2018 Review: Developments that Shaped the Year

The year 2018 was no doubt a remarkable one with lots of development trajectories. We  reviewed the sustainability efforts of the Nigerian financial sector, the three years of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and what the African Continental Free Trade Area means for Nigeria. We also examined new paradigms for investing, Nigeria and the paths for the SDGs, as well as frameworks and opportunities for sustainable development. In addition, business themes such as how to incorporate sustainable production patterns into businesses, measuring and managing business risks, and promoting growth through impact assessment were anatomised whilst education, environment, gender, agricultural and food security issues were carefully analysed.

This edition features highlights from four (4) editions that capture(d) key developments from 2018 and will still be relevant in the  year  2019.

 

Innovations in Agriculture: Ideas, Possibilities, Strategies

The agricultural sector in Nigeria and Africa at large has been identified as the sector with the potential to drive growth in the economy in more ways than one. However, for governments in the various regions to truly witness expected results from their initiatives and investments in the sector, it is important to deploy strategic processes in the implementation of these initiatives.

Strategies for sustainable farming systems

  • Research and Development (R&D)
  • Innovative Agriculture
  • Urban agriculture/farming
  • Aquaponics
  • Food hubs
  • A multi-stakeholder approach to agricultural innovation: Amongst the various innovations in agricultural systems currently being practiced across regions, a stand out is the multi-dimensional nature of modern agricultural practices. There exists an inadvertent cross- cutting of different interests and disciplines; for example, the potentials of adopting waste management systems in urban farming. Going by this, different sectors like health, waste management, transportation, marketing, processing, community development, parks and nature, marine agencies, urban and regional planning agencies etc. can all partner with agencies and ministries of agriculture to form policies and develop comprehensive strategic action plans for sustained growth within the various sectors.

 

Measuring and Managing Business Risks as Part of Sustainable Business Culture

Ahead of the imminent elections in the country in 2019, some organisations are beginning to experience uncertainty in their business processes due to the looming political and socio-economic volatility that elections in Nigeria have been known to herald. Amid falling oil prices, heightened insurgency incidents and mistrust between the north and south, the last general elections which held in 2014 left a lot of businesses unable to cope, especially after the recession hit the country in the months that followed. The current political climate has seen the rise of economic and business analysts trying to predict the outcomes for businesses and the nation at large.

In order to survive, businesses must be able to envisage the ripple effects of certain external factors and take the necessary steps to mitigate damaging impacts on their processes or overall business outcomes. In addition to the associated risks induced by political incidents like elections, organisations also need to consider more ways to proactively predict and manage business risks as they occur. This is one of the hallmarks of sustainable business practices.

Assessing Business Risks

Business risks as they affect the operations and processes of an organisation can either arise from internal or external factors. According to the Australian Standard, risk is defined as “the chance of something happening that will have an impact on objectives.” They affect a business’s ability to operate either directly or indirectly.

Keeping in mind that some of these risks can come up at any given time, forward thinking businesses should be aware of some of the common risks that directly affect them and make efforts to curb their effects. Some of them include:

  • Climate Risks & Natural Disasters
  • Pandemic Risks
  • Legal Risks
  • Technological Risks
  • Economic & Financial Risks: This is arguably one of the major risks businesses worry about most of the time. They occur as a result of global financial events, increase in interest rates, shortages in cash flow, high costs of good, unfulfilled customers’ payment and so many more. In the face of economic or financial risks, businesses that would stay afloat are those that consider and imbibe diversification, invest in proper insurance, and reduce debts to the barest minimum.

As a rule of thumb, organisations that wish to remain sustainable and continue to experience business growth, should make managing risks an integral part of their processes and operations.

 

Three Years of the UN SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have a strategic focus to address poverty, improve democratic governance, combat climate change and disaster risk, as well as tackle economic inequality through partnerships with governments, the private sector, civil society and citizens alike.

In achieving the SDGs, Nigeria seems to have taken progressive steps through an improved attempt at private-public sector collaboration, a different trajectory from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) whose emphasis was on developed countries’ roles in helping developing countries. This collaboration creates opportunities for more engagement and participation in the success of the SDGs. The established Nigeria Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG) reflects the Global Private Sector Advisory Group set up by the United Nations Sustainable Development Funds to achieve a more focused symbiotic relationship for the SDGs because of the lapses experienced during the implementation of the MDGs.

The Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President (OSSAP) on SDGs was also established to aid seamless correlations between policies, plans and strategies towards attaining the SDGs.

The OSSAP on SDGs in collaboration with The National Bureau of Statistics along with other stakeholders established a baseline for SDG indicators in Nigeria. It tracks and examines the status of the SDG indicators before the commencement of its full implementation. It places emphasis on the important role data plays in monitoring the progress and implementation of the SDGs.

 

Private Sector Partnerships for Sustainable Development

According to the UN conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), US$5 trillion to $7 trillion in annual investment will be required in achieving the SDGs, with an investment gap in developing countries of about $2.5 trillion.  Although developed countries pledged to raise a substantial part of these figures, total Official Development Assistance (ODA) reached a peak of only US$142.6 billion in 2016 (OECD DAC report 2017). It has become more evident that individual countries have to provide a significant share of the resources needed to achieve the SDGs.

Despite the World Bank’s estimation that between 50 and 80 percent of what is required will have to come from domestic resources, no government can solely meet these resources.

Clearly, the success or failure of the SDGs is hinged on the integration of public and private funding, capital cum efforts and investments. It was with this projection that SDG 17, which calls for global partnership towards sustainability, is in itself a stand-alone goal, necessary for the success of the entire SDGs as a whole.

 

How can Businesses collaborate?

Individuals and businesses need not only show interest in collaboration, they need to be aware of the various types of collaboration that offer particularly high potential for accelerating and scaling up business engagement in sustainable development. These types of collaboration include:

Strategic cooperation with business partners and supply chains: Partnerships along supply chains span relationship with suppliers, distributors, retailers, investors, clients and joint venture partners. By setting sustainable production standards with business partners and supply chains, companies can have substantial leverage in driving change towards more responsible, inclusive and sustainable growth along their own value chains. This can be achieved by creating incentives, enforcing sustainable production and supply patterns and providing financing for the supply chain, when necessary.

Multiple private public partnerships: This usually involves a few companies partnering together with NGOs, government entities, and research organisations or each other, to develop new technologies, products, services or business models. According to the UN, technology and innovation are central to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). When strategically approached, research on and development of relevant technologies can be utilised in providing solutions to most of the developmental challenges within countries. In Nigeria for instance, partnerships between two or three tech companies with the government; the ministry of science and technology, as well as private research and development centres, can bring about the needed development of country specific agricultural technologies for improved crop yields, as well as Nigerian-targeted energy technologies.

Inter-industry level CSR alliance: This could be the easiest form of partnership between private sector actors, in driving sustainable development. It involves a group of companies working together on a development challenge to drive sector wide change. The first step towards private sector participation in sustainable development is for businesses to decide what part of the goals relate most to them, identify their priorities, decide on strategies, align corporate strategies with their country’s policies and strategies, and then include these strategies in their operations.

Nevertheless, a more effective approach is by utilising Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) practices/integrating sustainability into their existing CSR activities. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) involves companies’ inclusion of social and environment concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis, as they are increasingly aware that responsible behaviour leads to sustainable business success (EU, 2002). Businesses with similar CSR/sustainability focus can therefore collaborate in delivering value. For instance, a strategic alliance on Education by different organisations investing in that space.

The Year 2019:  it is high time businesses put in place sustainable measures to attain higher productivity, manage risks, diversify production lines and collaborate for sustainable development. Similarly, governments need to put in place relevant policies, focus on improving the ease of doing business, as well as ensure citizens’ compliance to policies and regulations whilst introducing more partnership with the private sector.

 

In 2019, topics such as: Igniting Waste Management Culture in Nigeria, Leadership and Sustainable Development, Tracking the SDG Contributions of the Private Sector, the Executive Series, amongst others, would be featured.

 

*Complete articles/editions are available on www.sustainableconvos.com

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