Punki Modise puts spotlight on sustainability in new role

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Punki was recently appointed as Absa’s chief strategy and sustainability officer after serving as interim FD.

In July, Punki Modise stepped into the role of chief strategy and sustainability officer at Absa. This came after she briefly served as the company’s interim FD while Jason Quinn served as interim FD.

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“The combination of strategy and sustainability in one role presents significant opportunities to bring about positive change in the economic, societal and environmental space. As a bank, we are aware of the role we play in contributing to sustainable development. One of the five key themes in our strategy is to be an active force for good in everything we do,” Punki says. “I’m excited about the potential that there is within our business to take bolder steps in making an even more meaningful contribution.”

She adds that financial inclusion is among the areas where she sees significant scope for change that can have a positive impact at scale.

“It is important to assess where we are as Absa in the context of sustainability and to gain a deeper understanding of the external environment. We relook our strategy from time to time to ensure that it remains relevant and appropriate, or that it is adjusted where required, as our operating environment evolves and changes,” Punki explains. “ESG was elevated as a priority during a review of the strategy last year, and a large part of my role will be to entrench and inculcate our commitment to sustainability more deeply within the organisation.”

She further adds that Absa had already made significant progress in several areas, including being the largest funder of renewable energy in South Africa.

Punki has also established a sustainability function within the group. “The new Strategy and Sustainability role brings added impetus in our drive to promote sustainability within our business so as to ultimately improve Absa’s performance and standing in this space. Our aim is not only to meet basic, or even benchmark requirements, but to outperform,” she says.

She explains that her approach will be to focus on the ‘E’ as much as the ‘S’ in ESG. “While our planet and its people undeniably face an existential question, we are conscious of the hierarchy of basic human needs in our communities in Africa, which generates a fraction of global greenhouse gasses. In this context, we will be socially responsible as much as we are environmentally responsible.”

Punki adds that:

“As we consider the broad range of issues within the strategy and sustainability portfolio, another important focus for me is to help lift the perception of Absa as an attractive employer among talent across profiles.”

As she starts to mobilise the new function, Punki hopes to bring insights to the respective business units to enable them to respond more strongly to strategy and sustainability challenges.

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