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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Environmental Sustainability in Private Sector: An Advocacy

Gas flare causing environmental damage
Government intervenes in industry for several reasons. Apart from being the biggest spender and provider of public infrastructure, it is equally her responsibility to protect the working people from abuse, protect the consuming public from exploitation, and from deleterious impacts of industrialization. Consequently, when governance is good and there is no natural disaster (force majeure) both man and nature enjoy some measure of stability. It is in this sense God sees good leaders as His ministers.
 On the other land, poor governance is usually associated with paucity of infrastructures, weak environmental institutions and legal frame works. These prevent countries from adequately addressing sustainability issues.
 Since the past two decades, public awareness of environment, social and governance issue is radically altering the global business landscape. Businesses are increasingly reviewing their theory of business as a result of internal and external pressures. The relationship between some health problems and the environment of work, coupled with the realization that what may be beneficial from say economic perspective may be detrimental to the quality of life or well being of the populace is compelling stakeholders to adopt an integrated approach to development.
 Nigerian private sector as a global player, though presently weakened by poor infrastructure, cannot afford to be insensitive to present day realities. It must prepare for the future today or destroy the future now. Leadership in the organized private sector must discover like Garvin Murray of International Finance Corporation (IFC) that striving for business value and doing good for the environment or society need not be contradictory pursuits. The truth is that the viability of business itself depends on ecological resources.
 The concept of “doing good” requires private players to rise above the realm of compliance and basic Corporate Social Responsibility requirements. It involves corporate governance, transparency, process eco-efficiency, environmental performance of product or service, health, safety and welfare of the workforce, among others. It is known to yield both tangible and intangible returns to organizations engaged in it.
 The paradigm shift, therefore will require manufacturers to consider biodegradable nutrients or raw materials, and recyclable packaging. They should go for products with minimal carbon imprints, consume less energy, water, and other inputs. They must as much as possible adopt production processes that will produce fewer air, water and other pollutants. Some companies, like 3m in United States, increased their profits by making their procedures more efficient and producing less waste. That was without installing pollution control plants.
 The sustainable management of the supply chain is critical for the private sector. Companies must identify and assess potential environmental risks and hazards along their supply chain and take steps to prevent, mitigate or remedy their likely impacts. Doing good should also entail the avoidance of child labour both at shop floor and along the supply chain.
 The declaration of humongous annual turnover or profits after tax will no longer be commendable if the same company (be it in the Hospitality, Production, Banking, Oil, Telecom, Construction, or Logistics sub sector) is destroying the integrity of the ecosystem or disrupting the social fabric that sustains it. Verifiable sustainability reports will be key in determining corporate success in the days ahead. Stakeholders will like to verify the level of sustainable financing carried by a bank. They will want to see the eco-friendliness of the businesses or projects financed by them.
 The government, media, academia, NGOs and other stakeholders will increasingly be interested in sustainability report. Beyond environmental impact assessment, they will like to weigh a company’s impacts against her good to the society and the environment. This is already changing the face of Corporate Social Responsibility. It is also going to affect capital market positioning of a firm, the chances of playing in the global arena and even securing international facility or partnerships. The Nigerian private sector must rise up to these developments.

MacDenis Igbo

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