Since 1991, Saroafrica International, through the strategic business units (SBUs), has carried out several sustainability programs. This spans across the; Agriculture and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industries. We are currently engaged in SDG’s 1, 2, 3, and 6 and we plan to expand into SDG’s 6,7,12 and 13 in the coming years.
Nigeria is not exempt from the many environmental issues currently plaguing the world, some of which include: deforestation, drought and desertification, soil and coastal erosion, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, flooding and industrial pollution. The country is also currently confronted by major societal issues such as inequality, high levels of child mortality, poverty, but to name a few. The government has shown commitment to the creation of policies and mechanisms for achieving sustainable development, but it will take the genuine involvement of all interest groups and stakeholders in the society to help realise these goals.
The achievement of the sustainability goals in Nigeria requires the formation of partnerships of all stakeholders; individuals and organizations need to know about and participate in environmental and developmental decisions.
For these high interest groups to make informed decisions, however, access to all relevant information on environment and societal development issues must be provided. This includes information on products and activities that are likely to have significant impact on their communities and the environment as a whole. It therefore becomes imperative for Saroafrica as an indigenous company, to take ownership and responsibility for some of these issues and apply corrective action by introducing new investment programmes needed now to reduce and eventually prevent these problems.
The United Nations (UN), in 2015, created 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be adopted by all the UN member states. The SDGs essentially defines the UN’s development agenda and highlights several targets to be met by 2030 in order to eradicate or at least reduce the majority of the global societal, environmental and developmental issues. It was adopted as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by the year 2030.
At Saroafrica, we are wholeheartedly believe in and are committed to supporting the SDGs. We know that these are serious actions that must be taken to create a better world. We believe that supporting and promoting these SDGs will require innovative thinking and new ways of doing things, some of which include forging strategic alliances and collaboration with government agencies, NGOs, financial and academic institutions and other businesses.
At Saroafrica, we believe in the idea of shared values where sustainable economic growth is directly correlated with a healthy environment and respect for human rights.
At Saroafrica International, we have incorporated sustainability into every aspect of our business¾from educating farmers on the use of new techniques to churn out safe and healthy produce to reducing the carbon footprint stemming from our daily operations.
To build on the gains we have achieved so far, throughout our 30-year journey, in terms of societal and environmental protection, we are taking some measures to ensure that our sustainability programmes are anchored on a solid foundation. To this end, we have tagged our sustainability plan as “Enhanced wellbeing for all”
Derived from the group’s tagline, “…enhancing lives” which is in line with the company’s vision and purpose,Enhanced wellbeing for all, represents all of our new commitments towards economic, societal and environmental protection. It enables us to streamline our sustainability strategies and measure our progress and success against our commitments and the global Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). Some of these strategies includes the following aspects:
- Improving the capacity for sustainable agriculture
- Adopting and promoting the use of environmentally friendly techniques and technologies
- Promoting research and development of environmentally safe and healthy products
- Forging strategic and viable partnerships among various stakeholders and interest groups both at National and international levels
- Promoting financial inclusion to alleviate poverty
Enhanced Wellbeing for All – Saroafrica’s Sustainability Goal
Saroafrica’s Enhanced Wellbeing for All plan represents our dedication to support all our consumers and partners across the different Saroafrica companies to lead better, safer and more prosperous lives. We are committed to ensuring that we deploy our products and services in responsible and enduring ways.
The relevance and primary objective of Enhanced Wellbeing for All is driven by innovation which is aligned with our core purpose and emphasized by the UN’s Sustainability Development Goals.
This all-encompassing sustainability strategy would be built around four (4) key pillars, which are:
- Environmental Protection
- Product Stewardship
- Health and Safety
These key pillars would primarily contribute to the following SDGs:
- SDG 2 (Zero Hunger)
- SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation)
- SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production).
It also, however, supports seven other SDGs including SDGs 1, 3, 4, 8, 10, 13 and 17.
- The Environmental Protection Initiative
We have developed a target to reduce our waste, improve water and energy efficiency and promote more sanitary habits in our business and external environment. We aim to cut down our waste production by at least 50%, while increasing our water and energy efficiency by the same amount by 2030. This initiative supports the SDGs 3, 6, 7, 12 and 13, as defined by the UN.
Figure 1: SDGs supporting Our Environmental Protection Initiatives
Impact on Our Internal Business Operations
At Saroafrica, we aim to lead by example. Our Environmental protection initiative not only focuses on creating awareness in our communities about the harms of air emissions and general climate change issues, we are also focusing on improving our business operations in order to cut down the carbon footprint emanating from our daily operations, including our supply chain.
We aim to achieve this through a range of activities focusing on our energy sourcing and consumption, our manufacturing processes and distribution within our internal business operations and in collaboration with our suppliers.
Some of the areas where we plan to achieve this include:
- Water Efficiency: We have developed a workplace resource efficiency initiative in order to motivate and engage our staff to change unsustainable water usage habits. Some of this includes the use of signs in strategic locations within the office premises to promote a water efficient culture. We have set a target to cut down water consumption across all our subsidiaries and manufacturing plants by 20% in 5 years and 40% by 2030.
- Energy efficiency: We are also committed to addressing the challenges of climate change, while optimising the company’s performance in energy efficiency. We will opt for energy-efficient equipment wherever feasible and implement regular maintenance checks for all appliances that consume electricity, so as to ensure that they operate at maximum efficiency. We aim to increase our overall energy efficiency by 50% in 10 years.
- Reduction of GHG Emissions: At Saroafrica, we have a goal to cut down all air emissions emanating from the combustion of diesel used in all auxiliary power generation for the extraction and processing of our raw materials and in generating electricity for general operational use. We want to reduce our overall carbon footprint by at least 30% by 2030.
- Waste management and recycling: We want to reduce our overall consumption of all non-biodegradable materials as well as our disposal volumes through responsible waste management practices. We have started a paper-saving initiative with the aim of reducing our internal use of printing paper. The hope to achieve at least a 50% reduction in paper usage in 5 years. We will also initiate a plan for the safe waste disposal and recycling which would entail the creation of several waste disposal channels in order to separate the type of waste (i.e. separate channels for each of the following: paper, plastic, can and glass waste).
Impact on the External Environment
In this regard, we are committed to engaging in a broad range of activities¾from developing new and innovative environmentally-friendly activities through our Research and Development led manufacturing to creating awareness and empowering and/or training farmers on new and improved techniques that would preserve soil health, biodiversity and the quality of their produce.
Our dedication in this area would be focused on three (3) key areas:
- Innovation and Sustainable agriculture: Our dedication to continuous innovation also involves introducing new and improved methods to ensure environmentally-friendly farming activities. Our goal for sustainable agriculture focuses on finding a good balance between trying to meet the global demand for agricultural products and food and the preservation of the ecological system within the environment as we are aware that some of our business operations benefits from biodiversity. We are, therefore, dedicated to innovating and creating awareness about new ways that help sustain functioning ecosystems.
- Clean Water Initiative: We are aware that there is a significant lack of lack of safe drinking water and basic sanitation facilities in Nigeria. Through our Gossy Warm Springs Company, we are dedicated to make as well as promote affordable clean and potable water in areas where it is inaccessible, especially in our host communities. We also want to implement mechanisms and create awareness to improve general levels of sanitation and hygiene in these areas.
- Uplifting the Livelihoods of Participating Farmers: Saro Agrosciences – our lead Agricultural based company involves a significant amount of interaction, either directly or indirectly, with rural farmers. We created the Productive Farmers Programme to train these farmers on the safe and responsible use of crop protection products. We are also committed to extending this programme to training farmers on sustainable farming activities that would reduce improve their yield and overall livelihood.
- Transport accidents reduction: We are committed to reducing the occurrences of transport accidents in our logistics and distribution processes. Achieving this entails partnering with responsible logistics companies whose goals align with ours in terms of ensuring duty of care in all aspects of operations. We also feel a voluntary obligation to report any incidences of substance leakage of at least 100 Litres to minimize damage to local residents. This is in line with our core value of accountability, customer centricity and the need to act responsibly in all that we do.
- Extended Product Responsibility (Product Stewardship)
Trust is an important currency to us at Saroafrica. We always endeavour to be “…accountable for all that we do”. We acknowledge that we have a shared responsibility in ensuring the highest quality of product safety and quality standards, and that our raw materials and final products are managed in a way that reduces any negative impact, throughout their lifecycle, on human and environmental health and safety.
This programme supports the SDGs 2, 3, 9 and 12.
Figure 2: SDGs supporting Our Extended Product Responsibility programme
To this end, we have created internal standards that would achieve this in the following ways:
- Responsible Sourcing, handling and Production – At Saroafrica, we ensure that there is transparency in all our dealings, especially in all our value chain activities such as sales and distribution. We want to boost our level of customers’ satisfaction and confidence in all our products through transparency. In line with our ‘trust concept’, we ensure to take social and environmental considerations into account when creating and managing supplier relationships.
- We also we make sure that all safety-related information on all products, across our subsidiaries, are transparent.
- We ensure that our products meet all the requisite legal and regulatory requirements and quality standards of the country, and as expected by our consumers.
- Ongoing PIND Intervention to reach 8,300 farmers along cocoa and cassava value chain on GAP trainings.
- We undergo extensive product trials and testing to ascertain the impact of our products on the environment.
- Capacity Building for sustainable agriculture: Some of our core suppliers in the agro-allied subsidiary are the smallholder farmers. Through our Productive Farmers programme, we aim to teach farmers about how to safely and responsibly use our products both to increase the yield and quality of their harvested goods, and also safely, with regard to human health and the environment. At our Saro Agrosciences company, we support our farmers with right knowledge through our stewardship program that ensure that agro-input are used in a rational manner and farmer derive maximum benefits from the use of our inputs.
- Research and Development: We have internal processes to ensure that we use improved techniques and technologies to develop products and services so that we can optimize their safety for people and the environment.
- Partnerships #GrowingTogether
We partner with academic institutions, farmers, other businesses, NGOs and government agencies to promote causes that improve the life and well-being of our internal and external customers. This programme supports Sustainability goals 1, 3, 4, 10 and 17.
Figure 3: SDGs supporting Our #Growingtogether programme
Some of these programmes include:
- Poverty Eradication
- Through financial inclusion: The rate of financial exclusion in Nigeria has dropped from 46.3% in 2018 to 36.8% in 2019. While we, at Saroafrica recognise that this is a good improvement in our immediate social environment, we also acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to be done in this area. The high levels of poverty can, in some cases, be attributed to the lack of access to affordable sources of credit. At Saroafrica, we want to partner with government agencies, NGOs and financial institutions that are dedicated to promoting financial inclusion especially to our primary customers and small businesses in our local community. Our purpose is to improve self-sufficiency, self-reliance and sustainable local communities and cities.
- Through our value chain activities: Saro Agrosciences Ltd is empowering hundreds of youths in the farming communities to produce competitively with access to quality input and market. Our Golden Maize program which was design to produce pro-vitamin A-fortified maize for industrial application, engaged over 1000 farmers linking them to finance and market.
- AgriSeedCo: At Saro Agrosciences, we realize that access to good quality seed is invaluable in the effort to ensure food security, hence our joint venture partnership with Seedco in the production and distribution of improved seed varieties to farmers capable of increasing farmers yield and their competitiveness. Our high yielding maize seed variety is transforming the lives of maize farmers in Nigeria raising their yield from national average of 1.5 metric tons per hectare to 6-8 metric tons per hectare.
- Supporting Education: We believe that education is paramount to building a more skilled and productive workforce and transforming the lives of people. At Saroafrica, we partnered with Lagos Business School in 2012 to launch the Saro-Specific Leadership Development and General Management program for deserving Saro Associates. We will also partner with NGOs to support causes that promote Early Childhood Education. These causes not only helps to improve the quality of life and well-being of the people in the long run, it also helps to create sustainable cities and communities as these newly-skilled workforce would be more productive in creating wealth for the community.
- Health and Safety
At Saroafrica, we are dedicated to a ensuring a healthy and safe environment for our communities, as well as a fair workplace environment and culture for our staff. All our products sensitive and, thus, they must be produced and distributed safely and in a safe environment as the consumption of these products is vital for the health and well-being of our consumers and customers. We believe that we are accountable for all that we do and for this reason, we must take responsibility for stewardship from Farms to Homes.
For the Enhanced Wellbeing Plan, we have set specific targets which will be used to measure our actions against the industry benchmarks. This aspect of the Enhanced Growth Plan is aligned with SDGs 3, 8 and 12.
Figure 3: SDGs supporting Our #Growingtogether programme
Some of the measures we are taking to ensure health and safety for all include:
- Minimize HSE risk for employees and the community: At Saroafrica, we have a vision “To build a successful company made up of successful people”. For this reason, we believe in empowering our staff¾internal and outsourced¾to take ownership of health and safety in the work environment.
We also endeavour to create awareness around health and safety issues for the customers and consumers of our products, through transparency in our sales, marketing and distribution activities. Farmers face a lot of work-related hazards and incidents during the course of their operations, including exposure to crop protection chemicals. As agriculture is an important aspect of the business of some of our subsidiary companies, we take it as a responsibility to ensure that all aspects of farming activities are safe, especially with the handling of our products. Through a number of our programmes and collaborations, we endeavour to train as many as smallholder farmers possible on safe use of chemicals and also educated them about other work-related risks.
- Ethical labour standards: Saroafrica strictly adheres to the Nigerian labour laws and applies ethical and fair labour standards throughout the organisation. We also ensure that we collaborate with ethical external agents such as suppliers.
We would create a Sustainability unit/champion to advise the company’s management team and executive staff on all matters pertaining to sustainability.