Goal 1 of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) seeks to end poverty in all its forms everywhere by the year 2030. For emphasis, poverty in this context denotes livelihoods of less than $1.25 a day. Other Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of SDG goal 1 worthy of note here includes:
– To reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.
– To ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance.
– To build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters.
Nigeria as a member – nation of the UN has about 11 years left to meet the year 2030 timeline for achieving this goal of ending poverty in all its forms in the 36 states of the federation, and the FCT. High cost of living, rising rate of unemployment and massive job losses amongst a burgeoning population is constantly increasing the number of ‘financial IDPs’- those who are economically displaced within the country. Christening those living below the poverty line as financial IDPs is an attempt to point out the fact that the incidence of their predicament is a breach of the social contract between the government and the people on one hand and that between the business and the society on the other hand. It is also worthy of mention here that the more the number of the financial IDPs (the poor), the more the quantity of unsold goods on the shelf and longer operating cycle for businesses. The need to re-build and restore the resilience of the poor in the society (the financial IDPs) therefore makes both social and business sense. As businesses move towards sustainability, scoring a point along the SDGs, using CSR, would be very apt and desirable.
WINNING THROUGH STRATEGIC PHILANTHROPY
Retailing is ubiquitous across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. From the traffic on the highways to city slums and undeveloped rural communities retailing is pursued with passion and great sacrifice. Empowering unemployed women and youths economically can be undertaken by way of CSR. By this strategy, participating companies can convert part of their CSR funds into their own products which would be given out as seed capital to indigent members of the society to set them up as modular retailers in their localities. These modular retailers would be linked to Field Sales Representatives or sub-dealers from whom they would replenish their stock using proceeds from the seed capital (stock) provided. While such project would rank high as an SDG –compliant CSR, it would also help spread the benefactors’ market reach, taking their products into localities and neighbourhoods where TV and radio adverts may be ineffective. CSR projects of this nature would align perfectly with the SDGs Goal 1 KPI of reducing the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty.
While this idea may sound novel, it is however not impracticable. It would require firstly a buy-in and thereafter a bespoke program plan incorporating the peculiarities of each participating company, their products and their distribution channels. This idea of strategic philanthropy represents a targeted and impact-driven corporate giving whereby corporate charity can be identified with particular individuals and their impact on the recipients can be objectively measured. This mode of CSR is not however restricted to individual recipients alone, market groups, rural co-operatives and Community – Based Organisations (CBOs) can also be targeted with such programs. Either group or individual recipients, the objective is to lift the beneficiaries from poverty. Unlike other CSR projects where the donor leaves after commissioning, the sponsoring entity under this new CSR project never leaves. This is because the beneficiary is ultimately nurtured to become an economic entity with direct or indirect business and mentorship relationship with the sponsor. Sustainability leaves in the hands of the sponsor the responsibility of ensuring the success of the modular retailers. This responsibility is however not without benefits: success of beneficiaries means success of the benefactor’s CSR program and also more business for the benefactor.
WINNING THROUGH VENTURE CAPITAL SUPPORT (AS CSR)
One of the major pursuits of the SDGs goal 1 is to ensure that the poor and the vulnerable have equal rights to economic resources including access to basic financial services including microfinance. The inability of rural dwellers to have access to affordable microfinance is impinging on their ability to take part in economic activities, create wealth and earn fair income. This inaccessibility to microfinance is also prevalent in the towns and cities, among the poor, unemployed and other vulnerable members of the society.
Sparing a part of the CSR funds of Nigerian corporates to provide interest- free venture capital to support the development of SMEs would go a long way in achieving the SDGs goal 1. This venture capital support can be undertaken as a revolving loan scheme (interest-free) to be repaid at a determined gestation period. Beneficiaries under the scheme shall be subject to supervision by the benefactor, with performance evaluation via regular reports; this is to ensure that funds availed to beneficiaries are duly applied as intended and to ensure the investee SMEs succeed , not only to repay the capital but also succeed into perpetuity. Whilst this project would not amount to additional burden (in terms of funding), it would allow for a more robust way of impacting lives and providing a collective utility – finance for SMEs: one utility that is most sought-after in the nation. Helping SMEs grow is a way of keeping unemployment rate and crime rate low. Again, while such schemes may not succeed in the hands of government, there is unwavering faith in the ability of Nigerian corporates to succeed in this social enterprise. Success in this regard will be a colourful feather on the caps of participating entities.
WINNING FOR ALL
A better mix between sustainability and profitability is achieved when an entity’s profitability engenders and drives sustainable development in the host community and the society at large. SDGs goal 1 underscores the fact that swell balance sheets and super profits may be irrelevant to sustainable economic development when such fortune is gathered from a locality where majority of the population continue to leave below the poverty line.
Renovating schools for children whose families cannot afford to pay for their school uniforms; sinking borehole for a community that has no food to eat; providing electricity for a household that cannot afford an electric bulb; or building a new hospital for a community ravaged by hunger; each of these scenarios leaves a gap between traditional CSR and social effectiveness as most beneficiaries lack the connecting power to tap from the CSR projects. Much as public infrastructure and other social services are commendable as CSR projects, adding poverty alleviation and economic empowerment into the mix would produce a perfect blend of social effectiveness which would in turn accelerate the speed of success towards the SDGs goal 1.
When corporate citizens incorporate poverty alleviation and economic empowerment into their CSR plans, it becomes winning for all: social good for the society; respite for government and more business patronage for the corporates.
The CSR Arena is a CSR advocacy and sustainability-reporting-analysis champion. We encourage and celebrate effective CSR and positive social impact by responsible corporate citizens; we celebrate international best practices in sustainability reporting across different economic divides. Our goal is to realize the dream of development scholars that, ‘corporates, more than governments, would bring about the much needed sustainable development across the globe. We partner with FBOs, NGOs, CBOs, governments and corporates to spread the message of sustainable development and corporate sustainability. Our platforms bear tales of good corporate citizenship – grab the microphone that you may be heard. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org