Safaricom Case Study

Safaricom integrates the Global Goals into their corporate strategy by working both from top down and bottom up approaches within their company.

Photo credit: Flickr/ciat

Safaricom took a targeted tactic to integrating the SDGs into their corporate strategy by working both from top down and bottom up approaches in which they co-create the vision, mission and articulation into action/targets specific and relevant to the business. Part of this means engaging with all layers of the company in parallel.

While most companies are struggling to engage with the SDGs,1 some are embracing the challenge. Safaricom is one of them. The Kenyan telecoms operator, whose M-PESA platform has already brought mobile money transfer services to millions of east Africans,2 is tackling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a big way. Its experiences offer important lessons in how to link sustainability with core business aims.

For years, Safaricom has implemented a dynamic sustainability agenda – with impressive results. A KPMG analysis of its impact on Kenya’s economy, society and environment concluded the total value created for society is worth almost 10 times its financial profits.3 In 2015, it topped Fortune magazine’s 2015 list of companies that are “doing well by doing good”.4

Even for a firm with these credentials, the prospect of integrating 17 goals – and 169 subsidiary targets – into its business strategy is daunting, especially as there are few examples of similar initiatives by corporations and it would need a bespoke approach responsive to Safaricom’s specific culture, priorities and context.5

A key consideration in developing the approach was getting the company’s leadership team on board but so too was buy-in from the bottom up.6 A dual engagement campaign, speaking to both senior leaders and the teams in different business divisions was implemented with the aim of integrating the SDGs into corporate strategy.7

These conversations started with a shift of perspective: from “how businesses can contribute to the advancement of the SDGs” to “how the SDGs can contribute to the success of businesses” says Elisa Moscolin, Sustainability & Social Policy Manager. The approach was to avoid the usual sustainability jargon for business language, using terms colleagues hear every day to show how sustainability matters to corporate objectives.8 The sustainability team worked closely with 15 sustainability champions to help drive constructive discussions across departments.9

Each division has now produced a plan articulating its commitment to the SDGs, and actions it will take to support their delivery. Finance, for example, has promised to “encourage ethical behaviours in our supply chain by promoting decent work and good labour standards (Goal 8 Decent Work & Economic Growth)”, among other pledges, translating this into specific employee targets and integrating them into people’s objectives.10 Meanwhile, an internal activation campaign has sought to engage all employees using tools like the internal website, videos, posters, office storms and activations and company quizzes.11

Safaricom admits it still has plenty to figure out and as it learns lessons, it has pledged to share them with others. After all, taking a wider view of success is part of the point.12 As CEO Bob Collymore says, “businesses cannot be successful when the society around us fails.”13