On May 7 and 8, 2013 at the Responsible Business Summit in London, the editor of HRZone, Jamie Lawrence said, “Businesses cannot be successful when the society around them fails.” This cannot be farther than the truth.
The recent pandemic has given credence to this assertion from Lawrence, a prominent media and human resources professional in the United Kingdom. It is apparent that without corporate organisations and non-governmental organisations, Nigeria state would have lost the fight against COVID-19.
Dissimilar to other countries that have had a marshal plan to curtail the spread of the virus, the federal government of Nigeria at the initial outbreak of the virus in the country, looked helpless and to a large extent hapless and ill-prepared in terms of fund and action to confront the pandemic headlong.
It is worth the note that it was actually the first time in my 15 years of reporting brands and marketing as well as covering over a thousand corporate social responsibility projects in the country that every business from multinationals, large local corporates, small and medium scale enterprises and non-governmental organisations would be in agreement to pursue a course.
There was no competition whatsoever. Every single organisation believes that it was a fight worth supporting hence the little fatal impact recorded in the country so far. This is against the Bill and Melinda Gate prediction that corpses may litter the streets of Africa if advanced nations would not help the continent.
Permit me to single out some organisations, in no particular other, to thank for the N36.3 billion raise so far in response to combat the dreaded virus. Though, federal government has already spent 84 percent of the N36.3 billion since April to July making it a whooping N30.5 billion.
It is not clear what the government would do with the 16percent left in its coffers . From the analysis of the expenditure by the Accountant General of the Federation did not actually captured what they spend on palliative, it is pleasing to see a bit of accountability on the part of the government this time.
Businesses that donated include UBA Plc, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Multichoice Nigeria, Airtel, Glo, FirstBank Nigeria, Felix King Foundation, Access Bank, GTBank, Union Bank, Nigerian Breweries, Guinness Nigeria, UAC Restaurants, Heritage Bank Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc and Nestle Nigeria.
There are quite a number but let me stop here for the lack of space. It is a good gesture that corporate Nigeria took a queue behind the government; however none of this company prepared for the virus despite that fact that these organisations knew Coronavirus was ravaging China.
It was shocked to find out that no organisation in the country made any budgetary allocation in its corporate social investment portfolio in preparedness for COVID-19 despite it ravaging effect in China. If government did not do it, which was not a surprise, corporate bodies did not expect to miss that.
Therefore, when Coronavirus eventually got into the country on February 27, through an Italian index case, panic button was press and every organisation began to scamper and made indiscriminate donations to government and its agencies.
Private sector organisations are notable for proper planning and adequate arrangement but the COVID-19 exposed everything all. Neither of private sector nor public sector made plans and adequate arrangement to curtail the spread of the virus hence everybody was scuttled to impress the government rather than impacting their key stakeholders- consumers and/or customers.
From manufacturing to financial sector organisations, none of them made adequate preparation to ameliorate the impact of COVID-19 on the customers and consumers. All attention was on donation to the government. This left a void and the consumers suffered untold hardship.
There was no better time or period to give back to the customers and consumers than the COVID-19 particularly when the government could not provide for the citizens. Imagine the social capital a bank will gain by crediting its customers’ accounts through Bank Verification Number identification with just N5000 at mid-night.
First off, if the bank has two million active customers and it gives N5000 each that would actually amount to N10 million. This amount is even far less to that of a bank that donated N1 billion to the federal government.
The social capital that would be generated from the ‘good deed’ for the bank would probably reposition the bank hence grow it equity as well as increased number of customers.
It shows that most CSR department in most organisations are not thinking right.
Apart from helping the bank to grow and repositioning it as the real customer-centric organisation, the deed would also substitute the organisation’s CSR project for the year without affecting its image.
But now, most organisations have suspended every CSR activities scheduled to happen this year because of the Covid-19 donation. According to senior CSR personnel in one of the top banks, who pleaded anonymity, “We have cancelled every CSR project this year because all the budget and more was donated to the government.”
The mad dash in who donate the biggest fund was unnecessary. It is like robbing Peter to pay Paul. These organisations pay taxes and more. Why didn’t we see a similar trend in other part of the world? Why was it happening only in Nigeria?
Perhaps, we may have learned a few things or we may not have learned anything, we are not praying for another pandemic but we live in the world that disaster occur almost every time, organisations must plan and not just plan but adequate planning to execute project that really touch the people.
Just like Mr. Lawrence said, “When we inspire people by explaining why the destination is important, they develop the motivation to see the race through.”
The piece is written by Goddie Dgreat Ofose and he can be reached through 08099400139