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I Encourage all Corporates To Identify Avenues for Incorporating CSR into their Business Strategies – Bekeme Masade

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Bekeme Masade

 

Bekeme Masade is a Harvard-trained social entrepreneur and currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of CSR-in-Action. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of BAO, she spoke on the state of corporate citizenship in the country; how she has managed her company’s ultimate goal  “CSR advocacy” and the challenges involved among other issues.

 

EXCERPTS:

 

Tell us about CSR-in-Action

CSR-in-Action is a conglomerate of 3 sustainability focused businesses: CSR-In-Action Consulting, the College of Sustainable Citizenship and CSR-In-Action Advocacy. Our vision to be the foremost independent ethical action network and consultancy for collective social responsibility and corporate governance in West Africa was birthed in 2010. Since then, we have evolved into a leading sustainability consultancy with over 20 member organisations from the business and civil societies, partners in both public and private sector, and clients from diverse industries.

From inception, our goal has been to bridge the sustainability gap through the initiation of sustainable development, responsible behavior and good governance; and we have done this by promoting an inclusive approach to development at every turn. I believe that it is our ability to create solutions that marry the experiences in our local terrain with international best practices that has distinguished us from others, and we constantly work to develop increasingly innovative and sustainable strategies for our valued stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

It is in our efforts to redefine the sustainability terrain that we have, over the years, championed several strategic initiatives. Through our consultancy, we have advanced a major tenet of sustainability by supporting organisations like Etisalat Nigeria, Lafarge Africa, Total Nigeria and the Nigerian Stock Exchange to write sustainability reports, in compliance with the world recognised Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework; and assuring reports of organisations like Access Bank. Having introduced the GRI framework to the Nigerian market, today, we are an organisational stakeholder of the GRI and the first indigenous Accountability AA1000 Assurance Partner in Sub-Saharan Africa.

On the advocacy front, we have several flagship programmes including the Sustainability in the Extractive Industries (SITEI) Conference – now in its 6th year – which has brought together key stakeholders in the extractive industries to engage in high level deliberations over opportunities for growth, development and diversification in the sector, with key consideration for good governance, community development, environmental responsibility, and effective stakeholder engagement.

Since 2015, we have partnered with the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) to garner active participation from the public and private sector; and in 2016, the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, Ford Foundation and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) also came on board as partners. We’ve had other partners over the years span several industries including the Canadian High Commission, BusinessDay, Zenera Consulting, Shell, Chevron, Lafarge Africa, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Zone 4 Energy, and a host of others.

The Collective Social Investment Report is also one of the flagship programmes we are very proud of. This compendium serves as a repository of information on the sustainability strategies and activities of corporates in Nigeria, and goes on to rank them per industry based on global standards in the 3C-Index. We partnered with Accenture in building the framework for the 2014 report, and Ernst and Young served as a reviewer to ensure proper analysis of the information. The 2012, 2013 and 2014 reports – as well as the ranking – can all be found on our website.

Also under advocacy, we have the Good Citizen Initiative, which is a focused campaign to reorient the minds of everyday Nigerian citizens to act responsibly to the end that we build a Nigeria we would all be proud to call home.

Over the years, we have recognised that we cannot only tell people to do, but we must also empower them to do. Our College of Sustainable Citizenship runs an entire gamut of sustainability focused courses that will build the necessary capacity in individuals, corporates and governments to understand the economic, social and environmental responsibilities that accrue to them, and action these effectively and sustainably.

Our holistic approach, therefore, provides a suitable platform for responsible individuals, non-profits, philanthropists, organisations and governments to develop and showcase their ethical and sustainable investment initiatives, and incorporate best practice that will lead to the promotion of sustainable development in every sector of the Nigerian economy.

Is there any difference between philanthropy, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and corporate citizenship?

Certainly, there is. Philanthropy has a narrower, more limited scope than both corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate citizenship – which can be used interchangeably. Philanthropy refers primarily to donations made to charitable or non-profit groups either by the corporation, its employees, or both. CSR – which is also sometimes called corporate citizenship – deals with the economic, social, and environmental consciousness and responsiveness of an organisation, which can involve philanthropy.

We know popular philanthropists like, Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, and John Rockefeller, to name a few. These individuals, through their foundations, have given billions of dollars in aid to vulnerable communities all over the world, and we find many companies who do same. While donations to communities, Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, clinics, or schools is commendable, the paradigm has shifted, and demands that we go the extra mile to address an organisation’s need to treat their stakeholders ethically and with respect; this is where CSR and corporate citizenship take the reins.

With CSR and corporate citizenship, a company has to show its commitment to ethical behavior, balance stakeholders’ needs, and protect the environment, whilst creating economic value. The link between its efforts at CSR and its core values must, therefore, be strong to make notable impact.

Leading a social enterprise in Nigeria, what has your experience been in CSR consulting, advocacy, and sustainable citizenship?

CSR-in-Action began with advocacy; and our experiences in the space drew our attention to the disconnect between the efforts of corporate and public sector organisations, and the needs of the communities within which they operate. Thus, we have honed our skills to provide better positioning and alignment of goals, strategies and programmes.

It has also been our experience that concepts with more long term benefits than immediate pay offs, take more time to catch on, but eventually do so given the right environment, commitment, and support. Just a few years ago, the general reaction to the subject of ‘sustainability’ or ‘CSR’ was rather disappointing. Companies were neither willing to accept responsibility, nor make the requisite changes and adopt new innovations to create shared value for all. Fortunately, the wind of change blowing across the globe has changed that perspective in Nigeria. Organisations now see more clearly the need for responsible and sustainable behaviour if they will compete, survive and even excel on the local and global scale.

For instance, many of the multinational oil & gas companies have been compelled to pay more attention to their exploration activities and its environmental impact in their host communities. The increasingly strict regulations in this regard, and the brand equity they lose by failing to comply has inspired a previously scarce sense of commitment to doing business responsibly. And we have seen this deliberate attention come into play in the increased participation from both public and private sector in the SITEI conference over the years.

The marked growth we have seen has certainly been encouraging. Through our transition to training and consulting, we have helped many companies set the standard for sustainability in their respective industries by not only raising awareness on international best practice, but by building capacity and supporting these organisations to take steps in the right direction.

What are the major challenges facing social entrepreneurs in Nigeria?

It often feels as though these challenges are innumerable, but for starter, there is the lack of funding. Because social entrepreneurs are more focused on social, cultural and environmental issues that do not immediately boast economic viability, funds are often not readily accessible. This typically leads to organisations that lack efficiency in their operations.

There is also a clear lack of mentorship support. The younger social entrepreneurs are usually full of passion but have little experience when they venture into this sector are thus in need of capacity to set up professional establishments. Unfortunately, the right type of guidance is often not available. Looking at CSR-in-Action for instance, at the beginning, no other organisation was driving CSR like we were, as such, there was no local example to learn from or emulate. We were, therefore, forced to look beyond the shores of Nigeria to acquire the necessary training and guidance that would make us stand out.

Another major challenge is genuine partnerships from reputable bodies. The ability to make tremendous impact would be tremendously enhanced through collaborations, yet, many social entrepreneurs lack access to such partnerships – international and local. Where social entrepreneurs have fantastic ideas with clear plans for implementation, and valuable benefits, they often need the support of reputable, bigger and more viable organisations to implement successfully. Unfortunately, many of these organisations do not buy into the vision, and such programmes die naturally, or are implemented poorly.

Poor infrastructure has equally hampered progress for all types of organisations, and social entrepreneurs are no different. Erratic power supply, bad road network, poor transport system, and many other socio-economic issues have significantly raised the cost of living in Nigeria, over the years. Nigeria has been judged one of the fastest growing economies in Africa after South Africa, and with population of over 150 million people. Yet, we lack the basic infrastructure to meet the needs of majority of the population; how can we then hope to stimulate activities that will make the required impact on the society?

 

Of course, it would be impossible to answer this question without identifying corruption as one of the biggest problems a social entrepreneur faces. More disheartening is the fact that social entrepreneurs are just as easily perpetrators, as they are victims, of corruption. Where some projects have stalled because the organisation refused to give kick-backs to those who have deemed themselves ‘benefactors’, others have used their organisations as fronts to make quick cash at the expense of corporates with good intentions. It is, therefore, difficult to build trust, making progress practically impossible.

 

What sustainable strategies have helped you navigate the challenging business environment?

Challenges are not new, and in fact, we embraced this vision knowing the possibility of not just encountering them, but much more, overcoming them. Consequently, we made clear cut choices that would enable us to not only compete, but stand out in our market. Also, we clearly defined our strategy and business model, adopted a sustainable lifestyle as an organisation, and positioned ourselves to collaborate profitably with likeminded, future thinking organisations, both home and abroad such as the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC).

Specifically, we have navigated the business terrain sustainably first by diversifying our portfolio to meet increasing demands in newer yet related spheres. We discovered that the world around us is changing constantly and quickly. As such, to avoid being left behind, we had to decipher other useful avenues to deliver relevant business solutions and by so doing, bring value to our clients in the most sustainable way. This has positioned us as a dynamic organisation with global aspirations.

Secondly, we have maintained our consistency of quality. We understand what makes us unique and what drives our market, and we have painstakingly maintained that level of quality service delivery to our esteemed clients. This, in addition to the integrity that we have become known for, keeps us ahead of the pack and has earned us the deserved respect. We strictly abide by moral values that prevent us from either giving or taking bribes, shortchanging our clients in any way, or manipulating figures for any personal gain.

I believe one of our major strengths also lies in collaboration. Like I earlier said, we have actively collaborated over the years with international and local organsiations. These collaborations have allowed us to leverage other – and sometimes bigger – platforms to sail through uncharted waters over the years.

Finally, we are keen on ensuring that we genuinely seek the good of our clients, developing new and sustainable ways of meeting their needs in a most transparent manner. We are dedicated to keeping our word as stated in any contract we sign, and where we are unavoidably unable to deliver on any of our responsibilities as agreed, we are forthright with all clients.

What recommendations do you have for corporates with no CSR plan operating in Nigeria and Africa?

Any CSR initiative must be deliberate to take advantage of the tremendous benefits that accrue.  With the increasing attention being paid to the positive or negative impacts of the activities of organisations, corporates are paying more attention to CSR, although traction is still somewhat slow. The key thing to remember is that CSR is not just a department, but must be an integral part of the system or framework that drives an organisation. That way, nothing is left to chance.

Today, global trends point to the fact that stakeholders are as equally concerned with social and environmental impacts of corporates’ activities, just as much as the economic impacts. Considering that no business can prosper in a declining locality. Thus, the problems of education, health, crime, unemployment, drugs, socio-political unrest, global warming, pollution, and a host of others, dramatically affect business. While businesses have previously considered these to be the exclusive domain of government, more and more business leaders across the world are accepting part of the responsibility to improve the communities in which they do business, thus setting good examples and standards for others.

I, therefore, would encourage all corporates to identify avenues for incorporating CSR into their business strategies due to the attendant benefits that comes with it. For instance, incorporating CSR can help companies engage with their customers in new ways, garner them the social license to operate, increase brand loyalty, and inspire innovative and cost-saving approaches to doing business. In the end, the reasons all come down to long-term competitive advantage.

 

Bekeme Masade

Bekeme Masade is a Harvard-trained social entrepreneur and currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of CSR-in-Action; an organisation dedicated to promoting the advancement and awareness of Corporate Social Responsibility, women and youth empowerment, good governance and sustainable development in Nigeria.

She holds a Merit in International Human Resource Management & Employment Relations (MSc) from the prestigious University of London, Queen Mary College. As a renowned policy maker and private sector leader Bekeme was nominated to represent Nigeria, alongside other African nationals to understudy the German green economy – Energiewiende – and sustainability with a view to localizing the principles for economic diversification in Nigeria.

Under her leadership, CSR-in-Action has also enjoyed regional recognition as a sustainability expert from both the public and private sector. She initiated the Sustainability in the Extractive Industries (SITEI) conference and has nurtured it into its fourth year with strong government participation. She also implemented the first ever Collective Social Investment Report in 2012 to showcase business activities in the light of Corporate Sustainability and recently partnered with Accenture and Ernst & Young.

She has also embarked on a sustainability reporting, assurance, as well as strategy development under the consulting arm of her firm, CSR-in-Action.

Bekeme is a certified trainer of the world globally renowned GRI G4 sustainability reporting and a certified trainer having undergone the “Train the Trainer” programme. Bekeme is Chairman of the Board of Passion House, and is on the Board of Waste Recycling Community of Nigeria.

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CEO Corner

African Bank Appoints Kennedy Bungane, CEO

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African Bank New CEO, Kennedy Bungane (Press Release & Image: African Bank)

African Bank (“Board”) announces the appointment of Mr. Kennedy Bungane as the Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) and as an executive director of the Bank and its holding company, African Bank Holdings Limited (“ABH”) effective 14 April 2021. The Bank confirms that the appointment of Kennedy was done in accordance with African Bank’s policy on the selection and nomination of executive directors, and in order to fill a vacancy as well as add to the skillset on the Board.

Kennedy brings over 20 years of banking experience with him, having started his career at Standard Bank in 1991, holding a number of senior positions, including Head of Global Markets Sales, Head of Institutional and Corporate Banking, CEO Corporate and Investment Banking for Standard Bank South Africa, and a member of the Standard Bank Group Executive Committee. After joining Barclays Africa in 2012 as Chief Executive of Barclays Africa Limited and Head of Absa Group strategy, Kennedy led the sale of Barclays Africa Limited to the ABSA Group. More recently, Kennedy headed up the Phembani Group as its CEO. He also brings investment and strategic experience gained as the founder and chairman of Nokeng Telecoms and chairman of Idwala Capital.

Kennedy holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree, a Master of Business Administration, and completed the advanced management program at the Harvard Business School (USA).

Commenting on Kennedy’s appointment, the Chairman of the Board, Thabo Dloti, stated, “We welcome the appointment of Kennedy as the new permanent CEO. Kennedy has a keen sense for managing complex stakeholder issues. He has a proven track record in identifying and nurturing leadership, which promotes strong teams to deliver successful results. His passion for the role that banking can play in transforming society resonated strongly with the Board.

As an experienced banker, he also critically has a good grasp of the strategic challenges facing the Bank, within a muted South African economy and competitive landscape, as well as the required regulatory and governance framework.

 

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CEO Corner

African Visionary Fund (AVFund) Appoints New co-CEO, Atti Worku

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African Visionary Fund (AVFund) New co-CEO, Atti Worku (Source: African Visionary Fund Website)

About a year ago, African Visionary Fund launched with a bold mission to tackle the inequities and power imbalances in global philanthropy by driving unrestricted resources to African visionaries. At the heart of all they do their values of equity and solidarity, which compel them to center African voices at every level of the organization. They are thrilled to announce the Fund’s new Africa-based co-CEO, Atti Worku!

Atti brings a wealth of experience in the nonprofit world, is a strong advocate for local founders, and is dedicated to righting the historic funding inequity that can hold them back. Prior to joining the Fund, Atti founded and led Seeds of Africa for over 10 years. Seeds is an Ethiopian grassroots organization dedicated to developing the educational foundation for the next generation of African leaders. Under her leadership, Seeds grew from an after-school program serving 15 kids to becoming a full-time multi-dimensional school educating 250 students from pre-K to middle school, and working with over 150 of their mothers providing small business entrepreneurship micro-loans and resources. In just over a decade Seeds has impacted the lives of over 2,000 people, transforming the trajectories of students, teachers, mothers, and their families and creating a future brimming with possibilities beyond a poverty trap.

“My mission is to advocate for African visionaries to be recognized by funders as experts, equal partners and critical drivers of systems change. I’m excited to learn from incredible African leaders with big dreams and even bigger global potential.” -Atti Worku, AVFund co-CEO

Why Co-leadership

The African Visionary Fund is built on the firm belief that proximity matters. Seeded by a group of foundations and philanthropists who wanted to not only take action on equity but also be intentional about shifting the power over resources to African visionaries, shared leadership has been part of the Fund’s DNA from the beginning.

“Co-leadership is mission critical. We cannot build new models for equity-centered philanthropy without living those values within our own institution.” -Katie Bunten-Wamaru, AVFund co-CEO

The AVFund’s organizational journey started with collective and shared leadership in mind as our Founding Working Group worked with our leadership to inform and design all aspects of our organization and funding model. This majority-African, majority-doer group considered a number of different leadership structures for the Fund but gravitated towards co-leadership because it prioritizes proximity and equity, centers the experience of African visionaries, and ultimately helps us shift power.

Our Founding Working Group proved that we can co-create new models of philanthropy centered on collective leadership that shift power and center equity – our co-leadership model is the natural, values-aligned extension of that founding idea.

The Fund

Atti’s lived experience as an African founder has given her firsthand experience of the realities and complexities that local innovators face, making her a great partner in executing the Fund’s mission.

“This role is very personal to me. I see myself in the ambitious and innovative entrepreneurs we engage with at the AVFund. I hope to learn from them, and partner with them to redesign funding systems that give African visionaries an equitable chance of success.” -Atti Worku, AVFund co-CEO

The barriers for African visionaries have been well documented with data showing that less than 5.2% of US foundation giving specific to Africa goes to African-led organizations. And in Atti’s experience, sometimes philanthropy’s oversight of African founders translates into a heavy emotional toll, an internal struggle she also had to deal with in her experience fundraising for her organization. She is committed to helping other African visionaries by being “the voice that reassures and validates them in the face of injustices.”

“Raising philanthropic dollars can be a long trauma for African social entrepreneurs and other leaders of color. On one hand, you’re doing innovative, high-impact work, but on the other, you are constantly being asked to prove yourself on a level far beyond your peers, doing so, and somehow still falling short. Aggregate data on racial inequity in philanthropy already speaks volumes, but systemic injustice is deeply personal. It took me years to realize that I wasn’t the problem,” Atti shared.

On Co-leadership

At the core, the AVFund seeks to create a bridge between global philanthropy and innovative African social changemakers and to do that, it’s critical to have proximity to both our visionary partners and our funding partners. Shared leadership makes this possible.

“There is an inherent tension in the work of the AVFund – we call it the ‘play the game, change the game’ balance. We want to support African social changemakers to play the game to access more sustainable funding now, while also challenging the status quo in ways that build a more equitable philanthropic ecosystem in the long run,” Katie explained. “There will always be a need to balance this tension – having a co-leadership model helps us balance both sides of our work and not lose sight of either goal.”

Having been on both sides of the table, Atti believes a further added benefit of co-leadership lies in the fact that representation matters. “I have been a micro-funder through Seeds and have seen the value of someone like you believing in your vision and empowering it,” she shared.

“At AVFund, we celebrate and choose co-leadership because we recognize the importance of diversity for strong, grounded and authentic leadership.” -Melizsa Mugyenyi, Advisory Board Member.

The Future

Atti joins the Fund at a crucial season of our organizational journey as we look to deepen our impact across the continent – we are more than a third of the way towards reaching our goal to raise US$10 million which will enable us to provide 35 nonprofits across Africa with unrestricted, multiyear grants by 2023.

In the near-term, the Fund is also on track to commit atleast another $US1 million later this year and partner with more African social innovators. Atti is particularly excited to work with those at the forefront of leading-edge innovations whose potential for impact is inhibited by lack of resources and buy-in from funders.

“African visionaries aren’t often given the resources they need to validate the new concepts they have which really makes innovation very difficult. A lack of unrestricted funding for the disruptive ideas coming out of Africa limits potential and slows development. I’m ready to help change that in every way we can!” -Atti Worku, AVFund co-CEO

Source AVFund

 

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CEO Corner

Rolake Rosiji, ex-Country Manager M-KOPA Solar Appointed As The New CEO Of Jobberman Nigeria

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Rolake Rosiji, CEO at Jobberman (Source: ROAM)

Jobberman, the single largest job placement platform in sub-Saharan Africa, has announced the appointment of Rolake Rosiji as the new CEO. Rolake takes over from Hilda Kragha, now Managing Director of ROAM Africa Jobs, and will continue the work of establishing Jobberman as the primary platform for job searching, talent acquisition and transforming workplace productivity across Nigeria.

Jobberman’s technology-driven platform, which uses tools such as application tracking, data science for skills and personality assessment, connects over 1 million job seekers to employers. With over a decade of experience in the recruitment industry, the company has built a reputation of trust and strong partnerships with the country’s most coveted employers; matching talented candidates with jobs according to their skillset.

Rolake joins Jobberman with a decade of global experience in strategic leadership and operational excellence. Most recently, she led the technology and sales operations for credit financed smartphones and solar power sets as Country Manager of M-KOPA Nigeria; a connected asset financing company that makes financing for everyday essentials accessible to everyone. Prior to that, she was Head of Strategy & Business Development for Arla Foods Africa, where she developed distribution and joint venture partnerships across West Africa to rapidly scale up sales and worked in Corporate Strategy roles in Denmark and the USA. Her proven track record of business expansion projects, digital and technical transformation and executing strategic partnerships will be key to her implementation for growth and development of the brand.

Commenting on her new role as CEO, Rolake Rosiji said “This is a very exciting chapter in my career and I am delighted to be joining such a passionate and innovative team. Jobberman has built a brand of excellence by using technology to revolutionise the recruitment sector. I look forward to steering the company vision to build a market of greater technology adoption, democratic access and transparency that will tackle dominant challenges, notably youth unemployment and underemployment.  It is a privilege for me to be at the helm of this dynamic team as we set out to empower job seekers with key skills and improve workplace productivity for employers in Nigeria.”

Hilda Kragha, Managing Director of ROAM Africa Jobs added “I am delighted that Rolake has taken on this position. Rolake’s expertise, understanding of different markets and high performance is what makes her the perfect person to anchor the next phase for Jobberman. I look forward to working with her to take Jobberman to even greater heights.”

Rolake took on her role as CEO on February 1st 2021. Her focus will be to broaden the impact beyond the white-collar space and continue to work closely with Jobberman’s impact partners in tackling youth unemployment in Nigeria.

ROAM

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