Professionals have identified poor sustainability programmes for the environment and the business, and lack of values and ethics as major factors contributing to the failures of small-scale enterprises. These challenges are however in addition to other factors such as harsh economic environment, poor capital, and poor management, affecting businesses usually tendered by other experts.
The professionals said sustainability involves programs, actions and initiatives aimed at preserving value-adding businesses and it covers human, social, economic and environmental.
They spoke recently in Lagos at the maiden annual conference of the Young Directors Forum, Institute of Directors, Nigeria, with the theme “Building a Sustainable Business: the Place of Sustainability Reporting”
The event provided an opportunity to discuss sustainability reporting and corporate governance strategies and how these concepts can be deployed to drive the continued existence of businesses.
Akin Ogunbiyi, Group Chairman, Mutual Benefits Assurance Plc who was chairman of the occasion acknowledged that entrepreneurs should create long-term growth and prosperity for their businesses. But in doing this they should consider that sustainability is “our society’s ability to exist and develop without depleting natural resources needed to ensure, on a continuous basis, a healthy planet”.
Also speaking, Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, Head, Group Sustainability in Access Bank who looked at what sustainability means to business said sustainability is about responsibility, it is about acting and thinking as responsible government, individuals and businesses.
Omobolanle, an exceptional sustainability expert with experience across different sectors further said that sustainability is about meeting the needs of today without compromising the environment for tomorrow’s needs.
According to her, making profits should not be at all cost but it should be in an ethical manner and ensuring that the acts taken today will not have a negative impact tomorrow.
“A business must be long-term focus. To do this, the business must sacrifice some profit today to exist for the long term. Sustainability may look difficult in the short term, but organisations are planning for tomorrow”, she told the audience of young entrepreneurs at the forum.
While encouraging government, industries and institutions to take responsibility for protecting the environment, Omobolanle warned that “we can bail out the financial sector or any other sector but we cannot bail out the planet if it is gone”.
She advised companies to integrate sustainability into their values, such as saving water, energy and the environment. They should also revive the core of corporate philosophy to align with sustainability and use sustainability to reinforce the foundation of companies.
She said there are wins for companies who are sustainability conscious as international investors will like to identify with such organisations.
Folashade Akinmusire, chairperson of the Young Directors forum of the Chartered Institute of Directors said the program was organized to cater to the needs of SMEs which contribute about 54% of Nigeria’s GDP.
“Lagos alone has over 100 million startups and businesses, but if we look at our economic landscape, we find that a lot of them are dying. It is not just to start a business, you have to start a business that stays sustainably, not just for now, but for the future.
“So at the IOD, we believe in equipping all the business owners and equipping the visionaries, with core sustainability policies, and the know-how on how to actually inculcate some of these policies into their business management strategies.
Akinmusire said the young directors’ forum is addressing the challenge of sustainability of SMEs from both the public and private sector perspectives.