Connect with us

Published

on

Who should corporate responsibility and sustainability lessons be taken from? Some companies are still unclear about the concept but latching onto the sustainability mantra anyway, because it has become a marketing buzzword for business? Or a company through whose creed and deeds, over the many decades it has been around, people can see corporate responsibility and sustainability lived (first) and preached (subsequently)?

 

If the above set of questions constituted a question in an examination hall, it would be one of the easiest of questions to answer. Not one person would fail it. Outside the examination hall, the answer to this question that seems as easy and simple like the question of 2 + 2 may not be as easy and simple. It may be complicated by all the cleverly arranged noise and claims projected at people to make it difficult for them to see and accept the obvious.

 

So, it is incumbent on people who know, and care enough (like this writer), to keep stating and restating the obvious. This is in the hope that doing so would help others to take full cognisance of the obvious and not allow themselves to be bamboozled by image without substance and rhetoric without pedigree.

 

The concept of corporate responsibility and sustainability is not about the clever or manipulative use of marketing buzzwords by corporate citizens. It is about impact, net positive impact, in the lives of real, not imagined, people through the deliberate and well-planned activities of socially-responsible corporate citizens.

 

Even if history is no longer taught in most schools in Nigeria, the records are there. The records show that Nigeria has been blessed to have standing by her, at all times, a corporate citizen which understands the concept of corporate responsibility and sustainability.

 

This corporate citizen has been standing by Nigeria before the country’s founding, through its amalgamation, Independence and all the conflicts and crises Nigeria has gone through and still faces. Today, the corporate citizen still stands by Nigeria.

 

First Bank of Nigeria Limited, a lender of unmatched pedigree, a bank with a history of unparalleled support to Nigeria and Nigerians (right from the colonial era to date, even serving as Nigeria’s central bank at some stage of our national development), has been a corporate citizen like no other.

 

A brand that has backed innumerable groundbreaking projects across Nigeria and beyond, FirstBank has demonstrated that real impact that can be seen and felt by all, and not mere marketing buzzwords, is the real measure of an institution’s understanding of corporate responsibility and sustainability.

 

It is incontrovertible that whichever way corporate responsibility and sustainability is understood or defined, FirstBank is sure to tick all the boxes. Just name every parameter for assessing a company’s efforts in corporate responsibility and sustainability and match each against what FirstBank has been doing. Is there any parameter that FirstBank has not surpassed?

 

FirstBank has been living corporate responsibility and sustainability for most, if not all, of its existence as a going concern. Knowing it cannot do it alone, the bank has also devoted resources to efforts that will enable it to preach or pass the message so other corporate citizens, groups and individuals will emulate it.

 

One platform the bank has used effectively for this purpose is its Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CR&S) Week. The CR&S Week is a full working week that the FirstBank Group, in-country and across the world where it operates, dedicates to the promotion, execution and celebration of social responsibility initiatives.

 

The Sustainability Week also includes a huge kindness campaign to reorient citizens towards the right values and reignite acts of kindness in society. It is only one of the many ways FirstBank is living true to its brand promise to always put customers first.

 

And the Sustainability Week seeks to invite others (individuals and corporate citizens) to follow the bank’s example and begin to intentionally create positive impact in their immediate communities.

 

From the inaugural edition in 2017, where the theme was “Promoting Kindness: Putting You First”, the Sustainability Week has helped to reinforce FirstBank’s role as a nation-builder that is driving sustainable development across communities where it operates. It was an opportunity for the bank to encourage others (individuals and corporate citizens) to follow in its steps, even if all they can afford to take are small steps.

 

Taking small steps may have informed the choice of theme for the second edition of the Sustainability Week in 2018: “Touching Lives: You First”. The bank sought to debunk the notion that touching lives in meaningful ways and making an impact on society require big-ticket projects, whilst emphasising the power in the little things people do and the small steps they take.

 

After all, is it not little drops of water that make a mighty ocean, like the saying goes? And does the journey of a thousand miles not begin with a (small) step, like another saying puts it?

 

Just take a look at SPARK (Start Performing Acts of Random Kindness), a values-based initiative that raises consciousness promoting kindness to one another in society, which the bank started during the inaugural Sustainability Week in 2017.

 

Aimed at reinforcing FirstBank’s corporate culture of encouraging giving and volunteering among its staff and the larger society, its magnitude today and the many kind initiatives it has sparked off across the country could not have been imagined when the seed was planted five years ago. Incalculable manhours and financial resources from FirstBank staff and partners have been contributed willingly.

 

Children in orphanages, internally displaced persons (IDPs) in various IDP camps, widows and other underprivileged or vulnerable groups have been visited and their challenges alleviated if not totally eliminated. Scores of career counselling sessions with secondary school pupils across Nigeria has also been organised as part of the Sustainability Week, which has been the first of its kind in Nigeria’s financial services industry.

 

In 2019, the third edition of the Sustainability Week with the theme: “Ripples of Kindness: Putting You First” enunciated the values (or pillars) of the SPARK initiative to include Compassion, Civility and Charity. FirstBank believes that these values and the acts of kindness that flow as a result of embracing the values are critical to promoting and building peaceful co-existence and prosperity in society.

 

Among the key highlights of the 2019 Sustainability Week was a “Nice Comments Day” that was a day set aside to foster words of encouragement, support and kindness to people around one, regardless of ones’ familiarity or close ties, in recognition of the instrumental role kind words play in lighting up people’s day and bringing out the best in them.

 

Another highlight was the SPARK School Engagement that promoted the SPARK initiative in schools, with the objective of embedding the values of SPARK amongst school children at a young age so the values become part of, and habitual to, them as they develop into adulthood.

 

Due to COVID-19 pandemic and government-imposed lockdown, the year 2020 witnessed no edition of the Sustainability Week. Any attempt to stage the kinds of activities and events that usually accompany the Sustainability Week would have been counterproductive, spreading infections and possibly deaths instead of kindness and joy that the Sustainability Week has become synonymous with.

 

However, FirstBank’s avowed commitment to corporate responsibility and sustainability would not allow it fold its hands and just watch while COVID-19 and its debilitating effects tried to make living and learning difficult for most Nigerians.

 

Working virtually or remotely and, where it could not do otherwise, physically but in strict adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols, FirstBank executed several initiatives meant to ameliorate the very difficult situation in Nigeria then.

 

The bank contributed to efforts to provide palliatives to vulnerable Nigerians, announced a moratorium on repayment of loans, set up a special loan fund for businesses run by women, established another for school proprietors in collaboration with a state government and drove an e-learning initiative that sought to move one million school children to a safe online learning platform so their educational progress would not be set back due to COVID-19 restrictions, government-ordered lockdown and the closure of educational institutions for the greater part of 2020

 

“Kindness: A Way of Life” was the theme for the fourth edition of the Sustainability Week held in 2021. Highlights of activities of the 2021 Sustainability Week, designed to entrench a culture of kindness, included a practical-oriented training webinar for staff to embed a culture of kindness in the bank by driving understanding of how kindness (or the lack of it) can impact the workplace, the marketplace and the communities in which staff live and work.

 

Another important feature of the Sustainability Week was the “Kind Comments Days” that ran all week to inspire a consciousness of kind choice of words and consideration for others. There was also a dedicated programme in secondary schools designed to institutionalise SPARK by using school SPARK champions (including students and teachers) alongside other partners such as Junior Achievement Nigeria (JAN) and Lagos State government to inculcate the SPARK values in school children.

 

One other feature was the ground-breaking ceremony for the Lagos State government’s OCAAT (One Community At A Time) initiative to provide the Primary Health Care Centre at Ijedodo community in Alimosho LGA. Set up as an initiative to improve the health and welfare of the members of various communities in Lagos State, FirstBank partnered the government on the project as part of its contribution to global efforts to meet some specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

There were also webinars: a general webinar with the sub-theme: “Education: Does Kindness have a Role?”; and a millennial webinar with the sub-theme: “Making the Cyber World a Kinder Place” which sought to proffer solution to the question of how people could become kinder on social media platforms.

 

All the past editions of FirstBank Sustainability Week highlight the longstanding and relentless commitment of FirstBank not only to continue to live but also to preach the message of corporate responsibility and sustainability.

 

Given its unmatched pedigree in corporate responsibility and sustainability, FirstBank has earned the right to address all other corporate organisations as well as individuals and groups on matters of sustainability. The bank has earned its right to the people’s audience.

 

It is against this backdrop that FirstBank’s forthcoming 2022 Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Week should be welcomed by other banks and corporate citizens, irrespective of industry, as an opportunity to come together and take lessons from Nigeria’s foremost corporate citizen with regard to corporate responsibility and sustainability.

 

FirstBank does not consider itself too big to take lessons from other corporate citizens in areas where they have distinguished themselves. So other corporate citizens should not feel too big to take lessons from FirstBank in this area where the bank stands highly distinguished.

 

Or can anyone claim not to know that if the concept of corporate responsibility and sustainability were to be represented by one corporate citizen per country on a world map where countries are denoted by their foremost corporate entities, it is unarguable that FirstBank would be the company eminently representing Nigeria on that map.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Business

TAX EVASION AND FORCEFUL ACQUISITION OF OBAJANA CEMENT, KOGI & AKWA IBOM GOVERNMENT BATTLE DANGOTE

Published

on

These are not the best of times for Dangote Group as they face allegations of sharp practices in business from Kogi State government, Kogi Assembly as well as Akwa Ibom State.

Already, the Kogi State House of Assembly has ordered stoppage to the activities of the company in two Local Governments in the State while investigations continue.

The crux of the matter, from our investigations arise from sharp practices in terms of tax payments.

According to exclusive reports from Kogi State, the initial story was that Dangote Group took over the State Cement Company illegally without paying a dime for the takeover.

 

According to our findings, Dangote took over the State Cement Company Obajana Cement without paying the necessary compensation to the State government.

This is corroborated by the State Assembly findings.

According to some media reports, ‘the parliament stated that all available documents showed that the company started as Obajana Cement Company before turning to Dangote Cement company without any considerations.

It also directed that the documents signed at the establishment of the company and relevant receipts of dues claimed to have been paid to the government be made available at the next adjourned sitting date.

 

The Speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly, Hon. Matthew Kolawole, gave the order after interim reports of the ongoing investigative hearing on Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) which was submitted by the ad hoc committee led by Hon. Isah Tenimu and deliberated upon at the plenary on Wednesday.

 

Kolawole said this has become imperative in view of the claims and counterclaims between the Chairman of Kogi State Internally Generated Revenue Service (KGIRS) and representatives of Dangote Cement.

 

The Speaker further directed that the Financial Director of Dangote Cement Company should meet with KGIGRS and the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry to reconcile financial differences.

 

Earlier, during the investigative hearing, the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry had pointed out that Dangote had not been paying business premises fees since operation in the state.

 

Responding, the representative of Dangote, Alhaji Jimoh claimed that on the contrary, Kogi State had 10 per cent share which could only be claimed if the state showed interest, adding that since no interest was shown, the shares had been acquired when Dangote became a conglomerate.

 

While the Financial Director of Dangote, Segun Oyebanjo, claimed that since 2016, the company has paid in total dues the sum of N14 billion to the coffers of Kogi State Government through KGIRS with receipts.

 

But the Chairman of KGIRS said it was not so, adding that the receipts being bandied are not from them.

 

Oyebanjo stated that it was only in 2021 that some certain taxes were not being paid’.

But the Kogi problem with Dangote is not limited to this.

In another development, Following the unrestrained environmental degradation in Ankpa and Olamaboro local government areas, Kogi state House of Assembly on Wednesday, directed the Commissioner of Police and Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to seal off operations of Dangote Plc in the affected areas of the State. The House gave the order during a public hearing on activities of Dangote Group in the state, especially on the the massive exploitation , environmental degradation and non compensation to the affected owners of the land and without revenue accruing to the state government.

 

The Speaker, Kogi state House of Assembly, Mathew Kolawole, charged the NSCDC commandant to ensure immediate implementation pending when the ad hoc committee on revenue clarifies some grey areas. Kolawole, who lamented the environmental degradation caused by mining activities on Kogi by the Dangote group and its subsidiaries, accused the multi national business concern of making billions in the state but yet fails to give back to it.

 

Akwa Ibom is also finding it difficult to collect its entitlement from the Dangote Group. According to reports from the place, the Itu Local Government blocked Dangote premises with their trucks because the company has refused to pay tax for more than two years despite series of pleas.

Continue Reading

Business

Rethinking Tourism For A More Sustainable World, By NTDC DG *Folorunsho* *Coker* 

Published

on

 

As we celebrate this 42nd edition of the World Tourism Day, this is within the frame of reflection on the urgency of building a practice that is environmentally sensitive and future complaint. The need for a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable tourism has now forcefully come on the global agenda of governments, international organisations, businesses, and local communities, and we must all work together to mitigate the evident challenges and concerns, in a way that safeguards our planet.

 

It is a great delight to witness and mark the 42nd edition of the World Tourism Day (WTD). This is a day set aside to create awareness about tourism globally, while contemplating the different milestones that have been achieved so far, alongside the recognition of its importance as a crucial pillar of development, both here in Nigeria, and worldwide.

 

World Tourism Day offers an opportunity to come together and celebrate the many and varied accomplishments of our sector, particularly in its drive towards the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This yearly event celebrated on the 27th of September has become a formidable platform for constructive engagement with all tourism stakeholders across the value chain, and in different places across the world.

 

Of all sectors of the economy, tourism took the worst blow from the COVID-19 pandemic, and this has in turn highlighted the critical need to transform the industry as global tourism gradually recovers. Worldwide, tourism has entered into a durable stage of recovery, and it is quite heart-warming to note that this year alone international tourism has grown back to at least 60% of its pre-pandemic level. According to estimates from the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals almost tripled in the first seven months of 2022, as against the same period last year, and this reveals the strengthening of demand, as travels restrictions are lifted in many more countries (86 at the last count).

 

 

The impact that tourism has borne and the need to transcend this for all times makes the theme of this year’s event, “Rethinking Tourism”, quite apt. It not only recognises the relevance of tourism as one of the vital economic sectors globally but, more so, seeks to reconsider the practice of tourism by putting people and the planet first, as it brings all stakeholders – from governments to businesses and local communities – together to share in a vision for a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient sector.

 

While tourism remains the largest employer of labour, providing livelihoods to millions of people, most notably women and youth across the world, yet this comes with the awareness that the ecosystem of this earth we call home has become fragile with the years. Hence, the composite of activities making up tourism need to be more responsive to the demands of sustainability, as tourism’s economic and environmental footprint is greater than that of any other sector.

 

It goes without much saying that the opportunities embedded in tourism are enormous. However, to fully utilise the potentials of tourism for economic growth, we must also recognise that we cannot continue in the old ways of practice, and there is the urgent need to reflect on and rethink what we do and how we do it.

 

We believe it is time to begin the transformation that the sector requires. Like most changes in approach, this will not be easy but we are already well on the way. The crisis that came with COVID-19 was a catalyst and inspiration for creativity, and change.

 

As efforts at rethinking tourism points the focus on the future, this is certainly a future in which Nigerian tourism is primed to be a major driver of, indicated in its positioning for greater activities and attraction. As the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed puts it, this edition of the World Tourism Day, “is particularly important…because of the right granted to Nigeria by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to host the first-ever UNWTO Global Conference on ‘Linking Tourism, Culture and the Creative Industries: Pathways to Recovery and Inclusive Development’.”

 

While tourism remains the largest employer of labour, providing livelihoods to millions of people, most notably women and youth across the world, yet this comes with the awareness that the ecosystem of this earth we call home has become fragile with the years. Hence, the composite of activities making up tourism need to be more responsive to the demands of sustainability, as tourism’s economic and environmental footprint is greater than that of any other sector.

 

He further points out that: “The conference which is scheduled to hold from 14th to 16th November 2022 at the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos, provides and opportunity to showcase Nigeria tourism and creative assets. It also creates a viable platform to identify, promote and develop new models of stronger partnership between tourism, culture and the creative industries as highly interlinked sectors for inclusive economic growth and social development.”

 

Globally, the culture and creative industries constitute some of the huge drivers of economic activity that can be further purposed as greater stimuli for economic recovery. This is evident from their documented impact, seeing to the generation of an annual compound value of close to $2.3 trillion, as representation of about 3% of the world’s GDP, according to UNWTO estimates.

 

Moreover, about 40% of international tourists are observed as ‘motivated primarily by culture-related experiences’ for embarking on destinations. Therefore, it is quite safe to project that the culture and creative industries could become significant catalysts of recovery and growth in a resurgent global economy, steadily breaking out of the negative impacts of the pandemic.

 

The creative and culture industries in Nigeria are an extended composite of a number of interconnected and linked sectors, cutting through a sizeable gamut of economic activities and responsible for between 10 and 15 million jobs, from music to design, fashion, film, television, radio, photography, architecture, printing and performance arts. Also, hotel and hospitality, publishing, information technology, gaming, software development, advertising and digital marketing, etc.

 

The culture and creative industries have been some of the priority sectors earmarked for intensive development in the Federal Government’s stimulus strategy as laid out in the Economic Renewal and Growth Plan (ERGP). This is a major effort being made to recoup lost grounds and create new value that drives sturdier economic growth, thereby resuscitating and expanding the jobs and income pool.

 

At NTDC, we realised early enough that any proposed strategic path for recovery envisaged for the industry must leverage on innovative and disruptive tech ideas to enhance and promote domestic tourism. This form of tourism is cheaper, with lesser restrictions, and it offers educational opportunities to citizens of the country, whilst generating employment and revenue, in addition to reducing poverty. Domestic tourism galvanises economic growth across sectors, including agriculture and manufacturing, contributes to infrastructure upgrade in rural and urban areas by encouraging government’s commitment to its development, and it largely enhances the creative sector.

 

According to the UNWTO briefing note, “Tourism and COVID-19”, issue 3 of September 2020, domestic tourism is six times larger than international tourism and it accounts for more than a 70% share of domestic trips globally.

 

The vibrant promotion of domestic tourism is the first step to resetting the tourism and hospitality industry in a post-pandemic era where there are endless possibilities for development of our rural communities, and where a lot of our tourist sites are located.

 

The future of the tourism industry is here and we need to be prepared for the emergent opportunities and challenges, which with require a greater form of collaboration across sectors. Foremost, there is need to review regulations guiding the sector’s operations and operators, to standardise service delivery by both public and private sector partners and deploy a strategic stakeholder approach to the development of sustainable tourism practices.

 

Moreso, at the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), we have focused on and given critical support to the country’s creative and cultural assets, with emphasis on the digital promotion of the diverse cultural expressions of our music, film, arts, dance, fashion, cuisine and festivals. These are all game changers that accentuate the desire to witness and experience Nigeria, as such intimately engaging the creative sector and tourism products to create new experiences for targeted consumers, tourists and investors.

 

In line with our agenda to encourage domestic and regional tourism, we created the Tour Nigeria brand to drive the domestic consumption of our tourism assets and products, create new channels of tourism markets, along with employment, and increase the nation’s GDP, by boosting spending that will grow the economy, among others. Tour Nigeria is poised to strongly complement international recovery efforts by stimulating demand locally in a way that grows the confidence to inspire Nigerian destination marketing internationally.

 

The future of the tourism industry is here and we need to be prepared for the emergent opportunities and challenges, which with require a greater form of collaboration across sectors. Foremost, there is need to review regulations guiding the sector’s operations and operators, to standardise service delivery by both public and private sector partners and deploy a strategic stakeholder approach to the development of sustainable tourism practices.

 

Secondly, there is the necessity of effective participation by, and community ownership at rural levels, as agents of change in tourism transformation. The third level requires the deployment of technology and digital techniques for easy and safe travel.

 

The potentials of tourism are enormous and we all have a shared responsibility to make sure it is fully realised. We hereby call on all tourism stakeholders and everyone at the base of the broad and diverse tourism pyramid to pause, reflect and rethink what we do and how we do it.

 

Tourism entrepreneurs are encouraged to embrace technology to gain more mileage and penetration, and acquire adequate knowledge in the proficient use of digital platforms to promote and market existing tourist sites and attractions. This is in addition to ensuring effective service delivery and sustainable practices to grow and protect the tourism industry.

 

With over 147 million active Internet subscriptions and a tele-density of almost 97%, we have a readymade and vast domestic market for the development of tourism locally.

 

As we celebrate this 42nd edition of the World Tourism Day, this is within the frame of reflection on the urgency of building a practice that is environmentally sensitive and future complaint. The need for a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable tourism has now forcefully come on the global agenda of governments, international organisations, businesses, and local communities, and we must all work together to mitigate the evident challenges and concerns, in a way that safeguards our planet. The future of tourism is here, and it depends on our collective senses of responsibility.

 

*Folorunsho* *Coker* is the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and the chief marketer of the Nigerian destination.

Continue Reading

Trending News