The SERAS 2015

THE SERAS 2015: Night Of Glitz, Glamour And Corporate Responsibility And Sustainability At The Nigeria CSR Awards 2015.

“It has been nine long years of consistently hosting The SERAs- Nigeria’s CSR awards. From 2007 when the awards began to date, we have registered 527 applications from 92 organizations (82 of them would rate amongst Nigeria’s largest 100) from 13 different sectors of the Nigerian economy. Our journeys tracking and assessing the impacts of organizations in Nigeria has taken us to over 210 communities situated across all the geo-political zones that make up Nigeria.

Just as roses do have thorns, our successes have also been met with matching challenges. But the good news is – in pursuit of the set goal of making organizations operating in Nigeria Corporate social responsibility and sustainability compliant, we have made massive progress”, said President of the Nigeria CSR Awards- The SERAs, Mr. Ken Egbas in his welcome address heralding this year’s edition of Nigeria’s biggest and most glamorous corporate event.

It was a speech that set the tone for the rest of the evening and riveted attention on the theme for the 2015 edition of The SERAs: “Building partnerships for a sustainable future—business leadership as a catalyst for development”.

This year’s CSR awards held on November 20, 2015 at the Shell Hall of the Muson Center in Onikan, Lagos. The SERAs (which is an acronym for the Social Enterprise Report and Awards), celebrates corporate organizations doing business in Nigeria who give back to the communities from where they mine huge profits.

It was the ninth edition of the awards this year and the focus revolved around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) developed by the United Nations.

“The SDGs are about making life a lot more meaningful for our people and I’m glad that corporate Nigeria and all the dignitaries present in the room today are in agreement on this score. Nigeria can actually beat poverty like China has successfully done. We have no reason to be poor”, said former Minister of Education and erstwhile President of the World Bank (for Africa), Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili in her keynote address.

This year’s event featured 51 entries, but only 22 organizations scaled through the minimum criteria required to participate in Season 9 of the SERAs.

“We wanted to do it well and do it differently”, said Ms. Lola Ogundepo, Project Manager of CSR Nigeria; organizers of the annual CSR awards, as camera lights flicked and cocktail glasses clinked on the red carpet.

“The CSR awards have come this far because it always brings the crème-de-la-crème and captains of industry in one place. What we did manage to achieve this year was to ensure that 22 finalists emerged after a rigorous screening process.

Once that was achieved, we flew in experts in sustainable corporate giving from all over the world to serve on the jury panel. The jury decided on the winners after a painstaking 12-hour long process and here we are”, Ms. Ogundepo added.
According to Ogundepo, the SERAs team consists of a verification component which traverses the length and breadth of the country to have a first-hand feel of the plethora of CSR projects participating organizations cite in their entry documents.

“Perhaps that is what stands us apart”, said Ogundepo, with a smile. “The fact that once we receive the entries from the biggest brands in the country, we hit the road and the airspace with our camera crew to glean these projects ourselves and pass on all this documentation to aid the jury arrive at winners in the various categories, has ensured that The SERAs has retained its credibility for a decade and counting. It is what makes us tick”, Ogundepo added moments before guests were ushered into the event room to be feted with fine music, good food and an ambience that screamed comfort and classy decoration from miles away.

Winners at this year’s SERAs emerged from some of the following categories: Best Company in Environmental Sustainability, Best Company in Poverty Reduction, Best Company in Health intervention, Best Company in support for Agriculture, Best Company in Partnership for development, Best Company in Education, Best Company in Youth Focus, Best Company in Supply Chain, Best Company in support for SMEs, Best Company in CSR Reporting (Media category), Most Improved Company in CSR for 2015, Most voted company online and the Overall winner of the 2015 SERAs, among others.

Africa’s richest man and one of the world’s most influential personalities, Alhaji Aliko Dangote received the CSR man of the year award, Senator Ben Murray Bruce was honored with the Sustainability Champion award and Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade received the Sustainability Champion award as well for his laudable work in the environment and climate sectors.

Mr. Oluseun Onigbinde of BudgIT received the statuette for the SERAs 2015 prize for innovation for bringing public accountability and transparency to the front-burner with regards to the country’s budgets across all tiers; using his tech-savvy application.

“It was a category we decided to add to the awards this year as a way of encouraging innovators who may not have the big budgets of the big companies, but who are affecting lives positively from their own little corners of the planet; because innovation is what drives good CSR implementation at stakeholder level”, said Ndira Kartallozi, head of the 2015 SERAs jury panel who flew all the way from the United Kingdom to oversee the jury sitting.

Some other big winners of the night included Exxon Mobil which won in the overall winner category as the most socially responsible company for 2015; Lafarge which was the 2nd Runner Up and Etisalat which was the 1st Runner Up.

Others were BATN which won in the best company in support for Agriculture category, Sahara Energy which won in the partnerships for development category, Nigerian Breweries which won in the best company in Labour Practices category, Samsung which scooped the award for the best company in Youth Focus and Total Nigeria which won the e-voting contest to emerge the most socially responsible company in the online category.

Elsewhere, Protection Plus won the SME Company of the Year category and First Bank scooped the best company in support of SME award.

One of Nigeria’s finest voices, Ms. Yinka Davies, serenaded the audience of CEOs and top level cadre managers with a soul stirring performance; while talented flutist and pianist, Eddie Izycs brought the entire room to its feet with a performance that would linger in the memory for a while yet.

“We’ll continue to raise the bar”, said Mr. Egbas while sipping on a glass of cocktail with Lagos going to sleep in the foreground. “Next year, The SERAs would be a decade old and we are bringing business leaders from all over the world to Nigeria to mark the epoch with us. Next year would be even bigger that what has been experienced this year. For us, our biggest success story is that we have instituted a behavioral change in Nigeria’s boardrooms–one big event at a time.

“And working alongside corporate Nigeria to drive home the message that doing business also means doing good, I can say we are only going to get better and bigger from this point on”, added Mr. Egbas with most of the CEOS of blue-chip companies making a bee-line towards him to offer their words of encouragement and support.

Business for good…The SERAs payoff line boomed from Radio, Billboard and TV commercials across Nigeria’s business capital, hours preceding the event. And trust us, that’s a good and reassuring thing to hear in the age of responsibility.