Doing Good: Nigerian Breweries CSR Story

IN June 2008, after series of media rounds featuring news, interviews, photo sessions and valedictory speeches about how his pet baby, Microsoft, the software brand has changed the world and how mankind relate IT wiz, Bill Gates quit his full-time job in the IT world to work full-time at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, philanthropic cum charitable organization. Gates was spurred on by Warren Buffet who coughed out a chunk of his $44 billion fortune into the coffers of the Gates Foundation in 2006. Bill Gates had earlier endowed his foundation with $30 billion.

In 2009, the Gates Foundation shelled out about $3 billion to fight diseases, poverty and ignorance across the world. Bill Gates’ move has inspired a number of the deep pocket tycoons and brands in different parts of the globe that are currently making heavy financial contributions towards good causes and mankind’s comfort and happiness. Amongst them is the Mexican telecoms billionaire, Carlos Slim Helu, who is giving out $13 billion to various foundations. Also, Dubai’s oil Sheik, Mohammed al-Maktoun, is equally endowing an education foundation in the whole of Middle East with $13 billion.

Virgin Group founder, the mercuric Sir Richard Branson’s conglomerate’s CSR platform is focused solely on environmental and climate change related issues. Coming down home, in Africa, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation established by the Zain telecoms founder, Sudan-born Mohammed Ibrahim, focuses on building a better society in Africa with good governance by political leaders. In recent times, the current most popular corporate business mantra globally is: ‘Doing well is good business’ or to borrow a popular Lagos street lingo: ‘Givers never lack’. This act of giving or philanthropy by brand builders or corporate bodies is known as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). More and more companies today leverage CSR to help solve most of the biggest problems in their immediate environment and beyond. In Nigeria, one brand that is living true to the CSR writ is Nigerian Breweries Plc. The premium brewery brand has in about ten years now splashed billions of naira on its CSRs platform. NB being an ardent apostle of the business mantra, ‘Doing well by doing good’ spreads its CSR platform across education, sports, and entertainment, youth empowerment, poverty alleviation and the environment related issues. Some 16 years ago, in 1994, NB set up an Education Trust Fund to support education in Nigeria.

The objective of this fund is to enable NB play a pivotal role in the funding of educational and research facilities in institutions of higher learning. The foundation was set up with a seed fund of N100 million. And with the establishment of the Education Tax Fund in 1995, NB has contributed over N3 billion to the fund. Also, in order to revive the reading culture among Nigerian students, six years ago, NB launched the National Reading Competition. The maiden edition of the event which held in 20,000 schools nationwide, and which saw the pupils competing in the schools, states, zonal and national levels had gingered the hopes of reviving the dwindling reading culture in Nigeria.

The objective of the competition was to empower these students to expand their vocabulary, comprehension and writing abilities as well as nurture their creative imaginations. The winner of this maiden edition, Joshua Idoko, a pupil of Community Secondary School, Asokoro, Abuja, was thrilled beyond comprehen-sion at the vent. Lauding NB for the hitch-free organization of the event and swift fulfillment of its promise to contestants, Idoko said: “I feel elated. I feel humbled. I was made to sign for my money right here, there was no go, come back tomorrow, kind of thing by which time one would have spent the better part of the expected money on transportation.”

The then Minister of Education, Prof. Fabian Osuji, who was the guest of honour while thanking the NB for picking education as part of its CSR platform also underscored the importance of literacy in a citizen’s life. His words: “To function effectively as an articulate member of the society, an individual should be able to read government policy papers, newspapers and magazines as well as instructions and directives for operation at home, at work, on the road and other public places.”

In the health sector, NB was a major contributor to the building of the Sickle Cell Centre by the Sickle Cell Foundation. Over the years, NB has funded various health organizations through projects financing and regular donation of blood banks, child incubators and boreholes. And in the sports arena, NB has not been lagging behind. From football to lawn tennis, table tennis to golf; from chess to cycling and athletics, NB has contributed immensely to the evolution and development of sports in Nigeria through a huge financial contribution to the sector.

In a nation where youths unemployment is rising by the day, NB through its youth empowerment and poverty alleviation programmes has given succor to the youth. One of such platforms being utilized by NB to empower the youths is the Gulder Ultimate Search, an entertaining and educative TV reality show. Since the debut of GUS, seven years ago, several youths, mostly graduates who hitherto would have turned to crime due to lack of jobs and out of despondency have become economically empowered as entrepreneurs.

Perhaps, if he had not participated in the 2008 edition of GUS, the ultimate man, Mike Nwachukwu, the University of Ibadan forestry graduate would still be pounding the streets in search of job. Or even if he had been employed, he would probably be working in the ministry of agriculture tending to the flora and fauna in the rain forest zone of the country. But miraculously, this was not the case as NB has changed Mike’s fortune for good. For discovering the Lost Chronicle and emerging winner of the GUS V. Mike went home with N7m, a brand new SUV and N500, 000 as wardrobe allowance. Apart from Mike, 9 other contestants who slugged it out with Mike won various other prizes running into millions of naira. These winners who are now GUS ambassadors have by virtue of their new status become role models to the youths.

Another vehicle in the NB’s CSR platform is Star Quest, the annual talents spotting musical show. Since Star Quest began it has produced several musical acts that have become big stars in the galaxy of Nigeria’s show business. The 2008 edition ended with Diamonds, a band led by Anthony Iwediunor emerging winners. For coming tops, Diamonds went home with a N5m recording deal, N2.1m cash, a mini-van, one year accommodation in a choice area of Lagos and an opportunity to perform at the 2008 edition of Star Trek, the international yearly musical concert powered by NB.

As a socially responsible corporate citizen, NB has partnered with several government agencies on different initiatives for the common good of the society. For example, NB partners the Federal Road Safety Commission on road safety campaign and it is also working hand in hand with National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) on quality assurance campaign.

However, given NB’s huge investments in CSR, does it have any effect or impact on its bottom line or return on investments. Experts contend it does. According to Muyiwa Akintunde, COO of MarketingMix, a leading brand consulting firm, “in the long run CSR, impacts on return on investments because the more a company or a brand gives back to its operating community, the more the community key up to its affinity. This ultimately leads to higher patronage and in the long run it would reflect on the bottom line. That’s why these days most companies engage in corporate social investment.” To buttress Akintunde’s assertion, findings revealed that CSR has indeed impacted on NB’s ROI.

A glean at NB’s performance at the capital market would suffice. For its sterling and positive performance in the capital market, NB clinched the 2008 Nigerian Stock Exchange President’s annual merit award in the breweries category. This is the 16th time NB would pick the award having won it 15 times previously including 2007. In the citation of the award, NSE stated that NB got the diadem due to its exemplary high standards of corporate governance, comprehensive annual reports and accounts coupled with a sustained robust growth profile which is reflected in its financials and consistently high return on investment to shareholders. To buttress its consistent growth record on ROI, NB in its half-year report for June 30, 2008, declared a profit before tax of N181b an increase of 43 per cent over the profit before tax of N127b declared in 2007.

Therefore, from the foregoing, it is obvious that there is no modicum of doubt that one of the most potent weapons for building and sustaining successful brands is through strategic corporate giving. In a seminal paper tagged, “The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy” and published in Harvard Business Review, the authors, Michael Porter and Mark Kramer enthused: “Corporations can use their charitable efforts to improve their competitive context … the quality of the business environment in the location where they operate … brings social and economic goals into alignment and improves a company long-term business prospects.”

( This is an excerpts from the forthcoming book, BRANDTALK: The Making of Nigerian Brands By: WALE ALABI.)

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