On Wednesday, November 27, the Lagos Business School Sustainability Centre hosted experts, academics and thought leaders across industries at the 2019 edition of its International Sustainability Conference themed, ‘Innovating for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth’.
The International Sustainability Conference is an annual dialogue-to-action platform to inspire business leaders and corporate executives to embed sustainability and responsible business practices in their strategy and operations to result in positive impacts not only on business performance but on the society as well.
In his thought-provoking opening remarks, Director, LBS Sustainability Centre, Professor Chris Ogbechie called the attention of the audience to the core purpose of the event which is to shape the only home we have: earth. He went on to add that organisations are now being held to a new standard that goes beyond profit-making to being responsible, sustainable and good corporate citizens of the world.
Ogbechie said, “I am particularly interested in the big, five sustainability storm clouds in Africa as they are issues that can make or mar our existence as a people. They are energy and climate change, education and youth empowerment, food and water, waste management, and poverty and social justice; however, our focus at this year’s conference will be on poverty and social justice”. Closing his speech, Ogbechie called on businesses, civil society, government, and media to ponder on their roles in building an inclusive and sustainable economy and society.
Organisations who implement sustainable practices delivered case presentations on various topics as it relates to their operations and how these practices have amounted to the greater good of the society. Representing LAPO Microfinance Bank, Managing Director, Godwin Ehigiamusoe who spoke on the topic ‘Funding to reduce Energy Poverty’ said the benefits of sustainability outweigh its costs as he detailed how his organisation cut down on the use of paper.
According to him, “Sustainable businesses, especially those that operate at the bottom of the pyramid, will reduce poverty. A business that decides to operate either as a whole or subsidiary will engage poor people, bring them out of poverty and contribute to economic development.”
The keynote address at the Conference, ‘Inclusive Business: Africa’s Force for Good’ was delivered by Assistant Chief Economist, Development Bank of Nigeria, Professor Joseph Nnanna who went on to have a fireside chat with Professor Chris Ogbechie. Conversations were also held at a panel session with Chief Executive Officer, Grooming Centre, Godwin Nwabunka; Director, Corporate Affairs and Sustainable Business, Unilever Nigeria and Ghana, Soromidayo George; Managing Partner, Banwo and Ighodalo, Ken Etim; and Head, Human Resources and Shared Services, Falcon Corporation, Chidinma Maduka.
Moderated by Managing Director, SMEFunds Capital, Jubril Adeojo, the conversations bordered on the need for organisations to innovate so as to meet the needs of the huge consumer base at the bottom of the pyramid, an underserved market that is yet a key segment of the society. Technological innovations were also enunciated as a key factor in laying the groundwork for a more sustainable future and also transforming Africa’s economic potential, creating new target markets and unprecedented consumer choice.
Following the proceedings at the Conference, it was recommended that the government can play a major supporting role in advancing sustainable growth by increasing sanctions for environmentally-unfriendly policies and review archaic laws that touch on sustainability. The need for strict enforcement of existing sustainability policies was also highlighted.
Organisations, on the other hand, were called on to gain the buy-in of executives for long-term sustainability initiatives and to ensure that sustainability thinking is adopted by all staff. Decision-makers were also encouraged to monitor and evaluate sustainability initiatives in order to measure impact and improve implementation for long-term impact.