‘Inclusive Business has the Potential to be a Driving Force for Sustainability’

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The convener of the 6th edition of the annual continent-wide Africa CEO Roundtable & Conference, Ini Onuk-Abimbola in this interview with Mary Ekah, says why this year’s edition of the 2016 AR-CSR™ is special and the main reason behind the theme picked for this year

Why still operating locally after the AR-CSR™ has held many years?

We decided to organise a special event rather than the first regional forum that was to hold in Accra. Our peculiar situation as an economy with so much potential informed this year’s theme, ‘Building Inclusive and Sustainable Businesses’. The AR-CSR™ has held for five years in Nigeria. In 2011, the first edition examined ‘The Business Case for CSR and its impact on African Economies’; the second edition in 2012 considered the theme ‘Sustainable Development: Expanding Economic Opportunities for Public-Private Synergy’. 2013 discussed ‘Driving Innovation through Transformational Leadership and Sustainability’, 2014 ‘The Intersection: Financial Inclusion, Economic Sustainability and Social Benefit’ and in 2015, conversations moved ‘From Corporate Governance to Sustainable Governance’.

What makes this particularly edition special?

This edition is particularly significant because it is the first that will parade all Nigerian speakers discussing issues specific to the Nigerian context. Also, this edition is closed and an invite-only event. We discuss Inclusive Businesses this year because the dearth of inclusion has become a recurrent trend and an issue businesses need to pay attention to in order to remain sustainable.

Why the theme ‘Building Inclusive and Sustainable Businesses?

Demand is shifting to emerging markets particularly in Africa. With their growing middle class, these new markets represent the single biggest growth opportunity in the portfolio of many companies around the world. Although the concept of inclusive business has not dominated our business environment fully as of yet, its profile has significantly risen in the last five years. Multinationals like Cadbury, Coca-Cola, and Unilever have implemented inclusive business models. Whatever the motive for implementing inclusive business models, there is no denying that by developing inclusive business models, these companies will ultimately be benefiting their bottom lines and building strong foundations in emerging markets. Moreover, inclusive business has the potential to be a driving force for inclusion and sustainability; contributing to the effective implementation of the SDGs.

What are the highlights of discussions?

The 2016 AR-CSR™ will discuss the need for more inclusive businesses through sessions focused on global leadership to drive inclusive growth and businesses, explore existing and alternative startup and ecosystem models for inclusive businesses, critically review how to multiply and scale impact through investments as well as ways that we all can foster SME growth through inclusive business.

What role exactly does a platform or initiative like the AR-CSR™ plays in today’s business environment?

Platforms such as this promote thought leadership, demonstrate best practices and assist professionals to engage and explore innovative solutions to everyday challenges. We have received unique testimonials, seen the development of initiatives from the event and best practices over the years. This is why the Africa CEO Roundtable and Conference on Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility (AR-CSR™) remains a platform, which brings business leaders, governments, experts and practitioners together to engage on issues of sustainability, social responsibility and sustainable development in Africa. As a foremost industry flagship event, it continues to attract the crème of Africa’s leading figures and decision makers in order to commence and sustain best practices on sustainable development in Africa.

Who are the AR-CSR™ conveners?

That’s another proud achievement for us because for five years, the AR-CSR™ successfully held under ThistlePraxis Consulting. In the fourth year of the AR-CSR™ however, ThistlePraxis Consulting committed to set up a parent organisation so the platform can evolve into a stand-alone organisation in order to attract better funding, support and independence from ThistlePraxis. Last year, at the fifth edition, AR-CSR™ was finally restructured as the flagship initiative of the Foundation for Sustainability and Responsibility in Africa (FSRA), standing as an independent programme yet, with the same objective of promoting the advancement of sustainability across the African continent.

Who are the expected speakers at this year’s edition?

Leading the impressive panel of discussants to deliver the keynote addresses for the event is Onyeche Tifase, first Nigerian and female CEO of Siemens Nigeria, and Chief Keith Richards, Chairman of Promasidor Nigeria Limited. Other confirmed speakers include: Bunmi Lawson, MD/CEO of Accion Microfinance Bank; Adenike Adeyemi, Executive Director of Fate Foundation; Bolaji Finnih, CEO of Techpreneur Africa; Chidinma Lawanson, CEO of EFInA; Engr. Kola Masha, Managing Director of Babban Gona; Mezuo Nwuneli, Managing Director of Sahel Capital/Co-Founder, AACE Foods; Joycee Awosika, Founder/CEO of Oriki Group; Shola Ladoja, Founder of Simply Green; Yemisi Iranloye, Managing Director, Psaltry International Limited; Adenike Kuti, Associate Director, Leapfrog Investments amongst many others.

Who are the target audience of the AR-CSR™?

Due to the multiple events that take place, we cater to various organisations and cadres of professionals from C-Suite officials, Chief Executives and Board Chairmen to professionals in the space – sustainability, CSR, Corporate social investment – to corporate affairs, public relations, external relations and government affairs etc. We also enjoy active participation of the academia and government agencies as well. This is not leaving out nonprofit organisations.

After this edition, what next is expected?

Under the new body FSRA, AR-CSR™ will begin a series of regional fora across the continent. We are consulting widely for mutually beneficial partnerships and opportunities across board. This means future editions of the AR-CSR™ as well as other impactful initiatives for private, public and non-profit organisations.