Every company in Nigeria that operates good governance and cares for the community where it does business, tries to demonstrate the fact that it is a responsible corporate citizen. They do so in various ways: Corporate philanthropy, sundry donations, many types of sponsorships, embarking on community development projects, partnering with NGOs to touch the lives of citizens and other strategic alliances that promote the ways we work and live.
Corporate Social Responsibility as a strategic fit in corporate governance and sustainability has gained global prominence. And it is very evident among business establishments in Nigeria, especially those quoted on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
This is really no compulsion to be a corporate citizen. But the demands of the market place make it inevitable. Consumers and other segments of corporate stakeholders are becoming assertive and more informed; they are asking more questions about transparency and corporate governance, safety of products and services, and business practices. Their expectations are rising daily, and government regulations all over the world are becoming stiffer.
Watchdogs as represented by Non Governmental Organisations and Civil Society organizations are springing up daily all over the world. The net effect is that every corporate body, public or private must become transparent in all its operations, be accountable, and demonstrate its relevance in the society by giving something back to the communities where it does business. In addition, it must tell its CSR stories to let the market know what it is doing in terms of CSR
Now CSR has gone beyond giving. It is now a strategic business that positively affects the bottom-line of companies at the end of every business year.
One good way companies demonstrates CSR is via community engagement; that is embarking on facilitation or direct construction of projects that improve infrastructure and welfare of citizens, especially in the communities where they do business. The CD projects can be construction or refurbishment of roads, water supply, health facilities, or maintenance of road safety and general security. These projects directly address the needs and aspirations of the people where corporate bodies do business.
Nigerian Breweries Plc (NB Plc) which makes Star and Gulger beer, among other brands, is one company that has distinguished itself in the arena of corporate social responsibility in Nigeria, especially in community engagement. This foremost brewer of alcoholic beverages in Nigeria has over the years, been actively involved in many community development projects in many communities where its breweries are located.
The company’s engagement programmes have been largely on water projects, such as sinking of boreholes and water treatment; education programmes that promote literacy; improving healthcare; supporting road safety programmes; road construction; and recreational facilities.
When a new CEO was appointed for the company in 2007, one important issue that he observed is the extent of exposure of Nigerian Breweries Plc in the arena of Corporate Social Responsibility. He discovered that this has been going on since the company’s inception of business in Nigeria in 1946, brewing great brands of alcoholic beverages for the drinking pleasure of Nigerians and its customers in foreign markets.
CSR is evidently a strategic element in NB Plc’s operations, to help the society that helps the brewing company. And it has gone beyond give and take. NB has gone into strategic partnerships with the various communities where it operates to improve the living standards of the citizens there.
This strategy has helped NB to bond well with the various communities where it operates. This bonding has benefitted both parties: They understand each other’s problems and needs better; they co-operate better; and assist each in every way possible that is ethical and within legal limits.
This has created a symbiotic fit that has been beneficial to the company and the various communities where it is actively engaged in development and life promoting programmes. The community engagement is only one arm of its demonstration of its identity as a responsible corporate citizen. And it telling its story in Nigeria via printed brochures and newspaper pull outs.
The era of CSR storytelling has definitely arrived inNigeria, and some blue-chip companies have become good corporate storytellers. A sign of good business for storytellers in Nigeria.
Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com