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This article is taken from the September 2005 Phatlalatsa newsletter

 

BEE at the heart of S&Tís corporate social responsibility

BEE at the heart of S&Tís corporate social responsibility imageThe purpose of a Corporate Social Responsibility Policy is to ensure that the business supports the sustainability of the social environment and the framework in which it operates. The policy should ensure that the business works for the overall benefit of society. A business needs to demonstrate core business strategies that are linked to internal management systems and key performance indicators aimed at promoting the social upliftment, development and poverty reduction of its staff and the communities in which it operates.

In the South African context, black economic empowerment (BEE) is an important aspect of any such policy. The government defines BEE as "an integrated and coherent socioeconomic process that directly contributes to the economic transformation of South Africa and brings about both significant increases in the number of black people that manage, own and control the country's economy as well as significant decreases in income inequalities." (Department of Trade and Industry, 2004)

The three components of broad-based BEE are:

  • Direct empowerment - comprised of equity ownership and management of the business.
  • Human resource development - comprised of employment equity and skills development.
  • Indirect empowerment - enables and encourages the business to facilitate broad-based BEE in entities and within the communities with which it interacts.

S&T's BEE

In terms of direct empowerment, S&T is defined as a black empowered enterprise -one that is at least 25,1% owned by black persons and where there is substantial management control by black people. We are currently 40% black owned and managed, with 20% interest in the company held by our black female CEO. Similarly, our employment and staff development policies place significant emphasis on diversity, employment equity, fair labour practices and the development of human capital.

In the arena of indirect empowerment, S&T plays a crucial role in creating market access for black entrepreneurs and individuals. In a survey project, fieldwork is usually the largest single line item: we believe it should not be a way to increase profits, but to spread resources. This is achieved either through partnering with black-owned fieldwork companies or using unemployed people as fieldworkers. This creates short-term employment for unemployed people, providing much-needed financial input; and we impart skills that may prove useful to future attempts to find jobs.
An important aspect of indirect empowerment relates to corporate social investment, which can be viewed as the business' external contribution to social responsibility. This investment is based not only on sound principles of management but in a desire to do what is right. Corporate social investment, underpinned by a strong developmental approach, is undertaken for the purpose of uplifting communities.

The principles underlying our investment include:

  • Being a function that is driven by the business' mission.
  • Funding projects that have a logical fit with the business.
  • Professionally managed.
  • Regularly evaluated and updated as required.

The allocation of resources to corporate social investment sets the parameters in terms of what is achievable. The target (as per government's proposals on broad-based black economic empowerment) is that expenditure on social investment should be 3% of net profit. We are proud to report that our current social investment projects for the 2006 Financial Year far exceed this target.

S&T's current social investment projects

We are currently providing technical assistance to the HIV/Aids programme of St Peter's Anglican Church, based in Auckland Park. The programme, based in the rural communities surrounding Matatiele in KwaZulu-Natal, is a home-based care initiative run by a retired nurse and her network of volunteer caregivers.

S&T has assisted St Peter's in drafting a business plan for strengthening and expanding the current services offered by the caregivers. The overall aim for the expanded programme is to provide comprehensive home-based care for those individuals infected and affected by HIV and Aids in the target area. To this end, the specific objective is to provide ongoing sustainable support to the area via the network of volunteer caregivers. This objective is to be attained through:

  • Strengthening and building the capacity of the network to respond to the needs of the communities.
  • Providing immediate relief and resources to the communities.
  • Providing input and resources to assist the communities to help themselves.

S&T has committed itself to designing a monitoring and evaluation system as well as training those individuals within the programme who will have responsibility for particular monitoring functions. We will also play the role of independent evaluator of the programme at key moments as it unfolds.

S&T has been approached by Dr Lulu Gwagwa, former CEO of the Independent Development Trust, to assist with her "plough-back" project in Kromhoek, her home village in Umzimkulu. The project is aimed at collecting comprehensive household data in the village of Kromhoek in order to profile the level of need in the community and potential developmental interventions.

S&T has been involved in the design of the instrument for data collection. S&T will also assist in training a team of interviewers who will be responsible for data collection in Kromhoek. Once data has been collected, S&T will also assist in supervising the coding and capturing of the data, as well as producing a brief report for Dr Gwagwa.

 

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