The Group’s exclusion list is designed to prevent financing of businesses that excessively exploit or harm biodiversity or the environment. Where appropriate, these exclusions align with international conventions.
The Company’s ESMS outlines environmental and social management plans, policies and procedures, including implementation procedures and responsibilities. Its goal is to prevent or minimise negative environmental and social impacts and promote good governance practices. The system aligns with industry standards, such as IFC standard 1 and 2, SMART Campaign, and Universal Standards for Social Performance Management.
The Company’s environmental policy outlines the actions that its staff must take to minimise and prevent any harmful impacts on the environment. The policy requires revision and alignment with the environmental actions the Company will take in 2023.
The Company’s travel policy promotes responsible and sustainable travel practices, with a particular focus on air travel. It outlines the necessary factors to consider and steps to take before undertaking air travel for business purposes. Effective as of December 2022, this policy is designed to guide employees towards environmentally conscious travel decisions while also ensuring the Company’s operational efficiency.
The objective of the EPRP is to protect resources, clients and staff, to safeguard critical information, and to guarantee the continued availability of essential operations and services. It outlines strategies and plans for the Company’s emergency management and response. By having an EPRP in place, the Company can effectively prepare for and mitigate the impacts of emergency situations.
As the Company is fully transparent in the pricing and terms and conditions of its loans, it adopted the CPP, developed by SMART Campaign, a leading industry body in the financial inclusion industry, to consider client protection in all aspects of the business. CPP describes the minimum protection that microfinance clients should expect from their providers, and also the protection that an institution should maintain to serve the best interests of its clients. The Client Protection Principles are evaluated by the Client Protection Standards as part of the Social Performance Indicator assessment.
The annual CEY survey assesses the financial benefit the loans provided to clients. The survey samples approximately 1% of total clients on their third or higher loan cycles. The CEY Key Performance Indicator is calculated by deducting the clients’ weekly interest costs from their average weekly income derived from their business activity funded by the Company’s loans. In 2022, the Client Economic Yield was 5.3, confirming client’s financial benefit from the loan.
Through the CCRC clients can provide direct feedback on services or lodge complaints about inappropriate behaviour or treatment by any of the Group’s staff. Every quarter a report is shared with senior management by the CCRC with the nature of complaints and actions taken. In 2022, a total of 558 complaints were received and resolved across the Group. Complaints were related to operational issues, such as service delivery, loan denials and LO behaviour. The reported issues were resolved through policy discussions and clarifications with clients and penalizing staff, where necessary.
This survey is conducted by interviewing three clients per loan officer, a total of 19 thousand clients, to estimate the clients’ satisfaction with the facilitation and actual products and services delivered. Facilitation includes, amongst others, the loan approval process, interest fee and insurance. Overall, a high satisfaction of 93% has been measured, an increasing trend since 2017. Clients are particularly satisfied with the loan approval process, the loan duration and the interaction with loan officers.
A total of 3,818 colleagues, around 30% of the Company’s employees, participated in the annual satisfaction survey, resulting in a satisfaction rate of 86%. Staff satisfaction is broken down into professional, facility and department service satisfaction. The results show that the vast majority work well together, feel like they are treated fairly and that their tasks help them grow professionally. The most progress can be made in the professional area, where colleagues mention better opportunities and a healthier work-life balance.
The Group has established an effective grievance mechanism for all employees, allowing them to raise any work-related concerns or complaints without fear of reprisal. In 2022, a total of eight appeals, two direct complaints have been received across the Group. Five appeals and two direct complaints were dismissed after investigation. The penal actions taken involved warnings, transfers and termination of contracts. Preventative actions include a harassment awareness program and addressing GMC during training, orientations and exit interviews.
The Group monitors and controls health and safety risks, regularly provides safety and awareness training to employees, takes preventive measures and emergency or corrective actions on workplace incidents or illness, and maintains safe equipment and infrastructures at the workplaces. Each operating subsidiary has formed a health and safety committee and an integrated occupational health and safety checklist with risk categories to ensure regular supervision and monitoring throughout the Company. In response to the pandemic, the Company took various temporary measures, such as creating awareness for safety measures, discouraging gathering in groups and offered socially distanced work spaces.
Employees are encouraged to report any activity that may constitute a violation of laws, regulations or Company policy via a complaint box or to the Chairman of the Audit and Risk Committee locally, as well as at Group level. Examples of concerns are improper or unethical business practices, health, safety and environmental issues or violations of the Code of Conduct. This year, two whistleblowing incidents were reported at two of the operating subsidiaries and appropriate action was taken, post investigation conducted by Internal Audit. In December 2022, training sessions were conducted and posters continue to be disbursed across the Group to raise awareness on this topic.
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The Group is committed to protecting children who might be involved/affected directly or indirectly by its operations.
The Company promotes a safe work environment and have a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment of any kind, particularly sexual harassment.
Unfair discrimination in any form is not acceptable. Management and employees are expected to ensure that a fair and sympathetic work environment exists for all employees, irrespective of marital status, religion, disability, sexuality, gender, racial or ethnic background. This policy of equal opportunities and diversity applies to recruitment, remuneration, training, staff development, promotion, discipline, and all other aspects of employment. The policy also applies to volunteers, interns, current or prospective clients, suppliers or beneficiaries, and all others outside ASA International with whom ASA International or its employees do business.
The Group’s Code of Conduct and ethics is designed in a manner that is ethical, dignified, transparent, equitable and cost-effective, and which expresses the core values of microfinance practice.
This policy is to combat improper payments or inducements and provide basic guidance to all employees, wherever they are located. The Group adopts a zero-tolerance approach to bribery and corruption, ensuring compliance with all applicable anti bribery and anti-corruption laws and regulations, including the UK Bribery Act 2010.
The Company and subsidiaries are strongly committed to preventing money laundering or any activity that facilitates money laundering, or the funding of terrorist or criminal activities in its operations.
The sanctions compliance policy aims to establish the principles to be followed when managing the Group’s compliance with economic sanctions regimes and aims to establish the minimum standards that protect the Company, its directors, employees, staffs, and its shareholders from exposure to sanctions risks.
The Group assesses the impact of natural disasters, such as floods and earthquakes, on its resources and overall operations. This analysis provides valuable insights into the Company’s susceptibility to such calamities, identifying areas that may require adaptation to mitigate risks. The assessment confirms that seven of the operating subsidiaries have been impacted by 34 natural calamities this year, with operational and financial impact in nine cases. The Philippines is most frequently affected by natural calamities, the majority of which are seasonal storms and flooding.
SPI4 is one of the most widely used social assessment tools for microfinance institutions Protecting ur clients (‘MFIs’) and helps MFIs evaluate their implementation of the Universal Standards for social performance management. On the basis of internal assessment, on average, the Group scored 92% out of 100%, scoring highest (96% and 98%) on treating clients and employees responsibly. The data reflects a balanced performance demonstrating a strong execution on all dimensions. The internal SPI4 assessments are currently being audited by an external agency.
The Company aspires to be an inclusive and diverse organisation. As a global company, active in 15 countries, the Company celebrates its culturally diverse workforce. In terms of gender, in 2022, the operating subsidiaries represented 34.8% of the Group’s overall female representation, broken down in East Africa: 12.2%, West Africa: 9.3%, East Asia: 9.1% and South Asia: 4.3%. Due to cultural reasons in South Asia and safety issues related to travelling alone, hiring women still appears to be a challenge in this region, which impacts the Group’s overall gender representation. The female representation at the senior leadership level at subsidiary level is 24%. In terms of age, 53% of the Company’s employees are under 30 years old and 1% over 50. To improve gender representation in the Company, a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (‘DEI’) committee has been formed, a DEI policy is being drafted, and targets for 2023 are being finalized.