Nigeria joins other countries in implementing a standardised approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices by organisations. This is in a bid to help businesses in Nigeria streamline CSR initiatives along global best practices. LINDA UGWUOTI reports.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) defines Corporate Social Responsibility as the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as the local community and the society at large.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is about how businesses conduct themselves with regards to all their activities which includes operating ethically and fairly in dealing with all stakeholders as well as sustainably impacting the communities in which they operate. Corporate Social responsibility refers to the obligation of an organisation to seek actions that protect and improve the welfare of the society along with its interest. Otherwise referred as organisational social responsibility, it is a term often used in reference to the concept of social responsibility as applied to business organisations to the host community.
Corporate social responsibility is one of the burning issues in Nigeria. Companies deriving benefits and maximizing profits from communities are not appropriately responding to needs of host communities through strategic philanthropy, environmental protection and community development.
Before now, corporate social responsibilities in Nigeria were basically propelled by non-governmental organisations. Just recently, however, corporate organisations began to embrace the need to contribute to economic, social and environmental progress of their host communities with a view to achieving sustainable development as well. They began to encourage local capacity through close co-operation with local community, including local business interests, as well as developing appropriate linkage lines of their corporate activities to the benefit of the communities.
Along this line, companies like MTN, Etisalat, Zenith Bank, Falcon Petroleum, Coca-Cola, First Bank, etc, began to toe the path of giving back to their host communities.
Associated with this task, came the issue of getting a standardised approach to implementing social responsibility by organisations of all sizes and in all sectors.
It is against this backdrop that Standards Organization of Nigeria (Son) in collaboration with her knowledge partner, ThistlePraxis Consulting (TPC) formally presented the new Nigerian standard to a cross section of stakeholders to serve as a tool to enshrine socially responsible business practices in Nigeria.
Tagged NIS: ISO 26000, the new local ISO standards will serve as a tool to help businesses in Nigeria streamline CSR initiatives along globally-acceptable standards.
According to Dr. Joseph Odumodu, director general of Son, the NIS: ISO 26000 is a framework for Nigeria to implement and apply the standard in daily organisational procedures and practices.
“The standard is about how you do your business and not about how much money you give. It is about top management’s commitment on how business operations are done in a way that prevents negative impact on the environment. It is also about aligning business strategies in conformity with the ISO standards. The new standard provides organisations with a holistic guide to producing sustainability reports in line with global best practices, hence, making it mandatory for all corporate organisations to use in their sustainability reporting as the basis for providing better CSR for host communities”, he added.
He stated further that “it has become more imperative as more and more organisations decide that they must address the principle of social responsibility. The aim of ISO 26000 therefore, as a guidance standard, is to show the path to be followed by providing the core subjects. This will enable an organization, willing to follow the standard, seek to achieve social responsibility from its own internal mobilisation. In Nigeria, where challenges regarding social justice, respect for the environment and economic development are still immense, the import of the application of this standard can never be overstretched,” adding that the ISO 26000 would be useful as a more objective reference of what was expected from companies and organisations regarding their social responsibility performance.
Reacting to the new development, Mrs. Ini Onuk lead consultant/chief executive officer, ThistlePraxis Consulting Ltd said that over the years, most companies were engaging in charity and philanthropy as against CSR, which they often put in their reporting as against global standards.
“I have not complained but simply advocated that sponsorships, cause marketing and philanthropy be clearly identified and not presented as CSR. We also advocate that business leaders pay more attention to these issues and make sustainability a priority. What we encourage is that more activities and initiatives are impact-driven and that CSR is integrated into corporate strategy in order to yield multiple returns on investment.”
She noted that in the cause of engaging in social responsibility projects, most companies are not honest, hence the need for the standards.
“Most companies are not sincere to be honest. Nevertheless, we have observed that insincerity is most of the time not deliberate. In a society where mediocrity is the benchmark and there are no regulations or minimum standards to adhere to, the push to constantly improve strategy is uncommon. Hence, tokenism is masqueraded as CSR for host communities and this continues until there is a crisis or loss of social license to operate. It is imperative for companies to adopt these standards which could help them measure the impact of their investment,” she said.
In the same vein, Ken Egbas, managing partner of TruContact and organiser of the annual Social Enterprise Report and Awards, believes that the ISO 26000 adoption by Son is a step in the right direction.
“It will help organisations in Nigeria understand the basic standards required in their social responsibility practices and it will also help to grow the CSR industry because what has happened before now is that organisation has a different CSR template on how CSR should be carried out. Even though some have just adopted this, the idea of a CSR ISO 26000 is not entirely new.
“For us at the SERAs, we have been using the ISO 26000 since 2008 and most of the entries at the CSR awards are based on the ISO 26000. Now that it has become an official document, it will now make it mandatory for organisations to imbibe and adopt the standards. This will also make our own job at the Nigerian CSR awards easier”, Egbas concluded.
The NIS: ISO 26000 is expected to serve as a consensus guidance document that provides support or reference for all kinds of organisations in both private and public sectors on how they can operate in a socially responsible, ethical and transparent manner and also contribute to the health and welfare of society, as against the current practice where communities suffer effects of environmental pollution and abject poverty in the face of huge profits by companies.
Nigeria joins many other African countries such as Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, South Africa, Senegal, Malawi, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Ghana who have adopted the standard. The ISO26000:NAP Secretariat will remain open for the next 12 months for organisations interested in using the standard as a guide for their CSR reports.
Online resources will also be made available during this period via http://www.iso26000-nigeria.blogspot.com and also for local and foreign observers. Interested individuals are encouraged to visit the site for requests, comments, suggestions and inputs, accordingly.
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