Building a Sustainable CSR Strategy


Raheem Akingbolu writes on how Airtel Touching Lives, initiated by the telecommunications company has deepened the brand’s market penetration as well as its acceptability


Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), one of the stems of sound corporate governance is increasingly attaining wider global and local adoption as its impacts in helping nations meet their sustainable development goals become more perceptible. Today, top executives across different industry want to demonstrate their corporate citizenship through altruistic, ethical and legal initiatives that presents their organisations as socially responsible.

However, the big challenge for executives is how to develop an approach that can truly deliver on these lofty ambitions—and, as of yet, few have found the way. Some innovative companies have managed to overcome this hurdle, with smart partnering emerging as one way to create value for both the business and society simultaneously. Some others have also been able to create a sustainable CSR Strategy tailored towards their values.


Airtel example

A prime example of such organization is Airtel Nigeria. The telco, through its flagship CSR intervention dubbed Airtel Touching Lives has impacted thousands of lives since its initiation in 2015.

Airtel has entrenched the CSR initiative into its sustenance plan – in line with its business values, shown commitment to uplifting the downtrodden and offering practical support to needy Nigerians across the country.

Before the recent announcement of the season 4 of the project, the company through Touching Lives rekindled hope for the hopeless and gave voice to the voiceless through their selfless supports.


One of the unforgettable episodes of the last season was the story of Olusegun Aina family, who recently gave birth to a set of twins (a boy and a girl) after losing three children to an inferno and became homeless through the incidence. Airtel Touching Lives built and donated a multi-million Naira, ultra-modern 2-bedroom apartment for the family and also paid for all outstanding medical bills incurred while undergoing treatment of injuries sustained in the fire.

Other highlights of the last edition also include the donation of laptops, digital voice recorder and other gadgets to Bethesda Home and School; procurement of prosthetic leg for Emmanuel Onyeka and Scholarship for his University education. A 9-year-old cancer patient, Pillar Egona also received N3m for her chemotherapy treatment.


Echoes from season 2

During the Airtel Touching Lives Season 2, there were several emotional stories of courage and hope. The story of a young girl, Hannah Enakerakpor, who suffered from a life-threatening disease, was a touching story that Airtel intervene in. Through the Touching Lives programme, the company ensured that Hannah lived. Airtel Nigeria bankrolled her surgery in India and thankfully the surgery was very successful. Today she is living a healthy and happy life. Similar beneficiary was Blind Gbenga Adesida, a blind man who lost custody of his children because he was homeless. A new apartment was built for him by Airtel so he could reunite with his family,

In season 1, Airtel empowered several individuals and communities. However, some stories stood out. For example, Essienkan Ebong, a former police officer lost his eyes to an armed robbery attack in 2013. All efforts to restore his sight proved abortive. Ebong, a graduate of computer science, with a PGD in Mathematics and MSc in Computer Science, didn’t give up hope and neither did Airtel give up on him. Through the Touching Lives programme, we came to his aid, providing him with a Braille Object Identification Scanner, a Braille Machine, Speech Software, an America skim guide and a brand new sophisticate, special laptop to help him actualise his dream despite his disability. Today, Ebong is empowered and he is helping to empower other people in his immediate community.



“Since we launched the Airtel Touching Lives initiative three years ago, we have achieved remarkable successes having restored hope of despaired individuals and families, saved many from the throes of death and empowered many underprivileged Nigerians”, Mr. Segun Ogunsanya, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Nigeria, said while speaking at the press launch of the new season.

“While the Government and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) cannot do it all, we have a responsibility to contribute our quota in making Nigeria a better place. As we commence the fourth edition, we are calling on Nigerians to nominate causes and persons who require help. The process is simple. Once you nominate an individual or cause, our team will review and assess the situation and determine if a follow-up visit will be required”, Mr. Ogunsanya enthused.

“You can nominate individuals or projects in your communities by dialling 367 or by sending an SMS to the Shortcode, 367. Also mail can be sent to Together, we all can make our society a better place if we join hands and collaborate to uplift the downtrodden around us”, he stated.

The success of the project has since earned the company several international and local awards with the most recent being the 2017 Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility Awards (SERAS) – (Best Company in Stakeholder Engagement); Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) Award – (CSR Initiative of the Year) and Global Patriot Newspaper award – (Patriot Award for Excellence in CSR).

Some of these key CSR initiatives include the Adopt-a-School programme, Employee Volunteer Scheme, Airtel Five Days of Love Christmas programme and other interventions on health and the environment.­

As businesses act responsively and boost their performance, devoting part of their income to giving back to the society by engaging in various life changing activities is no longer an option but a necessity.