Corporate Social Investment is deployed by businesses to help impact their operational environment. YINKA SANNI, Group Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC in this interview examines CSI practice in Nigeria and how Stanbic IBTC deploys its CSI as part of the financial institution’s larger sustainability strategy for socioeconomic integration of the under-served in the society as well as a tool for creating shared values. (Excerpts)
How does Stanbic IBTC position corporate social investment (CSI)?
Most organisations interpret and implement CSI as best suits their overriding corporate goals. However, to borrow a leaf from the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), we at Stanbic IBTC see CSI as a management concept whereby we integrate social and environmental concerns into our business operations and interactions with our stakeholders. CSI is the way through which Stanbic IBTC as a socially responsible company achieves a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives.
At Stanbic IBTC, we are aligned to Standard Bank Group CSI focus which uses CSI to enhance our brand reputation, grow new markets, increase employee proposition and present us as socially responsible in a way that makes business sense. We share in the Group’s ideology where CSI is key and the watchwords are development, support and community upliftment. Our CSI pillars in Stanbic IBTC are Education, Health and Economic Empowerment
In your opinion, are corporate organisations in Nigeria doing enough in terms of CSI or do you recommend a paradigm shift in attitude?
I believe that many organisations already see the value in CSI and are doing quite a bit of social investments. Nonetheless, when you examine the peculiarity of our operating environment, where there exist wide gaps between the different socio-economic classes, you’ll understand we could never do too much and that there’s always ample opportunity to do more, especially among the lower cadre of the socio-economic spectrum.
I mean those who sit at the bottom of the pyramid. I would advise that companies make a conscious and concerted effort not just to finance some add-on philanthropic things, but to change their strategies and business models and really develop and incorporate structured CSI approach into their management accounting and control systems. What is prevalent is that businesses have marvelous ambitions related to CSI. The question, however, remains how committed they are to actualizing or sustaining these ambitions and more importantly how they even plan to accomplish these ambitions.
Are your employees usually part of your stakeholder engagements?
Absolutely. At Stanbic IBTC our vision recognizes that our people are our most important asset, which makes it imperative to inspire and engage employees in ongoing CSI efforts to make a meaningful impact. We see our employees as our partners in all our sustainability initiatives. By doing this, not only do we succeed in getting their active involvement, but also benefit from the fact that employees gain a lot of valuable skills and experiences which make them a better asset to our organization.
The sustainability of an idea needs everyone in every title to be aligned to our mission of moving forward. We believe our people and culture will determine our success in executing our strategy, which includes our CSI. Our business philosophy is anchored on and vested in building relationships and trust with our clients/customers, employees, shareholders, regulators, communities and other key stakeholders. Our values underpin our legitimacy and are intended to reinforce the trust our stakeholders have in our organisation. As such, we endeavour to carry along and get the buy in of all our internal and external stakeholders.
In fact, we have a culture of staff involvement and participation in our social investment initiatives which means that our staff are not only part of the activation but the entire process of identifying key areas where we choose to support, collaborate or invest. We try as much as possible to encourage our staff to either as teams or units voluntarily contribute and participate through departmental CSI activities which initiative has been hugely successful over the past year. Through staff CSI volunteerism or contribution alone, we have invested over a N100million towards various charitable causes under the health, education and economic empowerment portfolios year-to-date.
How important is corporate social investment to Stanbic IBTC’s business?
I believe it would be difficult to put a value to the importance of CSI to us as an organisation. Primarily because CSI is key to the sustainability of our business just as the support of all our stakeholders underpins our sustainability. This inter-dependence requires that we conduct our business responsibly to create value in the long-term interests of society. For us at Stanbic IBTC our mission is to continue to contribute to the socioeconomic development of the nation in a way that is consistent with the nature and size of our business operation. This is why we provide end-to-end financial services and products responsibly, bearing in mind the needs of society, our customers, our staff, our shareholders, the environment and future generations.
We do pride ourselves as a socially responsible corporate citizen of our country because CSI is an integral part of our DNA at Stanbic IBTC and Standard Bank Group. Standard Bank has over the years built reputation for continental support of arts and culture as well as sports development.
Our commitment to investing in corporate social projects and initiatives is something we take just as seriously as adhering to the highest corporate governance principles and operating in line with global best practice. At Stanbic IBTC, CSI isn’t a publicity platform. We see CSI as a duty. Like I mentioned earlier, our CSI falls under three prongs of health, education, and economic empowerment.
How do you select the initiatives and projects you undertake for your CSI and what model or models do you use for implementation?
Generally, our CSI initiatives must fall under any of the three pillars of health, education and economic empowerment. The model we’ve used and that has worked for us overtime is investing in projects we believe have the greatest impact, widest reach, and highest sustainability ratio and ensuring implementation with reputable, competent and reliable partners. We, however, have carried out several other projects like vaccination against hypophosphatasia (HPP), education materials donation, public school facility renovations, safety equipment donations, like safety helmets, water projects, as well as staff volunteerism initiatives I talked about earlier which we undertake directly. Just to mention that we recently donated relief materials worth millions of naira to alleviate the living conditions of our brothers and sister in Benue State and its environs who were devastated and displaced as a result of the flooding in that region.
Tell us about the project you refer to as your flagship CSI initiative “Together For A Limb” and why you organise the annual walk?
Thank you very much for that question. Having over a long period of time channelled our CSI on projects under both education and economic empowerment pillars of our CSI aegis, we decided it was time to revisit our intervention and shift focus back to the health sector, which explains why we decided on sponsoring and fitting children with limb loss with prosthesis. Which is why in the last two to three years Stanbic IBTC has consistently sponsored the donation of prostheses to some children living with limb difference, otherwise referred to as amputees. We understand how challenging it must be for the parents and guardians of these children, especially considering the high cost of acquiring these prostheses and of course the value it would bring to the daily lives of these children. In addition to fitting the children with prostheses, Stanbic IBTC is also giving out Education Trust to the beneficiary children courtesy of our Trusteeship subsidiary.
We did not stop at that. To help raise public awareness for amputees, victims of terror attacks and other children who have limb differences or have lost limbs due to trauma, mismanaged injuries, accidents and, occasionally due to congenital issues, and create shared values in the community, Stanbic IBTC on Saturday, 14 November 2015, organised a Walk tagged ‘Out For A Limb’ in Lagos, chaired by the First Lady of Lagos State, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode. This was the very first edition and the walk featured management and staff, esteemed customers and friends of Stanbic IBTC and other well-meaning Nigerians. Our sincere gratitude go out to all our stakeholders who came out en-masse to join us in walking for a good cause. We are also forever grateful to Her Excellency, wife of the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Ambode, for her motherly love, support and guidance in identifying with our quest to raise awareness for amputees and help bring succour to underserved children who live with limb differences from the very start of the project.
Owing to just how committed Stanbic IBTC is to CSI, and most of all, this particular initiative which coincidentally is our adopted signature CSI project. The second edition, which held on Saturday, 24 September 2016 in Abuja, and which had now been rechristened ‘Together 4 A Limb’ which was more impactful.
Essentially because we decided to expand the scope of beneficiaries to include underserved children victims of the Boko Haram insurgency which has plagued the northern region of the country as some of the primary beneficiaries of the programme.
A 3-kilometre charity walk aimed at raising awareness and awakening public consciousness of children without limbs was flagged off by the Guest of Honour the First Lady of Nigeria, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, who was ably represented by the wife of the Zamfara State Governor, Hajiya Asmau Yari.
As is our practice and as part of the package, education trust fund worth millions of naira was awarded to each of the eight beneficiary children whom we had successfully fitted with artificial limbs. Six of the eight children beneficiaries were actually present at the charity walk and were presented cheques by Hajiya Yari while two others were presented at a separate ceremony. Five children had benefitted from the initiative in 2015 and received education trust fund and prostheses, which brought to 13 the number of children beneficiaries so far. In growing these numbers this year, preparations are in top gear to host the third edition of the initiative. We are currently, fitting and carrying out rehabilitation, as we are already preparing another set of six children who will join the growing list of beneficiaries of the initiative. These six children will be officially unveiled during the walk and presented with cheques in the form of education trust fund to guarantee their educational growth and development.