It’s an undeniable fact that we are in an era, where it’s become imperative for companies to be INTENTIONAL. In this era, corporate actions should be able to create some shared value and give hope to immediate communities or others in dire need of some intervention.
A few weeks ago, I was privileged to be part of the 4th National CSR and Sustainability Conference organised by the Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), West Africa, one of the sub region’s leading sustainability and corporate social responsibility advocacy organizations.
Their annual conference, which brings together some major stakeholders in the CSR and sustainability space in Ghana, sought to discuss lessons from multinationals and how to promote a culture of social responsibility and sustainability among indigenous Ghanaian companies.
While listening raptly to the engaging and insightful panel presentations from Professor Martin Gyambrah, Director for University of Applied Management (Ghana campus), Dr. Jemima Nunoo, Lecturer at GIMPA, Gabriel Opoku Asare, Director for Corporate Relations, Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited, and Michael Sarpong Bruce, Corporate Responsibility Manager, Tigo, I picked up a few lessons. Today on my blog, I want to share with you these lessons.
- Responsibility and Sustainability should be an inception philosophy
Often, responsibility and sustainability for most local businesses is not an inception strategy or philosophy. For these businesses, it is rather an afterthought or an activity undertaken as a reactive measure.
Rather, businesses right from the onset should have CSR and Sustainability at the core of their inception philosophy or strategy. It should be a core business practice to have sustainable processes, products, packaging, and delivery.
Conduct a survey of most local businesses’ in terms of their engagement with the SDGs and a sobering outlook will be revealed. But given that 2030 is not a distant time, it’s imperative that as a stakeholder group, local businesses contribute to its attainment by linking their responsibility and sustainability efforts to the UN-SDGs.
The private sector can be a force for good and lead the way. With the financial power and able human resources, businesses are better placed and should be poised to lead the agenda for sustainable development/growth. This should be the BIG ambition of local businesses apart from the focus on bottom line.
In their presentations, Tigo and Guinness Ghana had a particular trend. These multinational companies had linked their local responsibility and sustainability initiatives to the UN-SDGs. For Tigo, they had been able to successfully link their Automated Birth Registration to the UN SDGs 9 (Innovation and Infrastructure) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals), while Guinness Ghana has also been able to link their Water of Life, Alcohol in Society and Local Raw Material initiatives to the SDGs 6, 12, and 8 among others.
- PARTNERSHIPS – Stakeholders need to come together for the good of society
Partnerships, Collaborations, Alliances…name them. These will not only be key to ensuring that corporates impact their communities but also achieve the SDGs. Cross-sector partnership has become essential to scaling and sustaining impact as far as sustainability is concerned.
Businesses, Governments and civil society organizations can play a critical role to unleash innovative solutions, mobilize expertise and hard to reach resources, and create a shared accountability that could never be achieved alone.
For companies like Tigo, they’ve been able to partner UNICEF and the Birth and Deaths Registry (BDR) to deploy the nation’s first Automated Birth Registry, which is showcasing how partnership can play a crucial role in addressing a pressing social need through the application of technology and expertise from different sectors of the economy.
From May 2016 to May 2017, 328,882 new births had been registered using this new system and Tigo is helping the BDR to attain its goal of achieving a 90 percent birth registration coverage rate by the end of 2017.
- Companies are moving beyond traditional CSR to new ways of adding value to society
Back in the day, a company donating a TV to a police station or a one-off activity by a company was often classified as CSR. This used to be norm until the debates around sustainability set in. It delineated a clear difference between corporate philanthropy and corporate sustainability.
For a company like Guinness Ghana, it is using its Local Raw Material (LRM) initiative as a means to support local businesses through the creation of value chains. In so doing, they are not only using local raw materials in the production of their products but also supporting local farmers to gain ready market for their produce and empowering families.
- Sustainability should be an organizational culture
There is a direct correlation between a company’s postion on social and environmental issues and its perception and position as an employer of choice. Young professionals want to be part of a company which has a culture and a reputation for being responsible; and has a far-reaching impact on society.
To this end, sustainability should be embedded in the very fabric of every organization. Essential internal stakeholders such as management and employees should be made to understand the position of the business in the areas of responsibility and sustainability. It must be integrated into the overall business strategy, with a clear vision, goals, metrics and strong executive sponsorship.
Additionally, for the culture of sustainability to thrive, an employee engagement program with rewards and recognition must be ensured to reinforce sustainability behaviors.