Business Schools Engaging Business in the SDGs Nationally – Lagos Business School

The 17th goal of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is partnerships. But it isn’t just a goal in itself; it is also a key component of the other 16 goals. In particular it is partnerships that engage the business sector that will be key in pushing these goals forward. Business schools can play an important, and much needed role in providing a platform to bring business together, guide collaboration efforts and provide training. This is exactly what Lagos Business School in Nigeria is doing with their new Private Sector Advisory Group. I spoke with Oreva Agajere, Sustainability Associate at Lagos Business School about this new programme.

How is LBS engaging/planning to engage in the SDGs in Nigeria?

At Lagos Business School, it is our mission to create and transmit management and business knowledge based on a Christian conception of the human person and of economic activity relevant to Nigeria and Africa at large. The school continues to promote sustainable and responsible business by being a hub of learning for entrepreneurs and managers. Since the launch of the SDGs, LBS has designed new executive programmes which speak to particular SDGs. For instance, our Agribusiness Programme is directly linked to goals 1, 2, 8 and 12. The programme trains experienced and budding entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector and is aimed at reducing poverty and hunger through job creation, economic opportunities and responsible consumption and production. LBS also engages with the SDGs by being a centre for sustainable thought leadership. Research and initiatives carried out by the school’s faculty and sustainability centre serve as conduits for mainstreaming the SDG conversation in the business space in Nigeria. Lagos Business School is also partnering with leading businesses to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals at a larger scale across Nigeria.

What is the Private Sector Advisory Group and how it came about.

The Private Sector Advisory Group Nigeria (PSAG Nigeria) is a local coalition of businesses formed to better align public and private sector partnerships for sustainable development in Nigeria. The group was inaugurated in February 2017 by the Office of the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a mandate to mobilise private sector organisations willing to partner on ventures to help the Nation achieve the SDGs. This group came about with the recognition at various levels of the public and private sector that Nigeria didn’t achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) because there was no clear working model for private sector participation to aid the achievement of the MDGs. The PSAG is a solution to this problem.

The role of the group is to inspire and organize renewed public-private collaboration to promote inclusive growth and development in Nigeria. Working in cluster groups focused on various SDGs, the PSAG will assist in identifying areas of common interest and promote business driven strategies, projects and initiatives around the 17 SDGs. Another primary objective of the PSAG is to establish productive partnerships between the public and private sector by offering policy recommendations on developmental issues which affect Nigeria and the everyday Nigerian. Thus, the group works closely with the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs to ensure a real connection with the arms of government and policy makers. The group will also support its members and the wider private sector in reporting on the SDGs to provide reliable data sources for policy and decision makers.

Who is part and how are they engaged?

The group was inaugurated with five organizations as co-chairs on the board. This includes Lagos Business School (LBS), Growing Businesses Foundation (GBF), Sahara Group Limited, Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and PricewaterhouseCoopers Ltd. (PwC). Other members and key partners include British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN), Google, Unilever Nigeria, Airtel Nigeria, Standard Chartered Bank, General Electric (GE), Siemens Nigeria, Dangote Group, Coca-Cola, Channels Television, Chamber of Commerce- Lagos/Kano, and National Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI). As the work progresses, the number of organizations that make up the PSAG is expected to rise.

Members have been engaged in several meetings and participate in SDG engagements at an international level. These include the High Level Political Forum which was held in New York in July 2017. The cluster groups structure of the PSAG is the main avenue of engaging member organisations. Companies join the cluster that focuses on the SDGs that are most material to their business and in that way, have the opportunity to collaborate with organizations that have similar sustainable development objectives. The group is still growing and is open to all private sector players who would like to make an active contribution to the achievement of the SDGs in Nigeria.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work (what is planned).  Why have a group like this? What are you hoping it will accomplish?

The PSAG’s activities will include joint private sector SDG projects, businesses reporting on the SDGs, capacity building for business executives and policy recommendations to government.

Lagos Business School is leading the group’s capacity building initiatives. The focus is to increase private sector involvement in socio-economic change by providing a platform for active participation, partnership, advocacy and awareness. Through the PSAG, we hope that there will be an overall promotion of the development of practical and sustainably impactful business models; improvement of capacity building for stakeholders; midwifing relevant dialogues between public and private stakeholders to provide real solutions to Nigeria’s challenges and opportunities for improvements where necessary. LBS has developed new training programmes for C-Suite level business executives and implementing managers. The programmes focus on the integration of sustainability and the SDGs into the strategy, operations and reporting of businesses in Nigeria. A group like the PSAG is necessary in an emerging economy like Nigeria, because businesses are a key part of the society’s desired growth and advancement

What have been some of the challenges and successes (or expected)?

Some of the challenges so far have been around ensuring proper implementation and governance; the PSAG has had to spend a good amount of time working out the structure of the group. The group has also had to gradually build stakeholder’s interest and commitment.

Since February, the PSAG has gained commitments from leading business in Nigeria. Their commitment is one step in the right direction for Nigeria in advancing the SDGs. The group is also working collaboratively with the office of the special adviser to the President on SDGs and has been able to share its working model with other countries. The PSAG model has also drawn interest among other countries in Africa and the Middle East which face similar sustainable development challenges.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

Our advice would be that management education institutions adopt a corporative approach to advancing the sustainable development goals in their spheres of influence. Partnership with the private sector and other stakeholder groups can ensure that the goals are met faster and more effectively.

What are 2 other initiatives at your school you are particularly proud of in this area?

  • Sustainable Business Models for Delivering Digital Financial Services (DFS) to Lower Income Unbanked Citizens of Nigeria (Research Project): This is a two-year research project of Lagos Business School (LBS), supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). This project’s core objective is to establish the supplier side constraints to sustainable DFS in Nigeria and develop economic models for addressing identified constraints. The project also aims to recommend market-enabling policies for the sustainability of DFS in Nigeria.
  • Nonprofit Leadership and Management (Certificate Program): The course will provide a detailed introduction to Nonprofit Management through a highly practical, experiential and interactive series of faculty-facilitated lectures, guest lectures, case study discussions, videos and field visits. The programme is designed to meet the pressing need for effective and impactful management competence in Nigeria’s nonprofit sector. This programme, which commences later in 2017, is supported by the Ford Foundation. The Ford Foundation is the funding partner and LBS is the executing partner.

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