OPINION: Making Impact, Sustainability Reports and Nigerian Corporate Organisations

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ADEDOYIN ADEWALE

Building and maintaining trust in businesses and governments is fundamental to achieving a sustainable economy and world. Every day, decisions are made by businesses and governments which have direct impacts on their stakeholders, such as financial institutions, labour organisations, civil society and citizens, and the level of trust they have with them. These decisions are rarely based on financial information alone. They are based on an assessment of risk and opportunity using information on a wide variety of immediate and future issues.

But what roles are Nigerian organisations playing in socio-economic developments and what positive impact do they have on the environment they operate in?

In a bid to answer these questions, most organisation release annually a Sustainability Report, a document that details their corporate social responsibility activities. Sustainability Report enables organisations to consider their impacts of wide range of sustainability issues, enabling them to be more transparent about the risks and opportunities they face.

Aptly defined, a sustainability report is a report published by an organisation about the economic, environmental and social impacts daily activities. The sustainability report usually tells of the organisation’s values and governance model, and demonstrates the link between its strategy and its commitment to a sustainable global economy.

Often, Sustainability report helps organisations to measure, understand and communicate their economic, environmental, social and governance performance, and then set goals, and manage change more effectively. A sustainability report is the key platform for communicating sustainability performance and impacts, whether positive or negative.

Sustainability reporting can be considered as synonymous with other terms for non-financial reporting; triple bottom line reporting, corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting, and more. It is also an intrinsic element of integrated reporting; a more recent development that combines the analysis of financial and non-financial performance.

Why is sustainability report necessary you may ask? The value of the sustainability reporting process is that it ensures organisations consider their impacts on these sustainability issues, and enables them to be transparent about the risks and opportunities they face. Stakeholders also play a crucial role in identifying these risks and opportunities for organizations, particularly those that are non-financial. This increased transparency leads to better decision making, which helps build and maintain trust in businesses and governments.

For organisations, sustainability should mean more than finding new customers, or making profit. Sustainability should encompass wider social and environmental systems. Organisations should be in active pursuit of the triple bottom line which must include the people, profit and the environment. They must understand that the cost of action and inaction could be grave.

Hence, they should demonstrate a constant focus on making real change through social outcomes and creating a sustainable future for themselves and their clients.

For an organisation to succeed with its Sustainability, it must be able to consistently identify and create a roadmap that increasingly values long-term sustainable development in investment, financial transactions and environmental stewardship and its clients or customers. It must show commitment in poverty eradication in the environment it operates in. It must also seek to promote human rights, and advance human security and gender equality and support education for sustainable development which includes secondary and vocational education, and building the skills needed to address the challenges and capitalise on opportunities

Furthermore, there are many Nigerian organisations and companies who have not reneged on their corporate social responsibility. A case in point is Access Bank. The bank has created many programmes as parts of its corporate social responsibility. One of such programmes is partnership for Visually Impaired Persons. Visually Impaired Persons (VIPs) face several problems in their daily life. They are excluded in society. In order to bring them into the main stream, both government and private institutions are introducing welfare measures and schemes.

Access Bank embarked on a 3-year project to build a 40-room hostel at the Federal Nigeria Society for the Blind, a voluntary organisation with the aim to assist in promoting the general well-being of the blind and rehabilitate and integrate them into the society.

This Group’s project was aimed at providing the training centre with an opportunity to admit more VIPs though the provision of more hostel rooms/accommodation. Other activities this initiative provided included: seminars on empowerment of VIPs, mentorship, interactive sessions between Access Bank staff and VIPs. Others were provision of support to convert texts books to braille and audio/talking books.

Impact was made as the hostel provided for an increase (40%) in the number of VIPs that can be accommodated at the Centre from 60 students per session to 100 students per session. Employees encouraged the VIPs by purchasing most of the handmade items displayed during the seminars, e.g. Adire, bags, beads, laundry baskets, brooms, stools and tables. Hands-on engagement of staff members in the seminars, the bonding sessions, conversion of their books to braille and audio books.

Also, through its The Take Tomorrow Initiative, Access Bank takes a three-pronged approach namely education, health and entrepreneurship, to promote sustainable development in the society. In health, the Group in June 2016, partnered with two non-governmental organisations – Hacey Health Initiative and Asha Initiative – in sensitization of the Dakece community on Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF). The Group engaged community stakeholders on the importance of accessing antenatal care at registered clinics and delivering babies with the help of skilled midwives, to completely eradicate VVF.

In entrepreneurship, the Group partnered with Junior Achievement Nigeria (JAN) on the selection of schools to train in line with the JA training module. The 20-week-long entrepreneurial training session involved mentoring of the students until they were able to birth their business ideas and execute them to maximize profit. Members of the Group were distributed into six teams covering six schools to share their knowledge, expertise and experience on entrepreneurship. They volunteered two hours of their time in a week to train the JA students. Currently, the initiative is impacting over 200 students with business education and entrepreneurial skills, empowering them for a productive future.

To this end, it is important that organisations renewed their commitment to be more ambitious with investments in their Sustainability work. Their Sustainability strategy must be designed to leverage their skills and experience to make a positive change to some crucial societal challenges.

 ADEDOYIN ADEWALE is a media and sustainability expert based in Lagos