It has been observed that despite several Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) investments in education, the standards seem to be on the decline in Nigeria especially in 2016. This is just one of the many sectors that have attracted private sector investments over the past few years without corresponding visible impact in growth and development. This summarised the consensus of industry practitioners and stakeholders at the review presentation for an industry report, The State of CSR in Nigeria: 2016 Annual Review Presentation by ThistlePraxis with the support of IHS Nigeria Limited.
ThistlePraxis began the annual review with results that showed that CSR was still thought of as a philanthropic venture in many establishments even though some organisations had documented CSR policies and assigned departments to oversee activities. After 5 years, a second study was commissioned to revisit these trends and map what changes have occurred over time. This second study was particularly significant and therefore presented at an event with industry experts so as to discuss the outcomes and share best practices for challenges of CSR practice in Nigeria. Major findings of the report revealed that after five (5) years, education, youth development and health still rank highest in CSR spending respectively for many Nigerian organisations.
Below are excerpts from the discussions at the event and recommendations on how CSR investments can be an effective tool for improving the various sectors of the economy.
- Improved strategies: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) investments contribute to education in Nigeria. However, a company may actually not be strategically investing in education if it only supports students without also investing in the administration of schools, infrastructure, principals and teachers, as well as other important aspects of education. Investments in education should transcend beyond support for primary, colleges and tertiary institutions only, other forms of institutions must be impacted for investments in education to be all round. For instance, education for juvenile prisoners is paramount whilst CSR support to low cost private schools and institutions of special needs/vulnerable children is also an important aspect of educational investment. It is however not sufficient to dole out social initiatives without tracking. Impact measurement is an important aspect of CSR therefore; it is expedient for every CSR professional to have a strong knowledge of available impact measurement tools.
- Internal Approach: It is important that CEO’s are committed to integrating CSR within their businesses, however, CSR must been strategically driven and not CEO-driven. It should come from strategic thinking that aligns with the company’s focus so the company is able to innovate. CSR professionals should show better understanding of CSR and talk intelligently to convince CEOs and management on strategic social ideas. It is thus expedient that every CSR professional is on top of their game in order to facilitate effective CSR in their various organisations. It is however imperative to measure impact at all times because there is no CSR action without measurable impact. Measuring impact is a strong aspect of any CSR initiative,which determines overall success or no success at all; and there are several measurement standards available for every form/level of CSR initiatives.
- Effective Collaboration: The Nigerian educational standard still falls short despite private sector investment as the annual review indicates. This highlights the need for a strong collaboration between private organisations in a bid to address the quality of education in Nigeria. Whilst giving back is the motivation for CSR in most organisations, CSR must be strategic and capable of yielding a return on investments (RoI). Hence, CSR professionals should also consider RoI, (as being responsible in profit maximisation should be an organisation’s first social responsibility), which enables the survival of the business as well as increase the motivation for more effective CSR.
- Periodic Evaluation: CSR must be thought of strategically as there may not be a reason to continue with CSR if there is no visible impact on an organisation’s revenue. Hence, in gauging the impact of CSR on an organization as well as all stakeholders involved, it is important to periodically evaluate CSR interventions.
Whilst it is important to have a corporate strategy and a defined policy to engage CSR, the following should be considered amongst others:
Is it needs-based?
Are impact and interventions evidence-based?
Is there a balance of interests?
Is it measurable?
Furthermore, a connection of CSR with core business focus is a first step towards an effective CSR. Though the financial impacts of CSR may not be seen in the short run, they are always visible in the long run if judiciously performed, measured and balanced-especially on issues of CSR as philanthropy versus as a business strategy.
- Leverage: CSR should be a strategic business decision, positioning an organisation for improved market recognition and increasing return on investments. Unfortunately, many organisations do not recognize the social and financial returns on CSR. To make CSR interventions sustainable, companies should identify their areas of strength before engaging in any CSR project. For instance, before a company undertakes to build a school, it should consider its capacity to recruit or pay teachers’ salaries. It is not sustainable to buy expensive things for a school without a follow up to ensure that such intervention delivers the purpose for which it was meant. CSR professionals must collaborate and partner to move CSR forward in Nigeria.
- Greater Purpose: The basis for setting up a business is not solely to maximise profit but to be impactful and fill a need and in filling such need, the business makes profit.
These submissions were made by the participating experts led by Dr. Uwem Ite; Tomiwa Asaolu – External Affairs and Sustainability Manager, Unilever Nigeria; Cima Sholotan – Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, IHS Nigeria Limited; Temitayo Ade-Peters – Head, CSR and Sustainability, First City Monument Bank (FCMB); Professor Abayomi Fawehinmi, Human Resources Professional, Development & Leadership Consultant, Social Entrepreneur, Patriot & Education enthusiast; Oyetola Oduyemi – Manager, Corporate and Social Responsibility, Etisalat Nigeria and Ini Abimbola – Lead Consultant, ThistlePraxis Consulting
CSR investments have long suffered remarkable impact due to wrong strategies employed by companies. The only effective approach to ensuring that any sector in Nigeria reflects private sector investments is when standards are set and credible partnerships formed. Ad-hoc investments and random activities will continue to negate widespread growth and development. Collaboration between private companies on one hand and between the private and public sector on the other hand is the best way the impact of CSR investments can be visible on companies, stakeholders and the country as a whole.