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The concept of an eco-friendly business has caught on in many parts of the world. Environmental activists and NGOs, scientists and celebrities, have relayed the message in so many different ways, and people are in general convinced that a clean environment is good for living, and good for business. For many in those climes, it’s a no-brainer. Organizations which openly advertise themselves as green are applauded for their efforts and patronized; those which seem to neglect their duty to the environment are viewed negatively and spoken harshly of. Even the wealthy giants on the global economic stage have felt the need to go with the flow, after feeling the heat from a hostile public.

In Nigeria, large business establishments also come under scrutiny from inhabitants of the communities which host them. Failing in their social and environmental duties would dent their company’s image; and the stronger the relationship of these businesses with their host community, the more likely they are to take seriously the opinions and expectations of their hosts. However, the line of communication between these parties is, in many cases, either unstable or non-existent. Evidence of this is seen in sawdust claimed spaces circling a saw mill, dark grease staining extensive areas around an automobile workshop, or rivers turned green with industrial waste channeled into it from a factory. The air acquires an acrid smell from thick black fumes belched by factories, and locales struggle to breathe out their complaints against these dangerous practices.

If businesses have decided that a poor reputation does not harm their profitability, they may not be inclined to deal with the legitimate grievances of the host communities. It is also true that information about environmental misdeeds by companies in and around their production spaces are either not transmitted quickly enough, or are not taken up by the authorities and customers alike. In the end, knowledge of the dangers of environmental pollution is sparsely possessed. Even if there is a push by an informed minority to put things in order, they may not have the numbers or financial power to challenge big business. But even this situation is beginning to change.

Companies which bank on the ignorance of the local population to cut costs by degrading the environment are making a short term decision. In the long term, awareness of the extended effects of toxic dumps and spills will be the rule rather than the exception, and these companies will have to factor the cost of environmentally friendly measures into their overall production expense. Kicking the can of decision down the road will only do one thing- increase the costs of potential adjustments and clean-ups. The growing interconnection of the world brings with it a localization of global ideals. And the idea of an unpolluted environment is one that is being transmitted really fast.

The future of business in Nigeria cannot be extricated from the global trend. With an increasingly educated population demanding more from government and business, it may not take too long a time before businesses really begin to feel the effects of taking environmentally unfriendly production decisions in the form of big losses recorded on their balance sheets. It makes economic sense to make the necessary changes with its possible pains now. Facing a hostile public which has the power to crash a business in the not too distant future may prove to be even costlier.


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This article was first published on 29th April 2016


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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