“Since our admission as a member state of the United Nations in 1960, we have always participated in all efforts to bring about global peace, security and development. Nigeria will continue to support the UN in all its efforts, including the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
These were the final words of the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, at the general debate of the 72nd Session United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, September 20, 2017.
The attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is projected to bring an end to extreme poverty, inequality and the threat of climate change globally. Therefore, the attention of world leaders and indeed every country has constantly been drawn to the initiation of a strategy and framework capable of hitting the bull’s eye on the global goals.
On September 25, 2017, the SDGs clocked two years proving yet another time to reflect on collective progress and a cross-examination of activities by all the 193 country signatories. Since the goals came into effect on January 1, 2017, the United Nations and various governmental and private bodies, have published several reports to reflect progress within different regions and countries,
Nigeria’s progress report as delivered by the Senior Special Adviser to the President on the SDGs – Princess Adejoke Orelope – Adefulire at the last United Nations High Level Political Forum (July, 2017) reveals that the country has integrated the Global Goals into national, state and sectorial policies with a comprehensive plan and budget. Nevertheless, economic recession and insecurity have been the major threats to its implementation. In reality, Nigeria has not made much progress with the goals as current economic instability, poor state of education (over 10 million out of school children), health, sanitation (57 million Nigerians lack safe water, over 130 million lack adequate sanitation – (OXFAM, 2017), infrastructure deficit (135,000Km of the about 195,000km road networks in Nigeria not tarred – ICPC, 2017), non-converging gender inequality in many sectors (102 men to 7 women in the Nigerian Senate), insufficient energy(less than 4,000mw supply), and climate concerns (recurrent flooding) have in the recent past revealed.
Despite the fact that slow progress in implementing the SDGs in Nigeria has been attributed to insecurity and economic recession, it is quite debilitating that there has been no exponential progress made with the clamp on insecurity as the unity of the country remains threatened by rising agitating groups and terrorists. Although the National Bureau of Statistics has declared that Nigeria is out of recession, cost of living has remained high for an average Nigerian. Clearly, the progress of Nigeria towards the SDGs is slower than needed to meet the 2030 targets.
For Nigeria to register significant progress with the SDGs specific goals must be prioritised according to peculiar realities and needs, as the thrust of the country’s socio-economic development strategy. Most importantly, voluntary and more active participation of every sector (public, private, non-governmental) is imperative before any phenomenal results can be achieved with the goals in Nigeria. Although undeniable that the private sector has made significant contributions towards the implementation of the goals, results may remain inconspicuous unless implementation is better structured and reporting is amplified.
The SDGs and the Private Sector
The SDG Compass developed by the combined efforts of the GRI, the UN Global Compact, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) further demonstrates that the SDGs have a fundamental effect on Private Sector activities. Furthermore, the UN Development Group (UNDG) proclaims that the influence that the Private Sector wields is in itself an SDG Implementation strategy. Globally, it is estimated that between US $5tr and US $7tr a year is required to implement many aspects of the goals including infrastructure, water, sanitation, energy, and agriculture. This is impossible to attain without collaboration and long-term partnerships and the business case for alignment is partly hinged on this. Nonetheless, the first step towards alignment is deciding on which of the goals relate most to the focus and activities of a particular business, followed by an identification of priorities.
Based on the identification of a business focus, some organisations have already incorporated the SDGs into their operations, notably in the financial, food and beverage sectors. Union Bank for instance, prioritises seven (7) of the goals (4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12). These are basically goals related to the DNA of the financial sector. For example, Goals 8 and 10 on good jobs and economic growth and reduced inequality respectively, should be core for every financial institution. Likewise are goals 5, 7, 13 on gender equality, clean energy, and protection of the planet, which are key for sustainable banking, as espoused in the Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBP). Unilever through its Sustainable Living Plan, prioritises three goals based on its products, production model and impact – SDGs 2, 6, and 15 – hunger, water, and life on land. Thus the company prides itself as leading in mainstreaming sustainable agriculture, sustainable access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene and tackling climate change threat through the elimination of deforestation.
Some organisations operating in peculiar sectors have even gone a step ahead to appoint SDG Ambassadors who drive the implementation of each prioritised goal. For instance, Ericsson’s 17 SDG ambassadors work on how ICT (its core focus) can be utilised for achieving each goal in the ever-growing digital world. Creating new technologies as a focus produces services that can enhance lives, responding to most of the goals. Total Nigeria on its part has integrated all the goals into its operations basically through its large Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) areas, for the purpose of strengthening operations.
For every organisation, the implementation of the SDGs should reflect in product and service offers, investments, CSR initiatives, material use and production model, as well as in relationship with all stakeholders. Clearly, not until every private organisation in Nigeria owns each of the SDGs as part of its business strategies, the country might continue to struggle with implementation.
A critical review of the SDGs clearly shows that there is a huge opportunity, through a lot of the goals if the private sector committed diligently. According to the International Business Forum, more than 90% of jobs in developing countries and more than 50% of GDP are derived from the private sector. Provision of jobs to the people will lead to poverty reduction, a stop to hunger, as well as good health and well-being which will move the world closer to the achievement of Goals 1, 2, 3, 8 and 10.
Aside inculcating responsible production practices into operations, private organisations by reason of their influence on stakeholders can also promote responsible production within their supply chains as well as sustainable patterns of consumption amongst consumers, in order to address Goal 12. Furthermore, reducing emissions by embracing renewables in company productions and embracing recycling practices will reduce the risk of climate change as espoused in Goal 13. Investments in providing infrastructure that will both ease operations and yield more profits can lead to the achievement of Goal 9.
Identifying with and implementing the SDGs will not be a form of additional investment but a part of established daily business operations when private organisations prioritise goals according to their business focus and operations. This will not only lead to an overall attainment of the goals in the country, it will also amongst other benefits to the organisations, create opportunities for innovation, management of risks, maintaining responsible social, economic and environmental business standard that will in turn grow more resilient businesses.
As the world marks another year of the SDGs, it is important to be reminded that commitment and success can only be acknowledged when the common man begins to experience sustainable development, first hand.
Oxfam (2017), Inequality in Nigeria, Exploring the Drivers: Oxfam International
Total (2017), Corporate Social Responsibility Report 2016: The Upstream Companies of Total in Nigeria
Scott, M (2017), Business Strategy Integral to SDG Success: Ethical Corporation
Unilever (2017), Unilever Sustainable Living Plan: Summary of Progress 2016: Unilever Sustainable Business and Communications
Union Bank (2017), Citizenship, Sustainability, and Innovation 2016 Report: Union Bank