Championing Corporate Social Investments during a pandemic

Championing Corporate Social Investments during a pandemic

Odunayo Sanya: Opinion piece

Millions of people around the world have been impacted by the devastating effect of the coronavirus pandemic. With over 400,000 deaths worldwide as at June 9, 2020, and millions of jobs lost, people are in dire need of assistance.

This has shifted the spotlight to the role of private organizations in the fight against the pandemic. Corporate Social Investment (CSI) programs are being re-designed to offer the best value. Prior to this life-altering pandemic, CSI programs for some private-sector organizations were a philanthropic contribution to society which they undertook as a kind of atonement for their feeling of guilt for having an insatiable desire for a big profit. Organizations must understand that business success is tied to the well-being of the communities they operate in.

Therefore, if properly implemented, a quality CSI strategy will deliver the double-edged sword called impact. On one hand, it elevates the lives of the collective (communities) while on the other it adds value to the business. This value is usually expressed through ecosystem partnerships, enhanced access to capital, improved brand image, a healthy reputation index, and enhanced customer loyalty. If there is one good the Covid-19 pandemic brought upon the corporate world, it is the ignition of the debate on what an ideal CSI program should be. The focus is moving away from the activities to the objectives and intentions of the CSI program. For a CSI program to be of value, it must first align with the needs of the benefiting community or individuals.

It must meet a need and at the same time enable the recipients to continue to meet that need.

Let us use the MTN Foundation as a case study.

The Foundation was incorporated as a separate legal entity in 2004 and commissioned in May 2005 as the delivery vehicle for MTN Nigeria’s CSI programs. MTN Nigeria Communication Plc commits up to 1% of its Profit after Tax (PAT) as the main source of funding for projects and continues to do so. To date, the MTN Foundation has invested over NGN 22 Billion in more than 900 projects across the 36 states of the federation and FCT.

At MTN Nigeria, one of our vital behaviors is active collaboration, which finds expression in the execution of our CSI programs.

An example is MTN Nigeria’s What Can We Do Together (WCWDT) initiative.

The WCWDT is an MTN Foundation intervention program built around ‘active collaboration’ with individuals and communities across Nigeria, which also aligns with our operating principle that “We are good together”.

WCWDT allows Nigerians to nominate their preferred community to benefit from select developmental projects to be implemented by the Foundation. This model gives the individuals in the communities to decide what is needed in their respective communities without any prior interaction with MTN.

In its sixth year, this highly successful initiative, a part of MTN’s wider CSI outreach, has so far transformed more than 510 communities across 454 Local Government Areas in Nigeria with diverse social development interventions.

The initiative has made available potable water in 50 communities; improved power supply in 40 communities through the donation and installation of transformers, upgraded learning environment in 174 public secondary school. Aimed at contributing to improved quality in health care delivery, under the WCWDT initiative, the Foundation has donated equipment and consumables to 120 Primary Healthcare Centers Pan Nigeria. In the same vein, it has provided household items to 66 orphanages and school learning materials to over 15,000 pupils in about 60 primary schools across the country. The WCWDT initiative has proven to be a viable model for sustainable partnership in CSI.

A vital part of the design and delivery of our CSI programs is that they connect key stakeholders. This isn’t just about engaging communities, it includes customers, employees, investors and the government. The involvement of these core business stakeholders turbocharges the impact and ROI potential for CSI projects. Active collaboration is a fundamental part of our strategy – it is an enabler of brand trust and loyalty.

CSI in Nigeria has come a long way. Whether through a dedicated commitment like MTN Nigeria has done by contributing up to one percent of its profit after tax, or through some form of desks in various offices. Clearly, many organisations support the need to give back to our communities. However, the execution strategy for this intent is what matters, especially in these times. The pandemic is reshaping how we meet the needs of our communities. Response from corporates must align with the immediate needs of the communities. At MTN Foundation and MTN Nigeria, this has been a guiding principle for us because we believe we can only go far when we go together.

Ultimately, I believe that when corporate executives and CSR teams work together to manage the company’s corporate responsibility, it scales up both impact and profit, in our case driving improvement in Nigeria’s health, education and youth empowerment sectors, which are the focal points for MTN Foundation’s CSI.

Read the original piece here