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Funke Bolodeoku tells Sharon Maguire how and why she became a lawyer specialising in sustainability, and what her role entails

What came first – your interest in law or the environment?

My interest in law. I have always been an out-of-the-box thinker and it was apparent from early on that advocacy was going to be a part of my life.

Why did you become a lawyer specialising in sustainability?

I was recruited to work with a team of experts reviewing National Guidelines and drafting new ones for various environmental assessments in Nigeria.

I was intrigued about how the environment is this canopy from which we draw our existence, and yet there is inadequate awareness about its management and protection. I started to home in, taking courses and gaining knowledge from training, personal research and on-the-job experience, and became capable of contributing in depth to matters relating to impact assessment, policy development and other aspects of environmental management.

What does your role involve?

I walk corporations through how they can be better environmental custodians. This includes advising them on the importance of incorporating environmental management and protection at the inception stage; advising on mitigation; developing legal and regulatory frameworks; reviewing environmental impact assessments and audit reports; developing environmental policies and management plans; reviewing ISO 14001 documentation; and engaging with stakeholders.

What are the biggest challenges?

A lack of appropriate policies and regulations, inadequate awareness of environmental protection, and human behaviour and conditioning.

What are the environmental talking points in Nigeria today?

Plastic pollution, improper waste management, water pollution, illegal logging, heavy metals and air pollution are some of the challenges.

Are you seeing investment in areas that create green jobs?

Investments in clean energy, recycling and the circular economy are fast increasing; the percentage is low, but I believe there will be a bloom in this decade and beyond.

How are Nigerian businesses responding to initiatives?

There is a positive response. Businesses, particularly those with educated stakeholders or international funding and investors, take this seriously, and the issues are being given the attention they deserve. Some start-ups and entrepreneurs are doing good work on recycling, raising awareness on environmental protection and waste-to-wealth initiatives.

Regulatory requirements make it compulsory for businesses to respond positively. For major businesses, an environmental impact statement or certificate is a prerequisite for obtaining a licence to operate, so they have to conduct an environmental impact assessment. Periodic environmental audits are also compulsory.

Sustainability awareness, innovations and incentives have to be driven at the highest level. This will have a cascading effect, and result in more widespread inclusion and consideration for environmental sustainability.

What is the best part of your work?

Carrying out work that not only benefits my clients, but also has an effect on many people inhabiting the planet.

It may seem a drop in the ocean in comparison to the intricacies of global environmental management and sustainability, but knowing my work contributes to change gives me joy.

Funke Bolodeoku is a lawyer and environmental management practitioner based in Lagos, Nigeria.

Image credit: Getty