Appointing an ambassador for a good cause: exploring the collaboration between The Nigerian Stock Exchange and Tuface Idibia

By: Olumide Orojimi, Head, Corporate Communications, The Nigerian Stock Exchange Sep 2019

To advance its position as the sustainable securities exchange championing Africa’s growth, The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) has signed one of Africa’s biggest musicians, Innocent Tuface Idibia (Tuface) as its first Good Cause Ambassador. In announcing the appointment of a Good Cause Ambassador, the NSE has taken strides to raise awareness on an issue that generates interest for all.

The CEO of NSE, Mr. Oscar N. Onyema OON, stated that: "We are pleased to welcome Tuface Idibia as the first NSE Good Cause Ambassador. His focus on promoting social causes such as raising awareness on peace, the fight against fake drugs, and various other ills that plague Nigerian society, through his music aligns with our commitment to creating sustainable value for our diverse stakeholders as well as increasing impact in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We run an inclusive Corporate Sustainability strategy that promotes a market-based approach to environmental, social and governance imperatives among all stakeholders. The appointment of Tuface is aimed at inspiring accelerated progress towards the advancement of the SDGs."

The challenges we face when creating a sustainable future are daunting. Using the sustainable development goals (SDGs) as a reference point, it is easy to despair at the problems we face, particularly in Africa. The scale of the challenges can leave an individual or an organisation feeling overwhelmed. Creating solutions to these challenges requires strong leadership from forward thinking individuals and organisations. What leaves some feeling overwhelmed, stirs true leaders into action.

Not one to be deterred by these challenges, the NSE continues to pound the pavement and create innovative ways to spotlight the SDGs. The appointment of Tuface is expected to amplify to a broader group of stakeholders, consisting largely of millennials and Gen Z, the importance of achieving the SDGS. Tuafce is not a stranger to social causes as he has individually promoted campaigns such as #VotenotFight, #Bringbackourgirls, and #Saynotodrugs to mention a few. Speaking at the event, Mr. Idibia said “I am honoured to join the NSE family as a Good Cause Ambassador. I have always used my music to inspire change in the world and this has been the focus of the campaigns I have supported over the years. I’m indeed delighted to be given the opportunity to serve in this capacity. I will like to assure all that I will be dedicated to the good cause of promoting sustainable development as championed by the Exchange”.

The Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility strategy of the NSE is anchored on four pillars of Workplace, Marketplace, Community and Environment. Through these four pillars, NSE has implemented key initiatives that cohere with the SDGs. Under Community, NSE has programmes that promote goals, 1,2,4,5 and 8. Goals 4,5,8,9,11,12,16 and 17 are adequately covered by the programmes under Marketplace. The Workplace programmes promote goals 3,4,5,6,7,8,10,13,16,17, whilst our environmental efforts support goals 6,7,11,12 and 13.

According to a joint publication by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE), stock exchanges can contribute to achieving the SDGs in two main forms: the first is by promoting good governance in business practices and the second is by promoting investment in sustainable development. In addition, the Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative (SSE), identified four of the SDGs where stock exchanges can have the strongest impact: Gender Equality (Goal 5), Sustainable Information (Goal 12), Climate Change (Goal 13) and Global Partnerships (Goal 17).

It is critical to understand the progress made by the NSE in achieving these SDG related initiatives. The NSE has been at the forefront of promoting good governance since the launch of the Corporate Governance Rating System (CGRS) in 2014. The CGRS is a joint initiative between NSE and the Convention on Business Integrity (CBI). It was developed to rate the corporate governance and integrity practices of all companies listed on the Exchange. Since the launch with eight listed companies in 2014, CGRS has been rolled out to all listed companies. In February 2018, thirty-five (35) companies and four hundred and thirty-seven (437) directors were recognised and awarded CGRS certificates. In addition, CGRS is also the primary constituent of the Corporate Governance Index (CG Index), which enables investors to make informed investment decisions based on the level of corporate governance of listed companies.

In leading the charge to promote investment in sustainable development, the NSE played a leading role in galvanising the critical stakeholders to develop and list Nigeria’s inaugural sovereign green bond. Recognising the crucial role of green bonds in fighting climate change, NSE collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Environment, Federal Ministry of Finance and Debt Management Office to host a high profile conference themed “Green Bonds: Investing in Nigeria's Sustainable Development” in 2016. This conference was a major step towards the conceptualisation of the sovereign green bond. In addition, NSE held a pre-listing conference for market participants with the theme 'Exploring the Green Financing Opportunity: Green Bonds and Enabling Frameworks' on the same day of the listing.

Providing key information on the performance of listed companies in relation to sustainability is critical to measuring progress, and setting ambitious targets that chart the way forward for the SDGs. Through a strategic partnership with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), NSE developed and issued the NSE Sustainability Disclosure Guidelines. In addition to the issuance of these Guidelines, NSE hosted a sustainability reporting implementation workshop in partnership with the GRI to help issuers and listed companies understand the reporting requirements of the Guidelines. To further promote sustainability-based disclosure across the NSE ecosystem, NSE launched the Facts Behind the Sustainability Report (FBSR) series to create a platform for key stakeholders to engage with reporting organisations in discourse on their ESG disclosures.

In the workplace, NSE has won various employee satisfaction awards including one of the best 100 places to work in Nigeria by Jobberman and employee of choice by People Magazine in 2017 and 2016 respectively. To improve the experience of our employees, NSE set up an Activity Centre equipped with a gym to support the health and fitness aspirations of employees, and an in-house crèche which provides support for nursing parents. By implementing progressive policies, gender diversity across all operations is on the rise including on the National Council, the highest body of leadership of the NSE where women comprise 27% of the members.

To raise the bar, NSE has engaged in significant partnerships which have been critical to the milestones achieved so far. For example, NSE joined the Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative and the World Federation of Exchanges - two reputable organisations that fuel its aspiration to foster the growth of long term sustainable finance in Nigeria. NSE has also been a member of the Nigerian Local Network of the United Nations Global Compact since 2015 and was nominated to the steering board in 2018.

Another significant partnership was with Bridge International Academies to donate the Maisandari Alamderi Model Nursery and Primary School to the Borno State Government in 2017. Now in its 18th month, the initiative designed to help children from internally displaced communities has received positive feedback from community leaders and parents, having directly impacted over 250 families. Thus far, out of the 250 pupils enrolled (141 boys and 109 girls), no dropouts have been recorded and the learning outcomes in speaking, reading and writing among the pupils have improved significantly. Through this intervention, many of the pupils that had never attended any formal school can now speak and read in English with a marked level of fluency. The initiative also up-skilled teachers by providing them with a technology-based delivery of the standardised curriculum. No security breach, or any other negative development, has been recorded in the school.

A review of these milestones shows that NSE is walking the talk on its contribution to the SDGs. In view of this, what can be expected from the NSE’s appointment of Nigeria’s most decorated music artist can only be an amplification of the NSE’s progress to date. Tuface is uniquely qualified to communicate and inspire change towards the advancement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The appointment of Tuface as a Good Cause Ambassador represents a unique collaboration that demonstrates leadership of individuals and corporate organisations towards the achievement of the SDGs in Nigeria. In promoting the achievements of the NSE, which have been highlighted in this article, the collaboration between Tuface and the NSE will be seen as a model when coming up with initiatives that will help create a better society for the interest of all. It is expected that this collaboration will help to further position the NSE as the sustainable exchange championing Africa’s growth.