Supporting Communities Through CSR

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Jonathan Eze examines the CSR initiatives of May&Baker and posits that its programmes are aimed at impacting on host communities
 
 
A few cynical chief executives will inevitably try to portray themselves as responsible when they are decidedly not. And for some critics, nothing short of a massive overhaul of the world system will suffice. 
 
The truth is that many large corporations are devoting real time and money to environmental sustainability programmes and various social welfare initiatives. These activities should be encouraged, but at the same time, continually questioned and reassessed.
 
In 2010, the International Organisation for Standardisation released ISO 26000, a set of voluntary standards meant to help companies implement corporate social responsibility. In clear terms therefore, a company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment in which it operates is referred to as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
 
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of May and Baker, Mr. Nnamdi Okafor, priortises the need to give back to the society as a way of discharging its CSR functions to communities where it operates.
 
Recently, the company donated sick bays to the Central Primary School, Ikeja, St. Agnes Primary School, Yaba, United Africa Methodist Primary School, Oyingbo among others. The staff and pupils and even the parent associations were excited at the initiative.
 
When THISDAY asked the Corporate Communications Manager, May and Baker, Clement Adulugba, he disclosed that the company’s corporate social responsibility initiative is geared towards engendering hope, empowering people and supporting public health and well-being. “It is a total package with economic and health outlook executed for the betterment of life and delivered as philanthropic social responsibility.
 
“Our company has been environmentally friendly and all products are manufactured under standard labour practices and safe working conditions. We are reputed for constantly promoting employee well-being especially in such areas as education, health, and culture. From our experience over the decades, we have developed and cultivated more efficient supply chains, and have both acquired and partnered in technology that helped other companies and partners achieve their sustainability goals.”
 
Adulugba added that the company is sensitive to the socio-political environment and will continue to sustain cordial relations with their host communities and the government at all levels.
 
Meanwhile, the 2017 World Hypertension Day became another opportunity for the company to demonstrate its social responsibility. The company ventured on a direct sensitisation campaign tagged ‘Walk for Life’ where free hypertension and blood pressure testing and checks were administered.
All through the walk, the company’s caravan was accompanied by members of the Federal Road Safety Corp, the Nigerian Police Force, the Army, Medical team and ambulance from Agege Local Government Area providing security and welfare.
 
Also worthy of mention is the recent partnership struck between the company and the federal government on production of vaccines is yet another testimony to its determination to impact significantly on the nation’s economy.
The MD, Okafor described the partnership as one that is in the right direction with bountiful health benefits for millions of infants, women and adult Nigerians.
 
According to him, “This is good for Nigeria, as the citizens will have swift and unmitigated access to vaccines. Henceforth, Nigeria will be respected as a vaccines producing country on the African continent alongside South Africa (fill finish only), Tunisia (producing limited BCG and rabies), Ethiopia (just starting), Egypt (some DTP and fill finish) and Senegal by Aventis pasteur producing yellow fever vaccines. I believe that in the last 200 years, the greatest human invention is vaccines because it is the foremost health security tool.”
 
He disclosed that, the Joint Venture Agreement was cemented on the merit of the vast industry experience and pedigree of May and Baker in local medicines manufacture. May and Baker has over 72 years’ experience, expertise (especially as a subsidiary of the multinational vaccines manufacturing giant Aventis Pasteur), and knowledge in drug manufacturing and distribution in Nigeria.  
 
“The company has been in the business of local production of medicines as well as in distribution and marketing of human vaccines and biologicals in Nigeria for nearly 40 years with the inauguration of its first plant in Ikeja in 1978.
 
Okafor added that May and Baker is a pace-setting Pharma House in many respects. “In 2006, May and Baker set up one of the first facilities for production of anti-retroviral (HIV/AIDS) drugs in Nigeria and has been a major supplier of these important medicines to federal government for its programme on management of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.”
 
Continuing, he stated that, “In 2011, the company inaugurated a World Health Organisation (WHO) Standard Pharmaceutical production facility, ‘Pharmacentre’ in Ota, Ogun State, the biggest in West and Central Africa. This facility, is today one of the very few in Africa to be certified by WHO for current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP). The company is now in the process of prequalifying an anti-retroviral drug with the WHO.”
 
Addressing journalists after the federal executive council approval, the Minister of Health, Prof. Issac Adewole said: “A key leg in the Joint Venture Agreement is the establishment of a company called Bio-vaccines Ltd which will be jointly owned by Federal Government of Nigeria and May and Baker Plc. The board of the company will comprise seven Directors; four from May and Baker and three from federal government. But the Board will be headed by a government appointee who must be an expert in this field.
 
“Biovaccines is a full private company and will source and generate its funds accordingly. The company would be expected to meet the nation’s basic vaccines requirements in the next four years.”
 
Okafor also made some authoritative clarifications on the Joint Venture Agreement when he said, “The selection of May and Baker as government partner on this project is not a mere happenstance. May and Baker approached the government in the late ‘90s and then presented its first proposal in 2004 for the rehabilitation of the moribund Federal Vaccines Production Laboratory, which, at the time, was a desolate and deteriorated facility for over 13 years.”
 
“In policy, that decision was taken in 2005 by the Government of President Olusegun Obasanjo and endorsed by the four successive Ministers of Health- Professors Eyitayo Lambo, Adenike Grange, Babtunde Osotimehin and Onyebuchi Chukwu before the current minister.  What the Federal Executive Council just did was to ratify the revised and renewed 2007 Joint Venture Agreement and this decision preceded the Public Procurement Act 2007 which prescribed open competitive bidding.”
 
The federal government is for this and many more reasons interested in supporting the company to grow optimally and maximally. This was confirmed with the visit of the Minister of Industry, Trade, and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah to the Pharmacentre.
 
In her presentation, the Head Pharma Manufacturing, Mrs. Yetunde Adigun, told the minister and his entourage that the root cause of the variance between installed capacity and capacity utilisation is traced to impact of declining economy. She noted that this factor greatly impacted the capacity utilisation in 2016 as there were long periods of time when the factories could not run as a result of stock outs of key input materials arising from the lack of foreign exchange.
 
On sea port issues, she further said: “More recently, root cause of stock outs have shifted to the issues at the port where clearing and transporting of goods are taking longer than expected leading to longer lead times and production down time.”
 
She added that there is a general preference for imported products especially when purchase of such drugs is being funded by donor agencies.
The MD also reeled out some of the challenges it was facing to the minister and his entourage but he was soon consoled by Enelamah’s response and that of the Bank of Industry’s MD, Mr. Kayode Pitan.
 
The minister said: “Let me say first that we are very glad to have come to May and Baker. We are in this partnership for the vaccines and it’s a very important project for the government. We want to see this prevention is better than cure approach and we are glad that May and Baker was very well represented at the meeting where it was approved and frankly, I am glad that you are maintaining that spirit of excellence.
 
“Let me say that we do want to partner with you as a company and the private sector in general and as a pharmaceutical company and other companies to solve problems in ways so that we can move ahead and then we have a sense of urgency spread across government and I am sure if Bank of Industry (BOI) and Industrial Training Fund (ITF) talk, you will find that we are working to find solutions to issues because many of us come from the private  sectors, we felt your pains and we know that when we don’t work, it is not good.
 
“We want your businesses to grow ahead and when we don’t solve the problems, it stops them from developing. You have been here for a long time and I am not surprised. I also know that you have trained a lot of people who have gone to other things. I am happy that you are still here thinking to grow, innovate and other things for Nigerians.
 
“Let me also say that in terms of the industry as a whole, we are very interested in the move towards producing more locally and the move towards quality assurance and better standards, whether it is in terms of the work we are doing with the World Bank, in terms of best practices and certifications, generally making sure that you deal with issues of fake drugs and substandard drugs that the quality will meet the people because it all affects the healthcare of all. It is very important.
 
“Let me also say in terms of industrialisation as a whole, moving beyond pharmaceuticals, the main thrust of this government is basically to diversify the economy in ways that increases the local production, in what I called local value added and create more jobs locally and we know the only way to do it is to partner industries and manufacturers and players in the private sectors.
 
“We are not paying lip service when we say we want to understand your problems and see how we are to solve it but the main message I would like to leave with you is that we genuinely and are very interested in being part of the solutions. If you ask me, people in government, they can probably list all the problems you have. But my point is that it’s good to state the issues but we must be quick in solving them.
 
“My approach to problem solving is that, I like people who first accept responsibility. Anybody that’s a student of personal effectiveness or anybody who is a life coach would tell you that we begin to get solution when the person accepts the problem. Most people look at issues from what can you do for me but problems don’t get solved from there.
 
“What will be good is to say these are the issues, these are ways we want to go about them and what you should do for us and I am sure you will find us helping out.”
 
Continuing he said: “I am not trying to abdicate problems, it also applies to me. I don’t want to take too much of your time. I talked about how we are doing things and you capture them. I am glad that you have keyed into that, but by far the most important legacy we want to leave behind as a government is to deal with the issue of enabling environment.
 
“I would be extensive in that. It includes both soft and hard infrastructure. We want to make it easier for you to deal with government, easier for you to get cleared from the ports too.”
 
On his part, the Managing Director of BOI and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Kayode Pitan, promised to continue to partner with the company.
He said: “We want to improve your capacity so that you can employ more people. Like you said we have worked in the past, let’s see how we can meet and work more. The problems that you listed are common to most of the industries. We had forex problems and because of that, working capital tripled in some cases, delays in ports, working capital increased. Similar problems everywhere, but they can be solved. Cost of financing, interest are high, you said you are paying about 25 per cent. 
 
There are few businesses that you can do, pay 25 per cent interest and still be very profitable. That’s why BOI is in business. Government want to lower that cost and we are aware, as you are ,making effort to help the MSME’s and we know that people like you that employ 1,000 workers must also be supported. Of course we are open for business.  
 
“We want you to grow, more people in your sub sector, we want more people to have World Bank certification that you are able to produce drugs in a conducive environment and quality products.”
PHOTO CAPTION
Representative of the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Adeola Sogbesan (right), observing the administration of free anti-hypertensive therapy by Staff of May and Baker Nig. Plc to mark the 2017 World Hypertension Day at Agege in Lagos…recently