Environmental responsibility: Achieving sustainable development through CSR

It may not be mandated, however, a company is under an obligation to have positive impact on its immediate environment. And through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), many communities have been transformed over time. DOYIN ADEOYE looks at CSR in the context of environmental protection.

Although there are a significant number of good CSRs going on in the country, with many companies providing social infrastructure and benefits such as schools, hospitals, skill acquisition programmes, among others, in their area of operations, however, CSR has achieved quite illusive effects so far in the aspect of environmental protection.

Corporate environmental responsibility is reflected in many ways in a company’s operations. From its products and facilities, its ability to eliminate waste and emissions, as well as maximising the efficiency and productivity of its resources, environmental stewardship is no doubt an important aspect of CSR.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (DJSGI) are three international institutions that postulated the need for governments and companies to adhere to the principles of CSR.

According to the WBCSD, CSR in the context of environmental suitability focuses on what benefit or harm a company’s project would bring or do to the environmental protection of the community and how it ensures that the environmental protection of such community is not compromised.

However in Nigeria today, the effects of companies’ activities on the environment cannot be overemphasised. Yet, unfortunately, environmental concerns rarely form an integral part of their development plans.

Some of the few companies in Nigeria that have keyed into green projects include:


Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC)

With focus areas on water stewardship, energy and climate protection, packaging and recycling, among others, the NBC, a member of the Coca-Cola Hellenic Group, many times have contributed effectively to broader sustainability initiatives.

For instance, the NBC and Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited has a post-consumer PET recycling project which collects, recovers and recycles PET containers. The PET wastes collected by its Alkem Nigeria Limited are then recycled into Polyester Staple Fibre to feed the furniture and allied industries.

Its recent initiative, the Coca-Cola Glass Bottle competition was launched earlier this month at the Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH).

Aimed at driving creativity and engagement among youths, the competition entails creating three-dimensional artworks using empty Coca-Cola 35cl and or 50cl glass bottles. The competition, which is open to students in the Faculty of Art, Design and Printing of YABATECH, is a unique way of supporting environmental sustainability, recycling and youth empowerment.

Affirming the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability, NBC’s Legal, Public Affairs and Communications Director, Mrs Sade Morgan, during the last World Environment Day, where the company partnered with the Federal Ministry of Environment in a tree planting exercise, said “As an environmental steward, the tree planting gesture and other support provided to enrich public knowledge and drive environmental best practices at the 2016 World Environment Day is part of the biggest global call by the United Nations and mobilisation for action towards environmental sustainability.”


Sterling Bank Plc

Sterling Bank Plc for years now has partnered with the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), to ensure proper waste management across Lagos State, providing kits and support for thousands of highway managers and sweepers engaged by the authority.

Speaking at the renewal of the partnership earlier this year, the bank’s Executive Director, Corporate Banking, Mr Kayode Lawal, described the partnership as the bank’s way of contributing to the environment, adding that the bank would continue to support the agency’s programmes geared towards ensuring that Lagos State remain in an environmentally healthy condition.

The bank last week also concluded plans to carry out tree planting exercises in three states in Northern Nigeria, as a way of supporting the Federal Government’s plan to sustain the environment, while also reducing desertification.

According to a statement from the bank, the Executive Governors of the three flag-off states, Plateau, Bauchi and Gombe, have confirmed participation at the events, with the Bauchi edition slated to hold today.

Signed by Mr Shina Atilola, the bank’s Group Head, Strategy and Communications, the statement emphasised the need for the private sector to support the government at all levels to checkmate the rising challenges posed by desertification in the country.

“Desertification has done a lot of damage to the local communities as it has made farming impossible in the affected areas leading to food shortage and rising cost of food items. Without food and water, it becomes harder for people to thrive,” he said.

Research has shown that tree planting is the most viable solution to stemming the tide of desertification, and according to Atilola, “the challenge remains a significant global ecological and environmental problem that must be checkmated.”


HP Inc.

HP Inc. in July 2016 announced a commitment to achieve zero deforestation by 2020, saying that all HP brand paper and paper-based product packaging will be derived from certified and recycled sources by 2020, with a preference for virgin fibre from certified sources of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

According to the HP 2015 Sustainability Report, which outlines progress made in 2015 and goals set for 2016, the zero deforestation goal is one of the three new goals included in the report. HP in the report also pledged to achieve 100 per cent renewable electricity within global operations with an interim goal of achieving 40 per cent worldwide by 2020, while also stating its commitment to reduce the GHG emissions intensity of its product portfolio by 25 per cent by 2020.

“Climate change is the most challenging environmental issue of our lifetime. HP is committed to being an environmental steward; therefore, we continue to measure and reduce the impact of our products, operations and supply chain activities,” Nate Hurst, HP’s Chief Sustainability & Social Impact Officer, said.


LafargeHolcim Company

Although a major emitter of greenhouse gases, LafargeHolcim Company has over time, developed a comprehensive climate and energy strategy, which revolves around contributing to the reduction of society’s overall emissions, through construction solutions to improve building energy efficiency and promoting responsible energy and climate policies by business and governments.

This was reflected in the company’s recognition at the 2015 edition of the annual Nigeria CSR Award, otherwise known as the Social Enterprise Report Awards (SERAs), where it won the awards for the Best Company in Environmental Sustainability, Best Company in Sustainability Reporting, and Overall second runner-up at the ceremony.

With various partnerships with the Ogun State government, much has been achieved by the cement factory over the years on environmental sustainability.

Besides these ones, other corporate organisations with notable environmental initiatives in the country include GTBank, First City Monument Bank (FCMB), the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Shell Nigeria, FirstBank Plc, among others.

So with only a few to handpick among the numerous companies in the country, then one needs to ask what is stopping them from taking on projects that promote environmental protection, despite the campaigns on climate change and global warming.

Environmentalist, Mr Biodun Badre, is of the opinion that the society is not encouraging enough for many organisations to invest in environmental projects.

“The question is how many state governments or local governments are even environmental conscious? If government itself cannot determine which environmental issues deserve priority treatment, then why should the private sector?

“Until they see the commitment from government, many organisations would rather invest in CSRs that promote their own core values,” he said.

Reacting to this, Mrs Odusan Alabi, an environmental activist, noted that unless there is firm monitoring and enforcement from regulatory bodies, achieving 100 per cent corporate environmental responsibility in Nigeria may be an illusion.

“Corporate environmental responsibility goes beyond what companies are doing for their resident community, but rather also takes into consideration the environmental risks a company’s products pose. So the monitoring should start with the production process first, before mandating that that they take on environment related CSRs.

“How many companies in Nigeria recycle their waste? What are our environmental policies? If the government can implement stringent environmental regulations, and take it beyond paper work, then a lot will be achieved,” she said.

Banker and economist, Mr Tunde Falomo, noted that companies have the right to decide the CSR they want to invest in.

“The major goal of any company is to maximise profit. So a company will prefer to invest in a CSR that can attract more customers. Rehabilitating a school will definitely catch the attention of a parent who is a potential customer, unlike investing in a project such as recycling, when an average person out there does not even know what that entails.

“So I think that unless there is an adequate environmental consciousness, many companies will only invest in what reflects their values.”