A Review of SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT BY Oscar Odiboh
Book Title: Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development
Authors: Wole Adamolekun and Rotimi Olatunji
Publisher: Malthouse, Lagos, Nigeria
Year of Publication: 2022
Several myths, feeds and fads about social responsibility have been unwittingly broken by Adamolekun and Olatunji in their latest work titled Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development. The content and effusions of their book show that social responsibility is not a corner-standing megaphone for announcing the existence of an organisation; neither is it a mere corporate image-polishing agent, nor a measly favour-rendering gifting to a potentially restive neighbouring community. The authors also challenged the thinking that sustainability is conceptually indefinable, costly to be effective, and completely technology-dependent instead of being consistently development-focused. The uniqueness of the book lies in the rearrangement of existing thoughts, postulations and offerings of social responsibility, sustainability and development in Nigeria and the world at large.
The book examined the contextual, epochal, conceptual, intellectual, comparative, local, global and practical perspectives of social responsibility within the domain of sustainable development. Using 27 figures, illustrations, tables as well as dozens of practical examples, the authors portray social responsibility as a necessity for impacting the poor and improving social coexistence through well-defined individual philanthropy and organised giving.
The book Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development consists of ten chapters beginning with acknowledgement, preface and foreword, which seem to serve as the introduction. The first three chapters address the African context, Nigerian standpoints and other perspectives (such as public relations, globalisation, business, government and activations) of social responsibility. In chapter one, the authors argued that the African continental worldview of pre-historic humanity provides the natural platform for existential social responsibility despite modern, socioeconomic and political challenges in toe. Citing African experts such as Steve Biko, Kofi Anan, Julius Nyerere, and several others, the authors aver that the placement of social responsibility in an official corporate straightjacket is a misnomer. It amounts to denying the fact that social responsibility is communal, human and developmental. To correct this ‘ludicrous’ (p.6) official misrepresentation of the true meaning of social responsibility, the authors upheld that the real deal is their sustainability to change lives, advance society and motivate patriotic continuity to defend what has been given to all.
The spirit of Chapter One is carried to Chapter 2, towards the end of which the authors examined the Nigerian perspectives of social responsibility. They identified six epochs of social responsibility in Nigeria from the Alder Report of 2004, namely the historical era of: do-good-ism, which translates to self-motivated social responsibility; voluntary CSR, which translates to company-motivated social responsibility; corporate citizenship, which is a civic duty to the State, imitating the citizenry; coerced CSR, which is the forceful inducement of CSR action; coerced conceptual responsibility, which means involuntary CSR-friendliness; and strategic CSR, which is the final phase where CSR is backed by long-term policy.
Missionaries’ provision of education, individual Nigerian philanthropic activities and corporate giving are explained by the authors as examples of early corporate social responsibility in Nigeria which are fundamentally indigenous. However, the authors lamented that lack of continuity, poor documentation and insignificant media pop-ups (p.22) are the bane of social responsibility harvesting in the country.
Beyond Africa and Nigeria, the authors examined seven more perspectives of social responsibility in Chapter Three. Chief among them are public relations and global perspectives of social responsibility. The authors decried the hollowness of the public relations gimmicks built around the CSR activities of exploitative multinational companies. Referencing Howard Bowen, the “father of corporate social responsibility” and Dr. Christopher Kolade, the legendary Nigerian industrialist cum broadcaster, the authors complained that boardroom decisions that approve CSR for corporate visibility and public image polishing are not healthy for the country. Such decisions, they surmised, are largely ill-conceived and the consequent projects further impoverish the poor in the long run. In other words, when the publics of an organisation are hoodwinked into accepting gifts through corporate CSR, in no distant time, the benefits disappear, and the “developmental gaps” (p.26) in the people’s communities stagnate. About the global social responsibility initiatives, the second of the seven additional perspectives of social responsibility, the authors noted the collectivist desires of investors to masquerade as responsible corporate citizens. But slowly such global financiers reveal themselves as unrestrained controllers of the government, financial law-breakers and disrupters of local peace and cohesion.
Chapter four of the book presents the theoretical and conceptual foundation of social responsibility. The authors discussed and tabulated eleven existing theories guiding CSR practice worldwide. According to them, these theories were sourced from older disciplines such as economics, sociology philosophy and several others. Among the theories examined by the authors are Friedman’s Normative Social Responsibility and Stewardship Theories; the Fiduciary Capitalism Theory of Donaldson and Davis, and the Stewardship and Stakeholder Theory authored by Donaldson and Preston, among others. The chapter ended with implication signposts for application, responsible corporate undertakings, and CSR performance assessment.
Shifting from theories to practice, the authors in Chapter Five examined some of the organisations that have attempted to practice social responsibility in line with best global practices. Highlighted in this discourse are specific private organisations and government agencies such as MTN, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), GTBank, Globacom, Airtel, Chevron, Total, Oando, Nigeria LNG and a host of others. Generally covered in the chapter are the banking, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, Oil and Gas as well as the Nigerian media. The authors decried the failure of these companies’ CSR actions to engender and sustain true development in the country. According to them, communal beneficiaries of CSR programmes of government agencies and private organisations are few; many organisations give openly only to evade tax and accentuate corrupt practices in the backyard. Yet, a supposedly vibrant media industry has performed below par as guardians and vanguards of social responsibility with a punch.
Titled “Motivations for Social Responsibility”, Chapter six shows the role of inequality, corresponding philanthropy, unethical altruism, market forces, exclusive pledging, and parroting in the social responsibility space. The authors argued that doing good has become synonymous with doing business as the ultimate aim is to develop the business more than developing the people, not in parts, but as a whole. Referencing wealthy people such as Warren Buffet, MKO Abiola, Oprah Winfrey, Aliko Dangote, Mark Zuckerberg, Jackie Ma, and 37 others, the authors highlighted the role of wealthy families in social responsibility and concluded that while it is good to give, it is more important to show your impact on society.
Overcoming poverty as a global developmental goal is the summary of Chapter Seven of the book in our purview. Decrying unsolicited, unimpressive, abandoned, and half-baked CSR projects, and flash-in-the-pan social investments by governments, the authors argued that the world in large parts is yet to benefit from sustainable, developmental social responsibility. This lacuna informed the birth of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG), now transformed into Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Yet, unexpected events such as the 2019 pandemic have shown that even some of the goals leave much to be desired.
Moving to specifics, the authors in Chapter 8 focused on the social responsibility actions and records of the Shell Petroleum Company (SPDC) in Nigeria. This chapter regurgitates the report of three years of doctoral research on the company. Analysing Shell’s social responsibility, business principles, vision, mission, CSR strategies, reputation, programmes and sectorial contribution to the Nigerian economy, the Chapter shows the company’s insufficiency of communication, inappropriate methods of giving and overall failure to develop the surrounding communities sustainably.
The failure of SPDC to communicate responsibly as shown in the last chapter may have influenced the title of Chapter Nine, which is “Communicating Social Responsibility”. In this Chapter, the authors, aver that beyond merely communicating, the message, its meaning(s), and expectations must be mutually understood by all concerned. Communication elevates understanding; effective communication crushes a tower of babel. Relating this precept to social responsibility, the authors cited biblical verses to underscore even the spiritual foundation of effective communication in social responsibility. From the spiritual to the physical, the authors cited the statement of Peak (p. 284) to denounce the grandiose, omnipotent posturing of corporate organisations, alluding that just as no man is an island, no business can operate in seclusion. Businesses and communities are co-organic with mutual influence on one another. The authors concluded the chapter by predicting that in another decade, corporate social responsibility would dominate the corporate space and place.
Lastly, Chapter 10 problematizes social responsibility through the COVID-19 pandemic and at the same time proffering solutions. According to the authors, the historicism of pandemics shows that social responsibility is an inextricable part of humanity, an individual obligation, a collective commitment, a corporate opportunity to impact societies, as well as a global action that must be sustained at all costs. Despite being a public health issue, COVID-19, like HIV-AIDS affected and will continue to affect the entirety of humanity, the authors infer. Therefore, it is part of human development to deal with the seeming unpredictability of upheavals like the pandemic, all over the world. The authors concluded that it is part of social responsibility to look fear in the face and move to the next level of development.
An incredible aspect of the book Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development is that it announces the importance, inevitability, multidimensionality, and sustainability of social responsibility. This point runs consistently through all ten chapters of the publication. The book exercises the authority of the authors to show that social responsibility has a beginning in humanity and, though still gestating, will blossom in the near decade.
Also, the developmental destination of social responsibility through the process of consistency is made clear in the book. Developmental goals are achievable if individuals, communities and corporate organisations focus on it as the fundamental activation of responsibility. The book textually and successfully strings together the beads of social responsibility, sustainability and development as the title proposes to the reader.
For a book on social responsibility to be so voluminous, not as a set of edited contributions but actual product of a combined scholarly and experiential outpouring of two home-grown Professors, means that Specialism in Nigeria’s communication studies has come of age. Social Responsibility as a special area of study in mass communication is on the way, judging by the content of the book in review. If and when it finally happens, recognition would go to the authors and the textual credit would go to this book.
The technical interplay of each chapter being a nexus to the next in the book is admirable. For instance, the Nigerian perspective of social responsibility draws from the African perspective of the previous and first chapters. The Nigerian perspectives of the chapter prepare the ground for other perspectives of chapter three, thereby quickly answering a discerning reader’s question about others. This pattern goes on as the last two chapters are similarly linked together by the problematic of COVID-19. The author’s style in this regard, encourages a smooth flow of reading and assimilation at the same time.
It cannot be overemphasized that the unpretentious content delivery of the book easily gives discernible meanings to the arguments of the authors. The content is supported by citations from 224 Nigerian, African, American and other global sources. Texts are beautifully intermixed with colour pictures, data graphs and tables. By that, the authors further amplify and strengthen their presentation for all readers to see the global and local imperatives of social responsibility, sustainability and development.
There is no doubt that the currency and value of the book will attract rapid shelf uptake by potential readers among communication scholars, students and practitioners at home and abroad. However, as the authors prepare for the second edition, a few corrections need to be effected. The gaping line and paragraph spacing (on pages 44-47, 58-59, 116-118 and 130-132) should be closed up. Indented citations without original page number sources (on pages 105-106, 121, 126, 131, 135,153, 154, 312 and 313) should be corrected. The combination of indented and block/line paragraphing throughout the book needs great attention. The authors should professionally choose and consistently apply either the indent technique or the block/line technique of paragraphing. Also, un-indented quotations and indentation of quotes less than four lines need the authors’ attention. See page 136 for an example. The opinion citations of Dr. Christopher Kolade (page 25) Warren Buffet (page 167), and several others are missing.
In conclusion, the book is absolutely a good read for current and intending students, teachers and practitioners of social responsibility, particularly as an important part of corporate communication, public relations or mass communication in general; or even as a stand-alone subject. The content is interesting, germane game-changing. Colour combinations of the cover are a pull-to-read factor while the inner coloured pictures, graphs, tables and drawings would always sustain readership. Professional groups such as the Association of Communication Scholars and Practitioners (ACSPN), and the African Council for Communication Education (ACCE) among others would find topical issues of the future in the book, particularly relating to social responsibility, sustainability and development.