Business Leaders and sector experts have called on private sectors especially in Africa to play their role in building resilient systems that will enable the achievement of Sustainable Development outcomes. This was the crux of the annual LBS International Sustainability Conference organized by Lagos Business School Sustainability Centre (LBSSC) in partnership with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Africa), IHS Nigeria Limited and Shared Value Africa Initiative (SVAI) which held virtually on Friday, November 18, 2022.
The aftermath of Climate Change Impacts and the COVID-19 Pandemic has left many countries affected by risks and pressures which have a negative impact on the population’s ability to survive. This has also exposed the vulnerability of current systems and structures which are incapable of coping, consequently endangering previously attained development gains. Some of these risks include conflict and insecurity; economic shocks, extreme weather events, and climate change social impacts, which frequently cause food insecurity and mass displaced people; natural hazards, particularly floods and droughts; and communicable disease outbreaks and pandemics. These problems pose a threat to the private sector as well as the larger society and economy thus highlight the need for urgent action and collaboration among business leaders.
Delivering the opening remarks at the conference, Prof. Enase, Vice-Chancellor of Pan-Atlantic University and Board Member, United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), underlined the power of the private sector to innovate and move more quickly than the government. In her words, “Our systems are failing us almost every day, and they are doing so faster than ever.
We need to create new solutions. We need to create ways to ensure that we maintain and improve standards.” To promote long-term transformation, Prof. Enase emphasised the necessity for organisations to transcend a compliance-based culture for incorporating sustainability in their key operations to one of strategy and corporate purpose.
On the ways businesses can build resilient systems in Africa, Mr Simon O’Hara, Group Company Secretary, Airtel Africa discussed some of Airtel’s strategic programs intertwined in the organisation’s vision and sustainability strategy. According to him, the vision of Airtel Africa is about transforming lives and the organisation’s corporate strategy reflects this vision. Understanding the key role digital inclusion, financial inclusion and service equality plays in its vision, Airtel Africa has developed interventions to reach disadvantaged children and women with digital education and access to bandwidth to aid financial inclusion as part of its corporate strategy.
The private sector is an important backbone of any economic system, therefore business leaders have a duty to build in sustainability and resilience as a desired outcome in addition to traditional focus on profit within their own operations first and for their stakeholders especially ‘people’.
Delivering the keynote address at the conference, Mr Rodney Irwin, Chief Operating Officer of the World Business Council for Sustainable
Development (WBCSD), reiterated the fact that climate change is no longer a risk but a full-fledged reality and needs urgent action across sectors in rethinking their business models and energy needs.
During the panel discussion on ‘Practical Solutions in Systems Building in Food and Energy’ Mr. Ashvin Dayal, Senior Vice President Power and Climate, Rockefeller Foundation, Tendai Matika, Manager at Global Reporting Initiative and Agatha Nnaji, Managing Director, Geometric Power Group, emphasised the importance of addressing climate change and building resilient businesses, stating that it is critical for the private sector to recognise the enormous potential of renewable energy sources for sustainable development and develop solutions that are localised, decentralised, and tailored to suit and solve the issues of different economic and social settings.
IHS (Nigeria) Limited, one of the organisations taking actions in this direction through their operations,
presented a best-practice case study on their ‘Project Green’. The company plans to prioritise solar hybrids, gas generators, lithium-ion batteries, supercap hybrids, and grid connectivity in the short term and expand grid connectivity, indoor to outdoor conversion, solar farms, and wind farms in the midterm and long term.
The conference, convened chief executives, directors, sustainability professionals and key stakeholders from around over 30 countries. Interactions at the virtual conference emphasised the importance of key stakeholders working together to promote resilient food and energy systems that support sustainable development especially in emerging and developing economies.
The International Sustainability Conference is an annual dialogue hosted by the Lagos Business School Sustainability Centre that aims to inspire business leaders to incorporate sustainability and responsible business practices into their strategy and operations, resulting in a positive impact not only on business performance but also on society.