Pragmatic Corporate Social Responsibility and the Chevron example

July 20, 2017 Africa , Business , Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

By

Jerome-Mario Utomi

 

The multifaceted volume of political and socioeconomic challenges facing nations globally (Nigeria, in particular) gives fillip to the theory that the economy of developing the nation should by no means be left in the hands of the government alone. It has been opined that these challenges and the burden of running the economy have become too enormous for the government to bear alone and may necessitate support from an “unusual” but legitimate quarter.

From youths’ unemployment to youths’ restiveness and from global warming to environmental pollution and degradation, then the falling standard of education, hyper inflection and economic recession. These factors signal the compelling need for the nation to look more affectionately at the direction of our corporate citizens. Essentially, corporate organizations should come to the rescue by heightening the intensity of their involvement in socially responsible projects as the resultant impact is usually palatable and development oriented.

But regrettably, whenever such a call is made, the first question that comes to the mind of many is: How can… after these organizations have parted with a whopping sum into government coffers as taxes and royalties? The question on its own exposes our shallow knowledge of Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, and heightens the need for more education on this subject. It is instructive also that we understand the gamut of being socially responsible, and who benefits whenever it is carried out.

 

Corporate Social Responsibility is a form of corporate self regulation integrated into a business model. It is a policy that functions as built-in self regulating mechanism whereby a business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit, ethical standards, and international norms.

Corporate social responsibility therefore is manifested by the act of giving back to the society through adherence to the societal norms and support to the spirit of sustainable development. It is an organizational continual self introspection and interrogation geared towards incubating policies and projects that will be of mutual benefit to the organization and her operational environment.

It is also important to note that this exercise is not new to us as a people or strange to our nation. Some organizations, both locally and international, operating in Nigeria have been involved at one time or another. Their list cuts across different industries ranging from banking to oil and manufacturing to commerce.

 

Chiefly in Nigeria, among the organizations that have pragmatically enshrined social responsibility as their hallmark and operational norm in the oil industry is Chevron Nigeria Limited and Zenith Bank Limited in the banking sector. These two organizations may not be the only or the best but represent the flagship of very few organizations that grasp the full meaning and imperativeness, as well as the spirit behind corporate social responsibility policy.

Chevron Nigerian Limited as an example has passionately demonstrated and committed huge resources in partnering with the host communities through empowerment of the people, maintenance and adherence to the best international practice and sponsorship of different academic and professional education at different institutions of higher learning within and outside the country. Zenith Bank on the other hand is so deeply rooted in developing the youths’ capacity in Information and communication Technology (ICT), school renovation and equipment with modern learning facilities.

 

From the above, being socially responsible is an action with tripartite benefits – to the organization, the community/ individual beneficiaries and lastly the government. But when critically examined, one discovers without ambiguity of any form that the benefits may be not symmetrical or mutual in proportion as it tends to accrue more to the organization involved than the host community and the government put together.

The reason for the above position as canvassed is not far fetched. Social responsibility involvement portrays the doer as a good corporate citizen, increasing its corporate visibility, and increasing its reputation in the estimation of the right thinking citizens and above all, CSR remains the most efficient way of achieving a cost effective and workable institutional advertising by any organization.

To further buttress the indispensability of corporate social responsibility practice to the nation, Barr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, (SAN), the immediate past Governor of Lagos State and now the Minister for Power, Housing and Works while commissioning the Ajose Adogun Street executed by Zenith Bank limited, some years back threw more light on this issue.

He remarked as follows: “We recognize that the engine of growth and development for any developing nation today lies in the ability to strategically cultivate and harness private as well as public sector effort, thereby opening up vistas of opportunities for the public-private partnerships that will contribute not only to the millennium development goals but also the nation’s overall development. I must say that Zenith Bank’s complete rehabilitation of Ajose Adeogun Street and the adjoining roundabout is a laudable effort worthy of emulation. Clearly you are a leader in the sphere of corporate social responsibility.’’

The above remark lends credence to the pivotal role that corporate organization plays and benefits derived when indulge in corporate social responsibility. Also, the scope of CSR is limitless and diverse. It may include – but not limited to – Enterprise, Education, Art and Culture and Environment. But despite the above benefits, at times it becomes very worrisome as one stumbles at unfortunate opportunities to watch some corporate organizations and multinationals in a dagger drawn animosity with their host communities.

Some of these organizations go to the extent of using financial inducement to divide and polarize these communities. Some go to the extent of litigation with their host communities. By this act, they squeeze life out of the already stressed community. They indirectly ‘’kill the sheep they are meant to protect.’’ A case in mind is the protracted litigation between Erovie community in Delta state with one of the oil majors. Their case has traversed different courts of different jurisdictions. The money expanded on that matter by the multinational would have been enough to calm the raging grievances of the host community. This, I must say is condemnable on the part of the organization.

 

This piece is not aimed at disparaging any institution or industry but to among other reasons, appreciate the organizations that are neck deep supporting their host communities, rekindle the fire of CSR in some lukewarm organizations and very importantly, aimed at igniting the consciousness and the industry of certain institutions that are still demonstrating a very high degree of apathy towards corporate social responsibility.

To this end, as a patriotic Nigerian who is interested in a robust nationhood, it is my humble opinion that corporate organizations in the country should not relent in their drive to be socially responsible to their immediate environment. They, as a matter of importance and urgency should very passionately embrace CSR as a policy project that will add value to the lives of the people and beneficial to the host communities and the nation at large.

The government on its own part should be willing to recognize the efforts of these organizations, extend tax holidays to the outstanding organizations and provide an enabling environment for their businesses. The government should also put a very strong structure as well as security in place that will protect and maintain these huge projects as executed by these socially responsible corporate citizens.

It is my view that “as a condition for victory in battle, the sovereign and the generals must be synchronized, the sovereign manifest the vision, while the generals appraise conditions, determining how the conditions can be carried out; joined together, this makes the victory.”

The same principle is required to enable us to win the war against our current socioeconomic and environmental woes. The government of Nigeria as the sovereign should summon the political will, seize the initiative, develop the vision and approach our corporate organizations. Then, appraising the condition and determining how to achieve the vision will be the responsibility of the corporate organizations. That for now remains the best way to go.

 

 

 

 

Jerome-Mario Utomi

Jerome-Mario is a Social Entrepreneur and an alumnus, School of media and communication, Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, Nigeria.

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