#300th Edition: Advocating  Sustainability in Africa (II)

Last week, we commemorated the 300th edition of CSRFilesTM, providing a sneak preview of the first two series of a five-series Compendium. The Compendium articulates the different areas covered in the publication within the last five (5) years.

The Executive Series (Series 1) features articles in business/industry, whilst the CSR and Sustainability Series (Series 2) focuses on specific strategies to sustainable development, how corporate sustainability levels businesses, sustainability  trends, as well as designing, communicating and reporting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)/Sustainability.

Below are picks from the last three (3) series – Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Sectors: Agriculture, Education and Health and Gender and Environment.

SERIES 3

SDGs: These are exclusively MDGs/SDGs and Sustainable Development articles such as: Making the SDGs work, Fast-tracking the SDGs through Technology and Education, SDGs@1: What Stakeholders want, SDGs@2: Demonstrating Corporate Leadership through Reporting, UN MDGs report for Sub-Saharan Africa, Solidarity for Poverty Eradication, How the Private Sector approaches the SDGs in Nigeria, Tracking the SDGs Contributions of the Private Sector in Nigeria, Insecurity In Africa: Hindrance to Achieving Sustainable Development?

#SDGsAt1:  What Stakeholders Want

We hosted a weeklong chat on Twitter to engage stakeholders (selected from the academia, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), youth advocacy groups, and sustainability experts/private sector), in order to properly capture stakeholder perception of the goals –  the progress made, and what they envisage for the future of the goals, especially in Nigeria. Conversations were focused on fostering partnerships, implementation strategies and private sector leadership and also captured developments, activities and progress made across sectors.

Below are some excerpts:

Sensitisation: It is unfortunate that many Africans whom the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) address most have no adequate knowledge about what the goals are and how they sync with the peculiar challenges of the continent.

Sub-Saharan Africa alone has more than half of the world’s extremely poor people; a continent where 41% of the population live in poverty (World Bank, 2013). The region is in need of the SDGs more than any other region.

The Nigerian academia observed that although there have been some advocacies for the goals by the private sector, NGOs, and advocacy groups, ignorance about the goals still persist in Nigeria.

There is therefore the need for aggressive sensitisation of the general public on the goals, the direction the government intends to thread, and most importantly, the link between the goals and the country’s challenges.

There is also the need to domesticate the goals to the Nigerian context.  Educational institutions at all levels should take the responsibility of promoting the goals. For instance, primary school pupils could be taught early and tertiary institutions could offer educational courses to build capacity on the goals, students should carry out semester and year projects on specific SDGs, and textbooks and courses outlines should be updated to include SDGs.

On sensitising government officials, government needs to partner the academia to train civil servants on SDGs while state legislators should also get trained on understanding and applying the SDGs for the development of their various states.

SDGs as a Business Case: Many private sector organisations are yet to articulate the SDGs as a business case.  If this is not intentionally posited, uptake will remain low. Private partnerships are key and one of the goals clearly focuses on partnerships but they need to be harnessed with relevant stakeholders. We need to  identify stakeholders who are already working in various aspects of the goals and formulate a cohesive strategy.

SERIES 4

Gender and Environment: This series contains articles such as: Activating Concrete Steps towards a Safe Planet, Forest and Water: Nature’s Superheroes for Sustainable Energy, Sources of Clean Energy, Does Global Warming Affect you?, the many Sides of the Unresolved Bonga Oil Spill, The Road to Renewables:  A tale of Two worlds, Women Empowerment as a Corporate Sustainable Investment, Bridging the inequality gap in Nigeria, The Business case for Women Networks.

Does Global Warming affect you?

In this article, we featured ten (10) ways global warming affects every human. Below are five (5):

  1. Destruction of Ecosystems: Fluctuating climatic situations and intense increases in carbon dioxide will put our ecosystems at a disadvantage, which could threaten supply of fresh water, clean air, fuel and energy resources, food, medicine and other materials that we depend upon not just for our lifestyles, but for our survival.
  2. Conflicts and War: Climate change and its consequences such as food and water instability pose threats for war and conflict, thus, what this suggests is that violence and ecological crises are intertwined. Therefore countries suffering from water shortages and crop loss become vulnerable to security trouble, including regional instability, panic and aggression.
  3. Economic Consequences: Extreme weather can create extreme financial setbacks. Severe storms and floods combined with severe agricultural losses, which will require a lot of money in fixing the damages. Consumers are bound to face rising food and energy costs while governments suffer the consequences of disaster cleanup and border tensions.
  4. Diseases: Warmer temperatures along with associated floods and droughts are encouraging world-wide health threats by creating an environment where mosquitoes, ticks, mice and other disease-carrying creatures thrive. Global warming promotes increased smog, which is linked to increasing cases of asthma attacks.
  5. Storms and Floods: Experts use climate models to project the impact rising global temperatures will have on precipitation. However, recently no modeling is required to understand that severe storms are happening more frequently around the world.

SERIES 5

Sectors:  Agriculture, Education, Health: Articles in this series include: Bridging Nigeria’s food security gap, Innovations in Agriculture; Ideas, possibilities, strategies, Making the Case for Urban Agriculture, Reaching Africa’s Literacy Target: The Past, Present and Future, Digitalising Education: Bridging the Rural-Urban Divide in Nigeria, Unusual Tie: Climate Change, Ebola, Lassa, and Zika, Sustainable Healthcare through Vaccination, Sustainable Health through Sustainable Environment, Improving Health Care Systems in Africa for a Future where no one is left Behind.

CSR Investments as a Means of Improving the Standard of Education in Nigeria

It remains an irony that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) investments in education are yet to improve the standard of education in Nigeria despite huge private sector investments made in the sector.

Below are excerpts on why Nigeria has not registered visible improvements, despite huge CSR investments in the education sector and how CSR can be an effective tool in improving the sector henceforth:

Wrong Strategies: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) investments in education are yet to improve the standard of education in Nigeria due to wrong strategies employed by many companies. 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 prisoners is paramount whilst CSR support to low cost private schools and institutions for special needs and 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.

Strategically or CEO Driven? It is important that CSR is strategically-driven and not CEO-driven. It should come from strategic thinking that aligns with 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 games 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 with no measurable impact; measuring impact is a strong aspect of any CSR initiative which determines overall success or no success of all activities cum investments. Yet, there are several measurement standards available for every form/level of CSR initiatives.

The Nigerian education standard should have improved if companies actually invest mostly in education as the annual review indicated. However, since that has not been the case, there is need for a strong collaboration between private organisations in a bid to deal with the deplorable Nigeria education system. Being responsible in profit maximisation should be an organisation’s first social responsibility. As much as there is nothing wrong in giving back, which is the motivation for CSR in most organisations (according to report findings), it must be strategic and capable of yielding a return on investments (RoI). Therefore, as CSR professionals are thinking of giving back, they should also consider RoI, which enables the survival of the business as well as increase the motivation for more effective CSR.

CSR is also a means of making money;  gaining market recognition and increasing return on investments unfortunately, many organisations do not see how to make money from CSR. Brand owners have to engage in CSR and in turn sustainability for market penetration and to increase Return on Investment (ROI).

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.

Our  Submission

CSR Investments in education have long suffered from full impact due to wrong strategies employed by companies. The only effective approach to ensuring that the education sector of the country reflects CSR investments is when CSR professionals come together to set standards and form credible partnerships that can move CSR forward. Collaboration between private companies on one hand and between the private and public sector on the other hand is the only way the impacts of CSR investments can be visible on companies, stakeholders and the country as a whole.

*Article written by ThistlePraxis Consulting

 

 

 

 

 

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