Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Bearing in mind that organization responsibilities are a function of their goals, it is sad that the general nature of the objectives of organizations- however corporate or non-corporate- is often in strict adherence to the goal(s) of its economic system which is majorly to provide goods and services to their customers- giving minimal consideration to other important factors like social responsibility that may come along the way. As a result, it became necessitated and demanding for organization to contribute towards the general welfare of society, internationally, nationally and in the company’s immediate neighborhood. Though this has not been fully fletched and properly appropriated in developing continents like Africa, it has however generated tangible attentions on a global scale just as global warming has in the 21st Century.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept that embraces the notion that every organization has a humanitarian and philanthropic responsibility in addition to its ordinary responsibility to make monetary profit for the company’s purse. Corporate Social Responsibility can be linked with socially responsive marketing, one of four concepts that make up the concept of ‘Holistic Marketing’. It is concept that calls on marketers to fulfill the needs of their target markets in ways that improve society as a whole.
The logic behind organization being urged to be more interested in growth and stability rather than mere profit making is quite simple and explanatory; organizations are sited within an area and if such vicinity is in chaos or unhealthy to the lives of its primary dwellers, then the organization’s business can’t thrive as it should or will die-off. In other words, the growth of and continuity of an organization is largely anchored on the peace and healthiness of its immediate surroundings and people. In fact, the wider the perimeter peace of an organization is situated, the better.
Generally, the ‘stakeholder’ theory posits that a firm has responsibility to maintain an equitable and working balance among the conflicting claims of the affective groups or individuals either directly or indirectly i.e. employees, customers, board of directors, the environment and the public or society. However, on the average, the joggling of conflicting interest of the stakeholders to achieve the balance needed for the smooth operation of an organization is ultimately geared towards profit making. Consequently upon the need of organizations to incorporate societal responsibilities into their goals, the context of ‘profit’ has grown to develop many definitions as opposed to the monetary terms which it ordinarily connotes.
The consideration or effect of each and every stakeholder in an organization is quite hieratical putting the interest of the board of directors at the top of the stakeholder pyramid and the public or environment at the bottom. This is, in fact, a generational misconception from the history of organizational structures which were only about profit making. This was drawn-out of from the general and individualistic selfish nature of every man but our eyes have been opened, even wider in this 21st century, that the interest of public/environment (as stakeholders) should be accorded a higher place that the bottom which it is presently.
In the nearest future it would be dawn on us all, even though we may pretend or refuse it, that the public or environmental interest should be given the same- bracket level of preferential attention or accordance as thus the Board of Directors. This is owed to the overtime realization of organization in relation to the communities in which they are sited. This realization which is now getting globalised exposits that an organization need not narrow its organization goals and operations to their customers alone (economic goals) but also to consider the peace and general good of mankind in light of their all operations geared towards profit making. Now, profits are increasingly qualified by questions of public importance and significance because the success of firms may depend to a large extent on their public image.
We ought to acknowledge that organizations are just like human beings. No one would want to leave is head blossoming while his leg is stricken. Likewise, a firm cannot exist in isolation from the society just as human being cannot exist in isolation from another. It would be unfair for an organization to carry out its business of proving goods and services by using raw materials, resources, labor, its serenity or conductivity, element of nature and even other instruments of civilization like statues and laws which protects the company and its business without giving back a quantum in societal responsibility to the community in which it is situated.
The menace of militancy which almost swept the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria off her feet was inceptionized by the deficiency or failure of foreign oil corporations to carry out their Corporate Social Responsibility to the community in which they enjoyed everything; from their land, vegetation, waters, climate, labor, protection polices, security and most important their crude oil. The region minority ethnic groups felt they were being exploited, particularly the Ogoni and Ijaw community. The conflict which brewed took a dimension that got many quivering. The region became symbolized with vices like violence, insurgency, kidnapping, hostage-taking, oil pipeline vandalism, crude-oil theft, internecine struggles and all sorts. Till tomorrow the land of waters in communities remain an eyesore and of no use to the people as they have been irredeemably contaminated with the crude oil spillage- all owed to the negligence or ignorance of companies to carry out their social responsibilities.
However, the delivery or rendering of Corporate Social Responsibility by organizations could take different tones and coloration; The Managing Director of Nigeria Breweries Plc, Mr. Nicolaas Vervede, explains that the company’s partnership with Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop is due to their desire to encourage the development of literary writing skill in Nigeria as part fulfillment of their corporate social responsibility. The Creative Writing Workshop fronted by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, the author of Half of a Yellow Sun is also a form of Corporate Social Responsibility upheld the by author’s vision. In her words, ‘my vision for this workshop is to create a space for talented Africans, because my vision is not only for a Nigerian space but Pan-African space where we can come together and receive what is critical artistes’ valediction’ while speaking during the end of the sixth edition of workshop.
In the same vein, the recent scourge of Ebola that crept into the Nigerian space from West Africa arose the action of Corporate Social Responsibility from most organizations which was carried out via massive creation of awareness and education of the virus. Similarly, the ‘Bringbackourgirls’ campaign whose awareness went round the globe is part of the understanding of the depth of corporate social responsibilities all around the world.
On the contrary, it became no longer business as usual for smokers in Lagos State since the government made arrangements to enforce the law on public smoking from august, 2014 though the smoking bill was signed into law by the Governor Babatunde Fashola in February of the year. The law went as far as describing the contextual meaning ‘public places’ but also exerts that sending a child to buy a cigarette is punishable by law. Actions and polices in this form ordinarily should also be the call of the manufacturers of such products under the umbrella of their Corporate Social Responsibility.
Attitude of firms to their employees; workers protection polices; concessionaries arrangements to workers/public; funding of public facilities; subsidized rate for general public services; avoidance of manufacturing products detrimental to public health e.g. cigarettes, weapon; avoidance of pollution to the environment ; balancing of company policies with national peace and environmental policies; relationship of companies with political parties; whether or not to export or import from some particular countries or region ;whether to use indigenous workers or expatriates, the level at which to adopt the use technology in comparison to human labor, vacations/ study abroad schemes for workers; eco friendly policies; charity services; situation of a company in rural area to enhance its development and what-a-view are all channels by which cooperate social responsibility are operational.
In closing, it should be noted that the consequence of the neglect of corporate social responsibilities by organization is in evitable. If the organizations do not make it happen the government would be pushed to the corner perform them even though it may be more complicated then- like we saw in the case of Niger-Delta Crisis which was lately curbed my amnesty grant. This goes for the menace of the Boko Haram too. It is advisable for the government to comprehensively revise and re-constitutionize the Corporate Social Responsibility policies to further commit organizations to their social responsibilities and enforce it. More so, it is advisable for firms to keep Social Responsible Audit and heed to this altar call for a better Nigeria.

Author: Adebiyi Adeyemi, a serving Youth Corps member and wrote in from adebyiadeyemi@outlook.com

Where is our Aso-Oke

Where is our Aso-Oke? It’s is unfortunate that both the elders and the youths (the leaders of tomorrow) of the Yoruba tribe can’t substantially tell where our Aso-Oke has gone. Aso-Oke, the ultimate traditional wear of the second largest tribe in Nigeria-the Yorubas, after the Northerners- is continually losing its presence even at the grassroots level.
Aso-Oke acknowledges as ‘Yorubas classic’ is a hand loomed woven cloth which is very much identified with the Yoruba dressing culture of south west Nigeria has a lot of indigenous attributes as reflected in its usage over time. Though, may be worn ceremonially or casually, Aso-Oke is very prestigious and is often used as ‘commemorative cloth (Aso ebi). That is, a cloth chosen or produced as uniform dress in order to honour and remember an important person or event especially during a ceremony.
Aso-Oke when worn carry messages and is an outward sign of the status of the wearer- asserting their national identity, cultural or political affiliation or reputation. It is seen as a strong expression of communal solidarity and love in the Yoruba land. More importantly, it is used for cultural festival like the Egungun costume and it is a heritage of the Yoruba culture.
However, the irrelevance or insignificance that has betided its presence or sustenance in today’s world is unimaginable especially with reference to the south west Nigeria. Accordingly, concrete thoughts have been given to the unnoticed fading away of the cloth as the onus is on us (Yorubas) to ensure we do not lose our heritage cheaply to the negligence of our own actions.
In the business circle, the factors which hold ground as to the slow extinction of the Aso-Oke can be said to be negligence of the study Consumer behaviour as an integral part of strategic market planning. This revised marketing concept is, in fact, the basis of the approach to the concept of ‘Holistic Marketing’ – a 360 degree view of all the elements of a business.
Socially responsive marketing along with internal marketing, integrated marketing and relationship marketing is said to be the four key points of holistic marketing. On one hand, the societal marketing concept calls on marketers to fulfil the needs of their target markets in ways that improve society as a whole whereas Relationship marketing emphasizes the importance of customer loyalty and retention rather than focusing on meeting sales quotas.
On the other hand, internal marketing is a process that is geared towards the optimum engagement and motivation of a company’s employees at all levels. the believed abstraction being that employees who are physically engaged and emotionally present in the company’s product are more likely to want to help promote that product in the community and uphold high standards of customer service and satisfaction whereas Integrated marketing combines all forms of marketing communication with one common theme of creating a consistent brand image for the customer -the Radio ads, television commercials, magazine ads and newspaper ads all centre around a common slogan, motto or message.
Theoretically, there are a number of factors influencing the purchases of consumer. Some are these factors are; social, socio-cultural, personal and psychological. However, the most influential factor responsible for the behaviour of consumers of Aso-Oke is the socio-cultural factor – that is factors are come from the different components related to societal or cultural environment from which the consumers belong.
Categorically stating, the influence of culture on buying behaviour varies from country to country therefore understanding the dynamics of the market is of exceptional essence. Marketers have to be competent in analyzing the culture of different groups, regions or even countries else the future of the heritage inherent in cloth like Aso-Oke will be left in the dark.
Truly, culture is multifaceted and the understanding is crucial to the needs and behaviours of an individual. Culture does not only influence consumer behaviour. Social class, fender, family and others generalities all have their own rooted share in culture. The Aso-Oke to the Yorubas evidently carry an aura of various sub-cultures like religion, ritual, festivals, trades and so on thereby influencing the choices of customers in their own individual capacities and even togetherly.
However, Contrary to the testimony of Aso-Oke, khangas, and a South African tradition cloth sold tens of thousands even as at 1997. Today, the figure sold is in millions. More interestingly, the traders of the cloth acknowledge that a motto, proverb, image and texts, or party political slogan printed on the cloth as part of it design were often crucial to the selling potential of the khanga. Even more overwhelming is that khangas are charged with “human experience”. The expository piece powered by Standard Bank African Art Collection at the University of the Witwatersrand Art Galleries revealed khanga become more complex objects linked to social rituals within communities and to the economic, political histories and even the heritage of the region. As such, the study of consumer behaviour in marketing as it relates (Aso-Oke) is very contextual in this light.
More so, in the present space of competitive and globalized world where customer is the king, it is recommended that in designing marketing strategy for fabrics and textiles, marketers should take serious cognizance of the factual influences offs-hooting from society’s culture. Revised marketing strategies like the use Socio-cultural representations, especially in promotional appeals should be adopted. Advertising agencies, fashion design houses, music, cinema and so on is all producers or contributors of cultural products and services designed to meet cultural goals.
The Khangas is thrived very much in the textile market in South Africa because of the cognisance they have given and inculcated into the marketing of the cloth. Today, unlike, Khangas which design patterns are constantly revised to maintain a contemporary relevance and to respond to changing circumstances, the Aso-Oke is not. Now, most governments and organizations (such as the United Nations) recognize the agitprop value of the khanga and use them as a stimulator for indoctrination, communication and education. In addition, locally manufactured khanga has largely replaced foreign imports since in the 1960s when Tanzania and Kenya built integrated mills thereby paving the way for cotton textile factories to establish in most African countries.
Till this day, Aso-Oke is still being produced on a small scale by local manufacturer thereby rendering the local manufacturers incapable to meet up with high demand. Consequently, this has caused many people to resort to other available readily made products such as Ankara and Lace Products therefore subjugating the progress of Aso-Oke.
More so, Westernization or ‘over- Westernization’ is also blamed for the downward slope of the Aso-Oke in our nation. The introduction of western clothes and European style garments – which diluted our culture- changed the consumption patterns and created strong competition for the indigenous textile industries.
Again on the contrary, the President Mobutu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (which Mobutu renamed Zaire in 1971) began a process of de-Westernisation by decree. Mobutu ruled out Western dress and chitenge cloth (khangas), printed in distinctive African patterns, and became the norm.
In conclusion, there is a beginning of life of every product, then the growth, followed by maturity and then decline. While the life cycle of every products starts to decline after it reaches maturity, some entrepreneurs are innovative enough to adapt to the change to renew or extend the life cycle of their product and still be relevant in the industry. This is further made possible by the understanding of socio-cultural factors that affects the product.
In the same way, we can revive our Aso-Oke, its heritage and other values embedded in it via effective innovative and adaptive measures. For example, there is, however, nothing forbidding a combination of Aso-Oke and modern clothing like We see this other cultural driven nations like south Africa.