Etisalat Nigeria hosted over 30 chief executive officers (CEOs) at a one-day forum to share ideas on the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in a working environment.
With the theme ‘The Challenges of Sustainability in Emerging Markets’, the forum which took place in Lagos, was held under the auspices of the Etisalat CSR Centre, Lagos Business School.
The CEO forum had as keynote speaker, the Head of Department of the People Organisations and Society at Grenoble Ecole de Management in France, Professor Patrick O’Sullivan.
In attendance were the CEOs of Nigerian Breweries, Mr. Nicolaas Vervelde; Promisador Nigeria, Mr. Keith Richards; Julius Berger, Mr. Wolfgang Goetsch, and Sahara Energy Nigeria, Mr. Tonye Cole, among others.
In his speech entitled ‘Corporate Sustainability: A worthy Goal,’ the CEO, Etisalat Nigeria, Mr. Steven Evans who was represented by the company’s Director of Legal Services, Mrs. Adeolu Idowu, said businesses were often associated with a single-minded focus on profits, returns and self-interest.
According to her, there is an increasing requirement for accountability in today’s world. Individuals, and now governments and corporations are accountable for their actions or lack of action.
“Organisations are ultimately responsible for their decisions regarding investments, processes, values, business practices and their interactions; and global pressures now promote more enduring business practices which take into account what are now settled as key factors such as the social and environmental contributions of a company, in addition to its economic performance.” she said.
Quoting a 1987 UN report entitled ‘Our Common Future’, Idowu defined sustainable development as ‘development that meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs and aspirations’.
“Sustainability for corporate organisations represents the giving of equal consideration to economic, environmental and social aspects in our dealings. One way we can contribute to sustainable development is through CSR, especially when there is a deliberately planned strategy driven from the top of the organisation,” she said.
Idowu identified sound corporate governance, ethical and fair operations with all stakeholders and sustainable environment impact as factors that should shape CSR activities of a business.
On his part, O’Sullivan maintained that sustainability of CSR activities had become a burning issue even within most advanced countries and stated that every organisation had to consider each CSR initiative or lack of it from two angles: the business case and the moral case.
“I will argue that a self-respecting businessman need not be allergic to or horrified by the latter, but on the contrary be proud of it. It is in relation to environmental and social sustainability that businesses are very key.” he said.
Challenges identified by CEOs included corporate leadership, energy/resource costs vis-à-vis funds available for operations, irregular sustainability reporting, selfish exclusivity by companies hoarding projects and then neglecting them not too long after implementation and huge launch events, sustainable government policies and overwhelming environmental concerns.
They also highlighted solutions for ensuring sustainability. They said more companies should embrace sound corporate governance practices, carry out their business responsibly, align their corporate strategy with social responsibility-infused programmes, include CSR in their annual budgets and enter into partnerships with relevant MDAs and NGOs.