Despite the nation’s harsh business environment, infrastructural deficit, insecurity and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, these companies have continually maintained their obligations, through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) projects, to their host communities for better relationship and harmonious co-existence. The various CSR projects they embarked on, do not only have direct impact on the people, but have boosted the socio-economic activities in these areas. These companies have not only made an imprint in the minds of the people, but have earned respect and admiration for their brand(s) and corporate image for their organisations.
Ashish Pande – Olam Agri
Olam Agri: Sustaining Productivity, Uplifting The People
In its three decades of operations in Nigeria, Olam Agri has been in the forefront of the nation’s agricultural sector, producing quality food, feed, and fibre for industries, human consumption and animals. Managers of the company in a chat with The Guardian unveiled how the company is touching lives, espcially those in its host communities, empowering them with different skills and contributing to the development of the nation.
How is your company leveraging on CSR for sustainable national development?
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) actions are vital tools for achieving socioeconomic growth. These actions cover investments in environmental sustainability projects, communal well-being, women empowerment projects, local health infrastructure and better nutrition for indigent communities. Where these actions are amply encouraged, the attainment of socioeconomic growth is easy to come by.
Private businesses are increasingly focusing on ramping up investments in socially responsible projects to create shared prosperity in the host markets. These socially responsible companies keep serving as a beacon of hope as the global economy is sporadically being plunged into crisis, lowering governments’ capacity to meet all the needs of the citizens.
Olam Agri is one of the top businesses investing in socially responsible projects that are targeted at driving socioeconomic growth across its host communities. Through the Seeds for The Future Foundation (SFTF), its corporate social sustainability (CSS) vehicle, the company is addressing issues that are impeding national prosperity.
The CSS vehicle is focused on supporting farmers and farming communities, enabling wider education and skill development for young people, up-skilling women, promoting health and nutrition, and reducing carbon emissions in business operations. A peek into the agribusiness’ CSS projects reveals a remarkable impact.
What was the response of Olam Agri to the plight of people in its host communities during the COVID-19 pandemic?
To cushion the effects of the COVID-19 induced crises across Nigeria; Olam Agri joined forces with the Federal Government and others to provide palliatives. We stepped up our social investment efforts by donating cash and food materials to back various response programmes targeted at reducing the hardship fostered by the pandemic curtailment policies, especially during the lockdown periods. We gave a cash donation of N600 million to the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID). About N300 million worth of foodstuffs were also donated to states across the country. N100 million worth of medical supplies were delivered to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Nigeria Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) and the Lagos State Government to strengthen medical activities and to check further spread of the deadly virus. These socially responsible investment actions helped the country alleviate the ugly effects of the pandemic.
What roles are you playing to sustain your environment?
As part of our environmental sustainability efforts, we have entered into a strategic partnership with Bayero University, Kano (BUK) and the Kano State Government to plant trees across the city. We donated 10,000 tree saplings to BUK, 4000 saplings to Yusuf Maitama Sule University and 5000 Saplings to Kano State Ministry of Environment. The tree planting campaign is geared towards offsetting carbon emissions and conserving biodiversity in the northern state.
Also, to fast-track the achievement of reduced carbon emissions across business operations, Olam Agri is focusing on delivering innovation capable of reducing carbon footprint and encouraging a cleaner, greener Nigeria within its sphere of influence.
It recently developed and deployed an industry innovation to help bakers reduce operation costs and carbon being released in bakery facilities. The innovation, which is called “the Gasifier,” is a palm kernel oven that utilises palm kernel waste such as palm kernel shells to produce heat that powers bakery ovens. This innovative biofuel provides a cleaner, greener environment and lowers the number of bakers that recourse to diesel-generating sets when operating off-grid.
Furthermore, we have installed solar panelling at our new office in Iganmu, Lagos, to increase the share of renewable energy, promote the corporate goal of de-carbonisation as well as obtain green credits for the edifice. Solar panelling harnesses the power of the sun to generate electricity, provide clean energy and reduce operating costs. The solar infrastructure generates estimated 50KW and takes care of about 15 per cent of the total energy required to power the office building. By installing the panelling infrastructure at the office to support energy consumption, Olam Agri is significantly reducing the building’s carbon footprint and contributing to a greener environment.
What are your programs for women and the youth?
Early this year, 2023, Olam Agri launched a baking academy to train and deepen women’s participation in the economy. The academy, located in Kano State, is an empowerment initiative that equips women with baking skills that will enhance their earnings and enable them to contribute meaningfully to their communities and the economy.
The launch followed the successful facilitation of baking training for over 250 International Cake Exploration Société (ICES) women in Lagos by the company under the Crown Flour Angels (CFA) initiative.
Also in 2021, the agribusiness provided farming irrigation equipment comprising high-pressure water pumping machines to some female wheat farmers in Giyamusu, Ajingi local council in Kano State. The irrigation equipment is meant to enhance female smallholder farmers’ productivity levels.
Meanwhile, the company is backing its women empowerment drive with investment in young people in tertiary institutions. In the late 2022, while launching the Seeds for the Future Foundation, it instituted an educational grant for first-year students in public tertiary institutions.
Any plan for the general public?
Through a partnership arrangement with Techno Serve, an international non-for-profit organisation, we have installed Vitamin Premix facility for food fortification across our plants. Our packaged food products such as Mama Gold Flour, Crown Premium Pasta, and Supreme Semolina among others are now fortified with micronutrients. To support foster health and wellbeing, Olam Agri supporting the SOS Children’s Village with fortified packaged foods (besides the donation of toiletries) to enrich its wards’ meal experiences. We are also in partnership with the Lagos Food Bank to reach out to indigent communities with some of our food packages. The consumption of these fortified foods has positive implications for the health and wellbeing of the public.
Do you have any support programme in agriculture value chain?
Through the Seeds for the Future Foundation investment drive, Olam Agri has consistently weighed in with scaled levels of support for wheat farmers and local agriculture research institutes that are saddled with the responsibility of conducting scientific and environmental research activities that would increase food production levels in the country.
In 2021, the company launched its flagship N300 million wheat value chain development initiatives in Nigeria. The investment is yielding impressive results. The first-year report of the investment drive showed that the initiative achieved its first-year milestone of producing 10 kg of pre-multiplication wheat seed varieties that suit the unique local topography and climate. This achievement raises hope that the host market if given sustained goodwill can attain wheat production self-sufficiency status sooner than expected.
In March 2023, we partnered the Nanyang Technological University, a leading global research college in Singapore, to craft innovative, sustainable strategies targeted at raising the resilience level of Nigeria’s food value chain. We sponsored the Singapore Business Case Competition (SBCC) X African Challenge 2023. The competition featured 34 teams comprising 135 undergraduates from over 11 universities, which made presentations on climate-smart strategies to Olam Agri with a focus on how to improve Nigeria’s agriculture sector, tackle climate threats, and address the topographic and systemic challenges impeding the achievement of food security. The winners of the contest went home with a $1,500 cash prize in addition to an all-expense paid trip to Nigeria to implement their solutions.
What are your programmes for public schools?
We renovated a block of classrooms in Biyamusu Primary School in Ajingi local council of Kano State in 2022. The renovation work has raised the level of academic activities in the community. Pupils who previously sat in open and unkempt classrooms now have a conducive environment to learn. The critical intervention effort has significantly boosted school enrollment in the area and helped to take some kids off the streets.
Also, the Seeds for the Future Foundation Educational Grant Initiative, which was rolled out in 2022 is also targeted at raising academic excellence in tertiary institutions.
How have you been able to check communal crisis?
Olam Agri successfully brought together the Fulani and Tiv tribes, two tribes that were previously at loggerheads, when it launched a model school programme in the farming community of Jira (Zegeyo), Nasarawa State some years ago. The programme, which was in fulfillment of Olam Rice Farm’s corporate social responsibility, made the historical warring tribes to peaceful co-existence for the first time in a long while, as their children started attending the same school.
Evidence of peace in the community was contained in a letter of appreciation presented to the Olam Rice team from the Palace of Okpatta, the top traditional chief of the village. The letter eulogised the company’s deep interest in the well-being of its host community and explained how peace had returned to the community through its effort.
Speaking on its CSR focus, Ashish Pande, the Country Head for Olam Agri in Nigeria, said: “Our sense of purpose continues to drive our investment actions. In three decades of operations in Nigeria, Olam Agri has been investing in robust socially responsible projects targeted at enhancing the livelihoods, health and general wellbeing of the people across our host communities. “Our CSR initiatives and investments efforts are being executed with the Federal Government socio-economic development agenda in mind.”
Barr Patience Dappa – Group Managing Director – Masters Energy Group
Masters Energy Group, Trailblazing Nigeria’s Industrialisation Policy
The Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer Of Masters Energy Group Of Companies, Barr. (Mrs) Patience E. Dappa, in a chat with The Guardian disclosed how her company is in the forefront of the oil and gas sector in the country. Apart from this, she unveiled how Masters Energy Group is driving the Federal Government industrialisation policy and “Chinalising” Nigeria through its products.
Masters Energy is 18 years, what is it like being in business?
Masters Energy Group Of Companies started as a retailer of petroleum products in Apapa and with time and focus, it has grown to become not just a bulk trader, but a leader and major player in the oil and gas sector of the nation’s economy. Our tank farm in Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt, River State, is the largest in the sub-Saharan Africa. Our vision is to be the world’s benchmark in oil and gas space including aviation fuel.
However, we have keyed into the Federal Government industrialisation policy and have also diversified into manufacturing. Our manufacturing site is in our Masters Energy Industrial City at Onuaku-Uturu in Abia State. The industrial city houses the petrochemical plant from where we produce lubricants, grease, gear oils and coolants. We also have plastic plant for producing plastics and melamine household items such as chairs, tables, cans for storage and plates. We equally have our carton – dry mix plant there. Our premium brand Masters noodles is also produced in the industrial city. Our intention is to make the place a one-stop-hub for manufacturing and, which for us is backward integration.
We also envisaged a clear road map into gas storage and we are currently, considering having a gas hub in the Energy City. We have a dredging arm/subsidiary that is into dredging and reclamation of land.
Apart from being a major player in the energy sector, how have you being impacting your host communities?
As a corporate responsible entity, we have over the years earmarked a percentage of our budget to support our host communities. This is to bring development to them and also to sustain our relationship with them. Listing what we have done to support our host communities is not part of our policy, but on topical lines, we have focused on education and awarded scholarships to indigent students in our host communities. We have renovated schools, upgraded infrastructure and also provided new ones. We have constructed roads, provided potable water, built town halls, provided electric transformers and also buses to move people and goods in our host communities.
On health facilities; we have sent many sick people to India for treatment. We have also built a-50-bed hospital in our Industrial City waiting to be commissioned. We equally encourage sports and have built vocation centres for in-door games.
It might interest you to know that during the COVID-19 pandemic, our company was one of the few that embarked on the provision of palliatives to assuage people’s sufferings. This to us was a way to identify with their pains in that time of trouble.
What are the factors driving your CSR?
Our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is guided by our company policy. This enables us to be socially accountable to the stakeholders and the public. It is giving back to the community and to the people. You see, you cannot always be at the receiving end and expect prosperity; life is about giving and taking. In whatever you do, humanity should come first; so, it is love and care for humanity that are driving our CSR. Our host communities are stakeholders in our business as well as our customers, because without them, we do not exit. Hence, we try to see areas of need and support them as much as we can from the little profit we make so that everybody will be happy at the end of the day
What are your impactful projects?
As I earlier mentioned, our incursion into CSR is strictly guided by policies that restricts public divulgence, especially to protect some of our principals who are involved in governance and public service
How do you see the Nigerian business environment?
The Nigerian business terrain is speedily evolving into the right global standard with government putting some operational policies to guide players in the areas of finance, taxation, financial reporting and many support systems. However, we are a bit far from some of the energy hubs around the globe.
How much have you spent on CSR and what feedbacks have you got so far?
Our company policy will not allow me to divulge such information.
Where do we see Masters Energy Group in 20 years’ time?
We look forward to being a leader in the energy, manufacturing, hospitality and finance sectors in the country. We are the private champion of “Chinalisation” of Nigeria. A visit to our Energy City and Industrial City at Port Harcourt and Uturu, respectively will confirm this.
Adron Homes: Numero Uno In Real Estate, People’s Welfare
Started in 2012, Adron Homes has made so much impact in the Nigerian real estate sector of the economy. The company like the mustard seed has grown from its humble beginning in Agege to own branches in some parts of the country and even in the Republic of Benin. This mileage, though does not come easy, has to do with the astute leadership and vision of the Founder/Group Managing Director, Aare Adetola Emmanuel King. In this interview, he disclosed how the company has been playing impactful roles in the economy and his plan for the company.
Clocking 10, how has the journey been like for the company?
Firstly, we have to give thanks to the Almighty God that from February 7, 2012, this organisation was established till date, we are still in business. It has been 10 years now, we just have to be grateful because some started just like we did, but today, they are no more in existence. We have not only expanded from one small office at Agege to better offices in seven states across the country within the space of 10 years.
Apart from your primary aim of contributing to affordable housing in the country, what have you given back to the society as part of your social corporate responsibility?
Adron Homes has done a lot in this regards, especially in its immediate communities. We have participated in different electrification projects (donated transformers and street lights) for community development within Makun and Sagamu worth over N50 million.
We have continuously maintained over four kilometers main Simawa Access Road, Simawa Town, Ogun State. Electrified several rural communities within Ogun, Oyo and Osun states. Constructed ultramodern Gate House at the Palace of Onilisan of Ilisan Remo in Ogun State. Provided buses to convey students to school for free in Ogun State. We also donated a modern 18-seater school bus to Sagamu High School; operational vehicles to the Office of the Inspector General of Police, Abuja worth over N15million; operational Vehicles (Hilux trucks) to the Sagamu Police Area Command and the Simawa Police Command; renovated Ogijo Police Station in Ogun State; office complexes at the Police Special Fraud Unit Ikoyi, Lagos in 2017; continuous provision of palliatives to widows, widowers, orphanage homes through monthly stipends and welfare packages; donations to various local and international Aid and relief organisations.
Adron Homes has contributed in no small measures to provide succour to different communities across Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Nasarrawa and the FCT during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020.
We have awarded scholarship to indigent students, provided healthcare facilities to communities, supported the elderly healthcare too.
Why pick interest in CSR?
The motivating factor is the humanity in us as a responsible organisation. We saw the need in these areas and as the organisation is prospering, we have to give back, especially in the communities we operate. Most times, government is not looking towards these areas; so, we took it upon ourselves as a responsibility to fill the gap. Don’t forget there is a lot of economic challenges in this country. There is inflation and scarcity of funds; in fact, things are tough and we need to help out by cushioning the effect of the situation.
Could you tell us some of the projects that you have executed that are impactful and value driven?
Adron Homes has helped to improve the healthcare facility in Simawa Town. We gave them hospital beds, generators to empower the facility, gloves, BP equipment, executors, among others.
We have equally contributed to the improvement of the security in the areas by building ultra modern police station and as well renovated existing ones. We even went beyond putting up a more befitting structure for the police to equipping their offices with computer sets, installing solar lightning system, provided potable in their barracks and even organised parties for them, all these are to motivate them to be happy and work.
You are now 10 years in the sector. Looking back, what will you say your company has contributed to the economy?
As we continue to expand to different communities, we create employment opportunities for the locals and also empower them through our CSR projects. When you empower people by creating jobs and employing them, you are helping them to cater for themselves, feed their families, pay their taxes and contribute to the development of their community too. With these, I would say, we have invested in the people by empowering them through education and in the provision of infrastructure, which has boosted commerce, and directly impacted on the various societies. This adds value to the people; so, we have contributed to the GDP and the economy.
Where do expect Adron Home to be in the next 15 years?
We look forward to having our footprints in many states in Nigeria and more countries in the west coat. We are pan-African real estate company. We are now in Benin Republic and planning to expand to Gambia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire. In Nigeria, we plan to get to Kano, Jigawa, Nassarawa, Kwara, Rivers, Delta State among others. Hopefully, in the next five years, Adron Homes will be different states of the federation.
What are your contributions in making houses affordable for the common man?
Our main aim and objective is to reduce housing deficit in the country. Looking at our population and the available houses, we discovered that the houses available can never go round, so, we plan to bridge the gap by providing housing product. It is because of this that we came up with more innovative ways of making people to become landlords and landowners.
What is unique about Adron Homes?
We are the most reliable estate company in Nigeria; the testimonies are there for everyone to see. We pride ourselves as number one when it comes to putting smiles on clients’ faces. We are number one in real estates business in Nigeria.
On getting land and building, our payment plans are quite unique, accessible and convenient for people to become landlords. Apart from making payment easy, we also take he burden of Omonile or land-grabbers off our clients’ shoulders. Our lands are genuine and our estates are well developed; in fact, they are top-notch. We provide adequate security, children’s play ground, relaxation centres, shopping malls among others.
Some people fear that real estate companies delay the allotting of lands to their clients after payment for long. Is this the same with you?
Our concept is that before allotting lands to our clients, basic facilities must be in place. We do not just sell houses to clients, but ensure that there are proper fences, demarcation, roads, drainage, power from national grid and others are available. As soon as these basic things are there we start allocation.
What is the impact of Adron Homes on staff?
It is massive, especially as there is room for staff personal growth. From sales term to operations, you have access to facilities and we also inculcate that spirit of landownership on the staff. You cannot work in Adron Homes without having property and travelling opportunities. We exposure our staff to opportunities and our salary is in line with the national minimum wage. We also have unique successors plan in place, as well as good and robust training system.