How to Maximise the Potential of CSR Consulting in Nigeria/Africa for Impact
Global corporate social responsibility (CSR) gestures have come a long way in morphing from a mere charitable gesture after the establishment of the first community foundation by Frederick Goff, a renowned American banker, in 1914, to a necessity for a successful business in today’s world.
Before Goff, wealthy businessmen like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were renowned for their strong philanthropic philosophies and as advocates of wealthy people donating to social causes without necessarily expecting any gains in return.
Despite Carnegie and Rockefeller’s common commitment to charitable causes separated from their businesses, by the 1940s, it had become possible for businesses, and not their owners or shareholders, to support charities.
The necessity for involvement in corporate social responsibility by businesses became even more pronounced when American economist Howard Bowen enunciated and connected the responsibility of corporations to society in his 1953 book, Social Responsibilities of the Businessman, which advocated for business ethics and responsiveness to societal stakeholders.
Today, businesses across the world identify corporate social responsibility as a demonstration of their interest in wider social issues as well as a strategy for sustainability. And consequently, CSR continues to form an integral part of global business practices for the benefit of society.
For organisations, the gains of employing this business stance are enormous, chief of which is the attraction of customers to businesses that share the same values as them. Studies have shown that effective CSR can have a significant impact on sales, with the perception of a company influencing consumers’ purchase intention by up to 60 per cent.
To put it succinctly, corporate social responsibility is a clear pathway for businesses to impact society, encourage customer loyalty and boost revenue. It is, therefore, predictable that the phenomenon is gaining even more momentum as the world gravitates towards general sustainable development.
But how do businesses in Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, fare in corporate social responsibility strategies compared to the rest of the world? Is there a need to adopt CSR Consulting in Nigeria (and Africa)?
It is no secret that peculiar socioeconomic and sociopolitical challenges on the continent and its most populous nation leave a prominent decay in the development of people and communities. These challenges have consequently resulted in a lack of access to quality education and healthcare, a huge unemployment rate, a high poverty rate and many more, leaving the continent in a pit of struggle to achieve its potential.
This is why, as part of a collective effort to correct the anomalies, businesses have been challenged to play a critical role in facilitating the transformation of people and communities on the continent. Impressively, many businesses on the continent today continue to incorporate social development as a strategy to assist very poor, marginalised and vulnerable members of society through interventions at family and community levels.
One major avenue through which businesses achieve corporate social responsibility in Nigeria (and Africa) is public-private partnerships. But, challenges persist.
CSR in Nigeria (and Africa) is largely plagued by corporate challenges such as lack of transparency and accountability, neglection of core business values, as well as societal drawbacks like corruption, insecurity, and communal hostility due to lack of trust. Also, on the continent, there remains an unfortunate old practice where CSR is only understood to mean philanthropy where an organisation, irrespective of how it makes its profit, would give some back to society without adherence to national and international human rights norms.
Although the meaning and value of CSR might differ in context due to factors like culture, environmental conditions and legal framework, businesses must stick to the standard that is obtainable in other parts of the world.
“All businesses must take it upon themselves to set their own CSR guiding principles. Action over words and impact, not outcome should be the cornerstone of a sound and authentic CSR strategy. Businesses should also adopt universal and common standards to showcase sustainable value creation while maintaining transparency and accountability,” writes Baha Hamadi, a communications expert at Crescent Enterprises, in his 2021 World Economic Forum think piece.
To largely reduce these challenges facing businesses in their execution of strategic CSR in Nigeria (and Africa), an effective solution would be to outsource the initiatives to professional and CSR consulting agencies with experience in people and community management.
Engagement of CSR consulting agencies helps organisations in exploring the wide range of CSR options while staying within the ambit of the legislations that guide corporate social responsibility activities on the continent.
On behalf of public and private businesses, these agencies will be able to seamlessly develop CSR initiatives, define messaging and scorecards, identify key partners, and rally internal and external support to ensure businesses successfully deploy and benefit from their CSR initiatives. This way, organisations can save time and energy while their businesses retain a positive brand image in consumers’ hearts.
Unfortunately, CSR Consulting in Nigeria (and Africa) is still in an infant phase, as many businesses and organisations continue to take up the daunting task of strategising and executing their CSR without external input.
But, for CSR Consulting in Nigeria (and Africa) to become more adaptable for businesses, there needs to first be a willingness from organisations to comply with corporate codes per global standards. In other parts of the world, various legislations exist to evaluate the activities of businesses as well as protect them from abuse either from host communities or the government.
Businesses which have defined standards of operation will ultimately be well suited to employ the services of CSR consulting firms.
Having highlighted the significant role of businesses in adhering to standard practices by seeking assistance from experienced and professional CSR consulting agencies in their quest to make a societal impact, it is critical to enumerate the criteria for choosing one.
Choosing an agency offering the service of CSR consulting in Nigeria (Africa) that is worth its salt can be tedious, but the following pointers would help.
A professional CSR consulting agency must possess strong analytical and logical thinking ability and also a measured sensitivity and empathy towards the socio-economic environment where businesses of interest operate. They are also expected to boast a substantial exposure and knowledge of various social fields, which will bolster their ability to bring an organisation’s vision to reality.
Interestingly, there is a bevvy of agencies practising CSR consulting in Nigeria (and Africa) which are so far leading the charge in making corporate social responsibility effortless for businesses and providing great value.
The Future Project Africa, for instance, represents one of the most reliable agencies responsible for building empowered citizens through inclusive enterprise and active citizenship across Africa.
Over the years, the agency has laid a blueprint for CSR consulting in Nigeria (and Africa), executing transformative strategies through verifiable insight, creativity and experience.
Through strategic public-private partnerships, some of the agency’s recently successful CSR projects include an electoral reform campaign to empower young people on best electoral practices and to further drive the reforms of electoral systems in Nigeria; and the ‘Eko Youth Event’ where aspiring youth entrepreneurs participated in a ‘Pitchaton’, and the winner walked away with N500,000 to boost their business.
Another strategic approach by the Future Project as a champion of CSR consulting in Nigeria (and Africa) is the launch of the second edition of its ‘My Vote, My Voice’ campaign to encourage the participation of young Nigerians in political discourse that would allow them to vote for the right candidates during elections and hold political leaders accountable in office.
As part of the ‘My Vote, My Voice‘ project, 600 young advocates and social innovators across Nigeria would be trained on the global best practices for social advocacy.
While there are other numerous corporate social responsibility avenues through which businesses can impact people and their communities, enlightenment of the young generation on the monumental impact of politics on their lives ranks high on the list among equally beneficial options such as health, education, and business empowerment.
These strategies to impact young people in society are a testament to the Future Project’s experience as a captain of CSR consulting in Nigeria (and Africa) in the ideation of relevant and impactful corporate social responsibility activities.
With over 490 million people in Africa living under the poverty line of 1.90 PPP$/day according to the United Nations (37 million people more than what was projected without the pandemic), a growing demand for businesses to make a socio-economic impact on the people and their host communities means they must now up the ante on their corporate social responsibility strategies.
But beyond deliberating on random CSR ideas with little chance of making the desired impact, a focus on how to maximise these strategies should be top of the agenda, particularly as businesses strive to strike a balance between impacting lives and driving sustainable development for profit.
To effectively maximise these CSR commitments in Nigeria (and Africa), employing the services of adept CSR consulting firms is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.
This way, modern consumers who continually factor in organisations’ ethical conduct as well as their social and environmental practices when making purchasing decisions can be appreciative of non-exploitative CSR stories.