By Prince Osuagwu
The recent launch of Etisalat CSR Centre at the Pan_Africa University , Ajah, has been described as an unprecedented initiative worthy of emulation by other corporate organizations in furtherance of corporate social responsibility in the country.
Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Education, Mrs. Omolara Erogbogbo at the launch of the centre, commended Etisalatâ€™s innovation in the telecoms market since the commencement of its operation in Nigeria and further highlighted the need for corporate organizations to continue to support the less privileged members of the society to enhance socio_economic development.
Also, the Vice_Chancellor of the University, Professor Juan Elegido in his welcome remarks noted that CSR is an expression of corporate citizenship, an area in which Etisalat has established itself strongly.
According to him, â€œIt is very significant that soon after Etisalat arrived in the country, at a time when they could be excused by thinking that they had to concentrate all their resources in the massive initial investment that is needed to put in place a mobile communications network, they have chosen to proclaim loud and clear that they consider themselves fully engaged corporate citizens of this country by engaging in these acts of corporate citizenship.
It is a great example and I hope that it will encourage other companies to similar efforts to create a better society.â€
Explaining the rationale behind the initiative, Etisalat CEO, Steven Evans said that the centre is designed to shape CSR opinions and understandings of present and future business leaders as well as key policy and decision makers.
According to him, â€œWe believe that a CSR strategy has both a top_down and bottom_up dimension that empowers the different socio_economic levels. We believe that because CSR is an evolving concept and most organizations as well as experts in this part of the world tend to view CSR from the lowest philanthropic terms, focusing only on the lowest socio_economic levels such as the less_privileged people will not produce maximum impact or enhance sustainability. We believe that focusing initiatives on those at the top socio_economic levels can also help create the desired impact and drive sustainability in the right direction.
It is for this reason that after a lot of soul searching, we decided to provide leadership on the development of a Corporate Social Responsibility Centre here in the Lagos Business School .â€
The CEO noted that Etisalat has started to put in place a long_term plan to implement its CSR initiatives based on international best practices.
According to him, â€œSome of the best practices we have identified and built on include stakeholder engagement which involves internal stakeholder creative inputs as well as external stakeholder involvement.
There is also the value based self regulation which is simply our Code of ethics that guide our behavior in business dealings with all stakeholders. All these form part of the sustainability bedrock upon which our initiatives are built. We are equally aware that a good CSR strategy and sustainable initiatives are built on basics such as meeting our legal and regulatory commitments, both to the letter and in spirit,â€ Evans explained
As part of Etisalatâ€™s various ongoing CSR projects, the company partners with the Lagos State Government on its Adopt a School Initiative (ASI) which includes provision of all forms of support to secondary and primary schools.
Three schools; Akande Dahunsi Memorial Secondary School in Ikoyi, Edward Blyden Primary School in Okesuna, Lagos Island and Rabiatu Thompson Primary School in Surulere have so far benefited in the provision of upgraded infrastructure with a plan to continually provide support in areas including but not limited to infrastructure, leadership/management and direct support for students and teachersâ€™ development.
Etisalat has also instituted a Merit Award that includes scholarships for university students with the highest CGPA in Electrical Electronics Engineering, Computer Science and Management Sciences. About 150 students have so far benefited across the country.
Evans stressed that Etisalat CSR thrives on three tripods which are Education, Health and the Environment; and further explained that on the health front, the company intends to kick_start the â€˜Fight Malariaâ€™ scheme to help in the reduction of the deadly malaria scourge. On the environment, he said â€œwe practice what we preach and our new environment friendly SIM pack exemplifies that. By reducing the size of the classic SIM card from 16g to 8g, we have contributed to the reduction of the carbon footprint, consequently enhancing a sustainable environmentâ€.