Out of the many definitions of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the one articulated by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development is very pertinent to contemporary Nigeria: Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment of businesses to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large. This definition of CSR is being championed by Premium Steel & Mines Limited (PSML) – a company that integrates proactive CRS policies in its business plan and strategy with a long-term vision to achieve sustainable growth for the company and to align private returns with social returns.
Premium Steel & Mines Limited – formerly known as the Delta Steel Company – is an integrated steel plant located in Warri, Delta State, and is at the forefront of kick-starting the steel sector in Nigeria. The steel sector is vital to the Industrialisation of Nigeria and to the diversification of the country’s economy. PSML’s current investments into the steel plant and its future expansion plans have the potential to make it one of the largest integrated steel manufacturers in the country – offering a portfolio of high quality finished steel products.
PSML’s clear-cut and proactive CSR policy allows for the prompt implementation of its CSR strategy that is hinged on four key themes: youth empowerment, access to quality education, healthcare improvement and poverty alleviation. PSML’s CSR policy is supported by a dedicated annual budget and key objectives to:
- Enhance relationships with all stakeholders – government, the media, civil society groups, community leaders – through the implementation of a well-defined CSR agenda;
- Support the socio-economic development of its host community; and
- Be heard and seen as a driver for implementing greener business operations.
PSML’s CSR projects fall under the following themes / program categories:
- Employability Trainee Programs
- Scholarship Funds and Education Programs
- Youth Empowerment Programs
- Healthcare Intervention Programs
PSML has been successfully executing its CSR projects through a structured engagement of its host community through the Community Development Associations (CDA) by working closely with their representatives to discuss implementation strategies for the CSR projects. A key element of the implementation strategy for CSR projects is to not only provide social benefits for the host communities, but to also create employment opportunities by hiring indigenous contractors, recommended by the local community, to implement these projects. Recent successful project implement through the use of indigenous contractors include the renovation of the Ovwian Primary School and the Technical College that were rehabilitated and received a complete overhaul to make them congenial to learning. In addition, brand new schools haven been built to bring education closer to distant communities. This approach has also seen health facilities built, furnished, and equipped to support the health requirements of the Aladja community.
To complement the renovation of the educational facilities discussed above and to increase the access to education, PSML donated a 30-seater bus each to the local Primary School and the Technical High School – thereby facilitating the daily transport of students to school on a timely basis. This initiative has substantially reduced the level of absenteeism and contributed to an increase in attendance of students at the schools – a key indicator of future academic success.
Primary school is a critical stage in a child’s development and missing school or arriving late due to lack of adequate transportation can have lasting consequences on a child’s educational success and career prospects later in life. In addition, the level of material covered in primary school curricular has increased substantially; hence, compounding the negative effects of missing school during these formative years of a child’s education. Furthermore, research has linked chronic absenteeism to lower achievement in math and reading skills, an increase in problem behavior and difficulty in obtaining a score of “proficient” for admission to secondary and technical schools or to higher education institutions such as university.
According to Mr. Prasanta Mishra, Chief Executive Officer of PSML, “We came to the realization that lack of access to adequate transportation was one of the main factors that contribute to chronic absenteeism, keeping students out of school, and thereby leading to huge gaps in their learning curve, ultimately leading to low overall academic performance”. This according to him led the organisation to ask itself “what do we do and how can we intervene?” The provision of comfortable and safe daily transportation to and from the school was an obvious answer.
Commenting on the donation, the Assitant Head Teacher of the Ovwian Primary School said: “This is the beginning of a new dawn for the primary education department in our community. PSML started by giving us this thirty-seater bus. This a feat that has never happened in the history of primary education here in Ovwian. This is the first bus; the first of many.”
In today’s classrooms, computers are being increasingly used as a tool to deepen student learning and enhance the teaching-learning process. The new model of integrating technology into the curriculum means that computers are in high demand throughout the school day. Where computers are readily available, the teachers and administrators are faced with the task of developing a plan that makes the most effective and efficient use of the computer technology available to them. However, in schools that lack computer facilities, students lack the opportunity to learn critical computer skills in order to prepare them for today’s technology-driven workplace.
This was the thrust behind the decision by PSML to establish Computer Labs in the local Primary and Secondary school in the Aladja community to ensure that teachers can use computer technology to help students learn more easily and faster and it has benefitted the students by helping them develop computer skills, critical for the success of the pupils who represent the future on Nigeria.
The Computer Labs have benefited the students by exposing them to the latest computer technology for learning purposes. Mishra commented that, “While at the school, I observed teachers and students using the computers to write correspondence and print it without assistance. They would not have been able to do this before. The teachers and students in the schools now know what a computer looks like and can use them, albeit in a limited way by modern standards. This was not the case on the first trip when they had never seen a mouse or keyboard before. Students at the school were excited by our visit, lining the walls and windows of the computer room waiting for a turn to use them. The school was very proud to have the computer.”
PSML’s initiatives in the healthcare space include the provision of potable water via boreholes for the schools which had hitherto been a cause of concern and an inefficient use of students’ time since they had to leave the school premises in search of clean water. Mrs Dezzy Ighomi, a head teacher of Ovwian Primary School commented, “The water that was provided has gone a long way to helping the children, [stopping] the pupils from moving in and out of the school in search of good drinkable water, and our facilities like the toilets have been made cleaner and neater, with water flowing, everybody is happy. Even the community they are in one way or the other benefiting from it because they also come to fetch and use for their household.”
According to PSML, its CSR strategy is not just about philanthropy; it’s about being responsible corporate citizens and defining its role towards society by taking a lead in terms of the health and safety of its workforce, promoting diversity and human rights, implementing strict rules of corporate governance, optimizing the use of natural resources in an environmentally responsible manner, and engaging in a comprehensive and transparent dialogue with all stakeholders. The company inspires to take a lead in designing appropriate and pioneering CSR programs and to make CSR an important component of the new wave of economic activity that is required for the economic development and industrialization of Nigeria.