Impact of crowd-sourced platforms in driving sustainability in Africa

Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Africa is still shaping but where it is carried, there is no collaboration or scaling up of projects that can impact on the quality of citizen’s life. The intended impact is yet to be realised as challenges such as lack of access to water, health, education amongst other ills still persist.  On the other hand businesses are aware that a failure to engage the communities is costly through increased reputation risks, litigation and damage to brand amongst other negative impacts.

Various international companies and local companies in Africa are embarking on sustainability to minimise impact on environment and society but all efforts are in isolation, unreported and non-scalable.

There is growing recognition that marrying the local knowledge of the communities in Africa with global reach of the multinational firms can create unique and sustainable solutions. The private sector cannot solve all problems but can bring technical and financial resources, disciplines of organisation, accountability and entrepreneurial to bear on the problems, CEOs must learn that the bottom of the pyramid markets require a new level of collaboration between communities, government and the private sector.

To this end Animus sustainability Portal, a web-based platform that enables companies with a presence in Africa to connect with local communities (and other companies) is launching its services to held redress this.

“We believe that, by giving both citizens and companies a voice and a platform, Animus will trigger the scaling of sustainability across Africa” said Codra, Director.

ASP will foster collective awareness on corporate social responsibility and drive social change through:

1. Improving stakeholder’s awareness of corporate sustainability practices

2. Enabling stakeholders to act on their improved awareness

3. Incentivize companies to change their practices to the better based on improved stakeholder awareness

4. Enable participating companies and institutions to engage with stakeholders, increase turnover, and improve branding, loyalty and entrance into new markets.

5. Giving citizens and consumers a voice and a platform from which to influence the actions of commercial organisations

ASP was set up in 2013 with the intention of enabling the scaling of CSR across Africa, Animus’s co-founders have spent the first year preparing the ground and seeding buy-in from key influencers.

“ We aim to realign companies’ CSR visions with citizens’ actual needs. We want to catalyse a consumer-led process that will generate an audit trail enabling companies to see what is needed by the communities in which they are active,” explains Ronald Chawatama, co-founder and experienced sustainability consultant and researcher.

“We want to create a rush to the top between those companies that are already taking sustainability leadership roles and those that have been procrastinating.”

Codra Masiiwa, picks up.

“Our research and interaction with various professionals in sustainability shows the demand for a broader environmental sustainability drive, with increased demand for (and use of) Environmental Social Governance (ESG) by investors.

“We are mainly targeting the African region as sustainability is still emerging, and its reporting is scant, or very negligible. Most of the reports are either available as pdfs on companies’ websites or hardly available at all. The print media has managed to cover and produce sustainability news feeds, however, the feeds are lost along the way as they are static and less engaging. Current sustainability communication is mainly one way, from companies down, making the most crucial stakeholder of sustainability reporting alien to the process.”

Ronald and Codra, both highly qualified and experienced sustainability professionals, had direct experience of growing up in an area of Zimbabwe negatively impacted by the extraction of granite.

“As sustainability consultants witnessing the type of issues we experienced growing up becoming more and more complex, yet still failing to demand the necessary attention from government officials, we were moved to take positive action,” explains Ronald.

“Our view is that we can trust companies to do the right thing. They are already in the business of managing resources, so they should be able to turn around the problem of managing resources in a way that will ease the social situation and minimise or mitigate further impact.

“What we want to do is to drive companies to internalise sustainability and in the process bring about scalable impact,” concludes Codra.

“Importantly we have designed our platform to increase transparency, and encourage knowledge sharing and by so doing we are raising humanity a few notches. We are the first ever service in Africa that allows ground truthing and validation of sustainability reports. We believe that someone on the ground can provide a true perspective about company activities, including progress of their social and environmental vehicles” they conclude.

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