Beyond profits: Companies have a big role to play in social responsibility

BY TAI CHISHAKWE - NOVEMBER 13, 2015

Times are tough for many local businesses and they should, understandably, be expected to prioritise on generating profits for shareholders. But, focusing on profits alone and neglecting social responsibility is being short-sighted, says Jolandi Snyders, Marketing Manager at The Hope Factory.

“Indeed a company does have the responsibility to ensure that the business is sustainable in producing sufficient profit to continue to fulfil its purpose and mission,” she says.

“However, the South African landscape is also characterised by poverty, a high unemployment rate and poor education, all of which pose immense challenges to overcome as a nation. The question is frequently asked, ‘who is ultimately responsible to address these social and economic problems?’”

Snyders says that while some believe it’s the government’s responsibility, the reality is that this is an enormous task that cannot be accomplished in a silo format, by any single sector.

“An alternative perspective on the business of business, is that all business leaders, as citizens of our country, have a responsibility and role to play in addressing our Socio-Economic challenges,” she says.

“Each company has a responsibility to strategically consider the ways in which they could contribute and make a positive impact to alleviate poverty, decrease unemployment and improve education.

“This is called a company's corporate social responsibility, a responsibility towards society beyond their normal stakeholders. Implementing an effective corporate social responsibility strategy within your company could go a long way to improving the quality of life for the less advantaged and contributes to our nation's transformation.”

According to Snyders, the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act and Codes of Good Practice in fact provide a framework through which the private sector can proactively implement their responsibility towards society.

“Elements on the B-BBEE scorecard, such as Enterprise and Supplier Development, Skills Development and Socio-Economic Development, create a platform for corporate social responsibility,” she describes.

“The unfortunate misperception by many business leaders is that B-BBEE is simply a matter of business compliance, but the intent of Government is that B-BBEE could provide greater access to the economy for people to whom access was limited in the past.

“B-BBEE can be a vehicle for transformation if business leaders recognise the link between their corporate social responsibility and the structures provided within the Codes of Good Practice.”

She calls on corporate leaders to think differently and implement strategies that consider the needs of a broader set of stakeholders and how best their company could address such needs.

“Through socially responsible economic growth and job creation, we have the opportunity to create a better life for the people of our nation,” Snyders concludes.