Naomi Nwokolo is the Executive Director at the United Nations Global Compact Network Nigeria. She has a deep passion for Human Rights coupled with corporate sustainability as well as International Criminal Justice. In this interview, she shares about her passion to save the world and see a just society.
There has been a huge shift in how businesses now conduct their operations. Organizations are shifting from being concerned about profit making only, to getting interested in advancing their ESG impact and bringing about sustainable development. It is important to note here that sustainability does not in any way revolve around environmental issues alone. It is a holistic approach on improving our way of life and saving our future.
Personally, I have been focused on the ‘’S’’- social norms, as this directly relates to my professional life as a Human Rights Lawyer. I am concerned about issues such as respect for human rights, building strong and just institutions, and working towards a reduction in cases of human rights abuse and violations in Nigeria and i strongly believe that business have a role to play in these areas. Doing this gives me complete joy and satisfaction.
About the United Nations Global Compact
The UN Global Compact is literally the Netflix of sustainability in the world. By this, I mean that on corporate sustainability, UN Global Compact is the go-to organization for it. We help businesses in Nigeria and all over the world align their operations with Ten Universal Principles in the areas of Human Rights, Labor, Environment and Anti Corruption.
We encourage businesses to ensure that they operate in a responsible manner and very importantly take actions on the Sustainable Development Goals because that is also part of the foundational aspects of UN Global Compact when it was formed almost 21 years ago by Kofi Annan.
The idea was to put a human face to the global capital market, and mobilize the private sector to embed sustainability in their operations and very importantly take actions on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This is important because prior to the SDGs, there were the MDGs which majorly focused on the public sector, but now we’ve come to recognize that the government will not deliver the goals alone and for us to deliver on the 2030 agenda, the private sector has a crucial role to play.
Hence, we call on businesses to set ambitious corporate targets to help deliver the SDGS by 2030. Most of the time, organizations want to get involved, but do not know how to go about it. This is where our unique role comes into play; Through our academy, Action Platforms and Global Impact Initiatives, we help businesses embed sustainability in their core operations and educate them on how to make the Global Goals their Local Business.
My Driving Force
What drives me is my passion to save the world. I consider myself a humanitarian. I don’t like to see people suffer or be bullied. I want an environment where everyone is treated fairly and with respect regardless of their background, sex or status in the society. This is why I’m very passionate about the SDGs. They are really like a framework on how and what we need to do to create a world that we want; a better world. A world that is free of poverty, where there’s equality, respect for human rights, good health and strong institutions for redress. etc
One thing I have learnt is that you have to build your capacity level for whatever it is you’re praying or hoping to get. There is a Latin maxim in law which translates as ‘success loves preparation’. I’ve learnt to always be prepared. For example, even when we advocate for gender equality, there is a need for capacity building and mentoring so that when women get these roles at work, they are able to deliver a hundred percent. Nobody gets promoted by just being a woman or being a man. You must be prepared.
I have also learnt that boldness matters and humility will take you a long way. Be a lifelong learner, be willing to learn from people. You’re not too big or small to learn, learn from mentors that will help you in your career. Watch people and if you feel they inspire you, be bold enough to approach them and use your voice.
On Women Empowerment
I’m very passionate about helping women grow, be it in the formal or informal sector. If you want to grow a business, or grow economies, you have to support women. Women bring a different spice to an organization, we bring in empathy and knowledge; and when this is combined in an organization, the result is always amazing.
I take my gender equality program seriously and as a matter of fact The UN Global Compact is at the forefront of driving gender equality in the corporate sector. Through our Target Gender Equality programme, we are helping businesses implement the Women Empowerment Principles and increasing female board participation to a minimum of 30%. We encourage businesses to make the work space safe for women and help them harness their full potential. It’s safe to say- empower and support a woman today and watch your business grow in leaps and bounds. Yes we have that magic.
If I have the power to close the Gender Equality gap, I’d first of all eliminate all the unconscious biases that prevent women from believing they can soar high and achieve whatever they set out to achieve. Secondly I’d make all businesses implement the women empowerment principles as part of their company policies. When this is done, I believe we will be on a good track in closing the inequality gap.
I started my career at a very early age. While practicing law as a human rights and criminal defence lawyer, I saw to the release of over twenty innocent inmates. I have successfully litigated over various civil and criminal cases. And even now as an under 30 individual, I am one of the youngest Executive Directors out of The UN Global Compact‘s 71 Local Networks (Country offices) in the world. That I believe is a huge milestone. I look forward to making more impact
To find your spark, think about what drives you. What are the issues that will give you satisfaction in a positive light. When you identify these, you will then have an understanding of what “The Spark” in you is. Think of yourself as a problem solver at all times. May your spark impact the world.
Naomi Nwokolo is the Executive Director at the United Nations Global Compact Nigeria Network. For four years, she was an Associate Solicitor at the Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court. She has a deep passion for Human Rights coupled with governance sustainability as well as International Criminal Justice Law.