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PwC issues 2021 Nigeria Sustainability Outlook

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By Charles Ike-Okoh

THUR 29 APRIL, 2021-theGBJournal- PwC’s Wednesday released its Inaugural Sustainability Outlook report on Nigeria.

According to PwC, the report aims to highlight Nigeria’s most important topics under the sustainability pillars of People (Covid-19, People Wellness & Development, Local Economic Development Insecurity), -Planet (Climate Change, Clean & Affordable Energy, Pollution Control, Waste Management) and -Prosperity (Sustainable Production & Consumption, Circular Economy, Sustainable Finance, Responsible Investment) ‘’while presenting predictions on trends expected to shape sustainability in the year 2021, with the COVID-19 global pandemic in focus,’’ says Uyi Akpata Country and Regional Senior Partner PwC  West Market Area.

The outlook provides insights on front burning topics affecting people today, including the effects of COVID-19 and accessibility to the vaccine by the poor and developing countries.

It also highlights key topics including: the increasing attention to people wellness and development, promotion of local economic development by businesses, as well as the effects of insecurity which plagues the country.

Femi Osinubi, Partner & Leader, Risk Assurance & Technology/Digital PwC West Market Area said the sustainability outlook ‘’provides an avenue to align our visions of the future, innate business understanding and human insight to ensure sustainable development through investment in infrastructure and innovation in line with the United Nations Goal 9: on Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.’’

‘’Technological progress will be critical in finding lasting solutions to both environmental and socio-economic challenges of the new world,’’ Osinubi added, while commenting on the Sustainability Outlook.

‘’With the United Nations (UN) launching the Decade of Action in view of the final decade in achieving the SDGs, we believe the topics covered are material in ensuring that Nigeria contributes its quota towards SDGs, including both the public & private sectors,’’ Osinubu added.

Making her contribution, Rukaiya el-Rufai, Partner and Sustainability & Climate Change Leader PwC Nigeria said the Sustainability outlook will provide insights and predict the activities that will shape the sustainability narratives in Nigeria.

‘’We have provided an outlook on emerging risks and intended consequences for businesses and individuals to review the ways in which they can enable rapid changes towards adapting to this “new normal” sustainably.’’

The identified related trends which PwC envision will shape the year 2021 in Nigeria, including: the effects of COVID-19 and vaccine access by poor and developing countries-(this year, businesses will take bolder steps towards innovative approaches to reducing these inequalities while promoting the social pillar of sustainable development);

On people wellness and development Pwc said, the approach taken by businesses to manage brain capital will be of utmost importance in 2021, especially as many employees will continue to work from home while dealing with the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic.

Insufficient mental health statistics, indifference in behaviour and denial further exacerbates the decline in brain health in our society. Research shows that the range of mental illness in Nigeria is about 20% with about 64 million Nigerians suffering from some form of mental illness.

The workplace has great potential for promoting or hindering the mental health of an individual as it provides a platform for different psychological interactions and experiences.

Fundamentally, it is important for organisations to tailor work experiences and culture towards being employee centric to ensure that mental health is prioritised, and maximum efficiency is achieved.

At the national level, national strategies for maximizing brain capital will begin to spring up as policymakers continue to recognise the interconnectedness between brain health and the global economy. Beyond providing standard healthcare programmes, we expect that businesses will prioritise the mental health of their employees in 2021 by investing in innovative approaches to wellness and work-life balance such as Employee Assisted Programmes. Failure to make these necessary investments may result in staff burnout, aggravated mental health cases and increased rate of unemployment which have damaging impacts on the bottom line.

In Nigeria, about 90 million people live in extreme poverty and poor living conditions, which was a catalyst for high transmission rates of the pandemic in urban areas.5 COVID-19 has worsened the already existing social inequalities plaguing Nigeria by highlighting the interconnectedness of the human system and how a single event can significantly impact an already fragile system.

While local economic development on the part of individual companies can be smallscale efforts and initiatives within their immediate sphere of influence, the COVID-19 pandemic provided companies with an opportunity to showcase their local economic development initiatives on a larger scale.

 ‘’We envision that companies will work towards creating shared value as businesses are realising that by creating a healthy society, they in turn benefit from the economic growth and outputs of the society. Additionally, stakeholder engagement will continue to grow in 2021 and beyond to ensure that companies are responding to the appropriate sustainability topics in line with their corporate values and stakeholder needs.

On insecurity challenges, PwC said; an issue of growing concern in the coming years is the drying of Lake Chad which is exacerbating poverty and insecurity in the region.

Overall, insecurity does not just pose a threat to human lives but also significantly affect livelihoods, food security and the economy in the long run.

In 2021, insecurity will continue to pose a significant threat on lives and livelihoods if the underlying socio-economic & environmental causes are not addressed.

‘’Evidently, addressing these challenges will have to include poverty alleviation programs which, according to experts, is a catalyst for securing the nation. We anticipate that the global pandemic and recovery plan will allow the Nigerian government to rethink and redesign its response to insecurity by addressing some of the underlying socioeconomic root causes in a bid to ensure safety of all regions.’’

Over time, Nigeria has contributed to the peace and security of West Africa. However, for more than a decade, the devastation caused by militancy, terrorism, banditry and insurgencies have been difficult to overcome.

Between May 2011 and March 2021, over 77,000 deaths were recorded as a result of insecurity in the country. 7 What was once predominantly localised in the southeast and northeast of the country has now spread to most parts of the country – with the farmer and herdsmen conflict creating insecurity across the country.

The Outlook which also touched on positive impact of COVID-19 on nature and the environment prompted PwC to call for support for the present and future generations adding that there is a need to take urgent action on climate change by protecting the planet from degradation, improving access to clean and affordable energy, waste management and pollution control initiatives, responsible production and consumption.

PwC also noted that climate change is becoming an existential threat requiring immediate action.

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