concept of sustainability in all its facets is crucial to ensuring the long-term interests of all our stakeholders and the bank’s own long-term profitability.

The journey began with the establishment of our partnership with WWF-SA in 1990 and has continued to be supported by WWF SA, our staff and various other stakeholders and is integral to the bank’s vision, strategy and long-term objectives.

GMC: Nedbank set goals to reduce its energy use by 12 percent by 2015, and its carbon emissions by 12 percent by 2015. Are there any projects in the works this year that will help it reach that goal?

Kevin Whitfield: A number of energy efficiency initiatives have been implemented by the Nedbank Property Services team which has resulted in a reduction in our energy consumption. The energy efficiency “housekeeping” initiatives include the following:

  • Geysers have been switched off in bathrooms and other geysers have been placed on timers
  • Timers have been placed on lights to automatically switch on and off at set times
  • Work schedules for after-hours service staff have been adjusted to minimize the time lights and air conditioning systems are switched on
  • Emergency office light fittings have been re-positioned to optimize light levels when load shedding takes place and lights are switched off
  • Basement parking lighting has been reduced to minimal levels and unnecessary lights are switched off after hours
  • Down lighters are being changed to more energy-efficient lamps
  • The air-conditioning plant has been set to run at optimal times and to switch off after normal hours, though special requests are accommodated
  • Regular planned maintenance is performed to ensure optimal efficiency of all equipment
  • Ongoing review of energy-efficient products and technologies are considered for incorporation into existing buildings and for the design of all new buildings.

Nedbank has also introduced a number of internal carbon reduction initiatives including for example:

  • The use of ‘’green’’ chemicals in our facilities.
  • A recycling program including bins for biodegradable waste, plastic and polystyrene, glass and tin and mixed (plastic, paper and foil); batteries, light bulbs and printer cartridges.
  • The use of environmentally friendly paper towels in our bathroom area.
  • Greening’ our catering and functions in accordance with WWF-SA guidelines.
  • A number of measures have been introduced to reduce paper consumption including secure print and double-sided printing.
  • Nedbank also drives the use of environmentally-friendly alternatives to business travel to support our business travel reduction target.

GMC: What advice do you have for companies who want to set goals to reduce their environmental impact?

Kevin Whitfield: This starts and ends with strategy and culture being adopted by the organization as it would with any other key delivery objective.  In the absence of alignment of all core objectives this becomes a stand-alone task as oppose to an organizational thrust resulting in limited or sporadic delivery.  This needs to be a way of getting things done, not an addition tick box exercise.

GMC: As the head of carbon, what are you most proud of that Nedbank has accomplished in regards to environmental sustainability?

Kevin Whitfield: The ability to advise commercial solutions when it comes to sustainability, people, the environment and finance.  The ability to combine the above allows for a fully functional and sustainable model.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

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