At the 2020 edition of the annual Lagos Business School International Sustainability Conference, experts across sectors discussed sustainable recovery from COVID-19 and proffered business and policy solutions for job creation in emerging markets.
Held virtually on November 21, the International Sustainability Conference is an annual dialogue platform to inspire business leaders to embed sustainability and responsible business practices in their organisation’s strategy and operations to make a positive impact on their business performance and society.
Lagos Business School Deputy Dean and Director, LBS Sustainability Centre, Professor Chris Ogbechie set the tone for the conference in his welcome address by emphasising the need for business leaders to run purpose-driven organisations.
He said, “creating value for all stakeholders by having a positive social impact is a bold decision that business leaders must make. Several countries of the world are reeling from the effects of COVID-19 and civil unrests which further compounds the volatility of the business environment, the plethora of problems in the world further emphasize the need for sustainable development – the type that meets the needs of the person but does not take away the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
On the panel session, Managing Director, SMEFunds Capital, Dr Jubril Adeojo was joined by CEO, Nigerian Climate Innovation Centre, Bankole Oloruntoba and Deputy Director, Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) Nneka Okekearu.
Oloruntoba exposed the audience to the immense benefits of building a circular economy, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. He said, “We’ve not tapped up to 3% of the immense opportunities in the circular economy. Opportunities abound for SMEs as they are the lifeline of the economy and they feed the value chain in the emerging green sector.”
He added that “The green sector increasingly will find more application in different areas: lifestyle products, waste conversion to gas for cooking, solar for greenhouse and irrigation, and enabling access to safe drinking water; brickets for cooking, plastics for powering vehicles, sustainable buildings, etc.”
For Okekearu, the business case for a circular economy and green growth is yet to be fully understood by entrepreneurs and investors. She recommended that storytelling should be adopted to communicate the opportunities and benefits.
She said, “Investors and entrepreneurs will not all immediately jump on to the green growth bandwagon. Like was seen in the IT sector, it will take a while to convince many to take the plunge. But in effectively communicating the success stories of those who have, we can persuade many more on the opportunities in green growth. Storytelling just might be the key to unlocking greater interest in the sector”.
In the second session, the conversation centred on eliminating the bottlenecks in achieving zero hunger. Global Vice President, The Hunger Project, Rowlands Kaotcha addressed the topic from the angle of sustainable grassroot strategies for eliminating hunger.
Kaotcha concluded that “community leaders need to be involved in the design of initiatives aimed at promoting zero hunger, they are most likely to truly address the root causes of hunger and food insecurity, most of which some of us educated people may not understand.”
CEO, AFEX Nigeria Commodities Exchange, Ayodeji Balogun emphasised on the need for African government to make technology attractive to its youth. He said, “Africa’s youth bulge presents both risks and opportunities. Governments need to make agriculture attractive by introducing technology, something that fascinates young people. So rather than the dreary humdrum work in the fields, they are working with tools that interest them and are helping to keep the population fed and sustained.”
The conference closed with LBS Strategy faculty, Dr Franklin Ngwu summarising the key lessons and encouraging every member of the audience to ensure that conversations on business sustainability continue.