Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) means different things to different people. To some it’s about complying with B-BBEE legislation, to others it’s a purely philanthropic act; sceptics believe it’s for media attention, and it’s even seen as a responsibility to society determined by the size of a business. However, the motive behind CSR is increasingly regarded as an extension of the values and culture of a company.
Forward-thinking businesses have started to recognise that their CSR contributions are less about direct financial value and more about being a proactive contributor to society. Aside from helping to develop a more sustainable South Africa, CSR efforts have a positive impact on the reputation of the company and help to strengthen its brand.
Interestingly, the interests of many businesses and those of the country seem to be merging into a shared value space, where the business owner understands that the success of their company is connected to the success of the community in which they operate.
We cannot, however, pretend that all businesses conduct CSR programmes for purely altruistic reasons. Pressure is being applied by consumers, employees, shareholders, and communities for companies to be more socially responsible.
The mindset of the consumer is beginning to change and they are choosing to buy products and services from companies that engage in CSR projects and businesses that “give back” to society. Younger and more socially aware employees want to feel proud of where they work and this is becoming a factor in job applications. Shareholders believe it’s an opportunity for positive PR and that CSR adds value to the business, while companies are being compelled to prioritise the interests of the communities in which they work.
Gone are the days when it was solely the government’s responsibility to improve the lives of its citizens, and this is why there is significant pressure from government for corporates to invest in social responsibility programmes. There is the obvious advantage to businesses that CSR initiatives will allow you to earn points on your B-BBEE scorecard, but there is a growing opinion that this is not the principal motivating factor.
As big and small companies realise that they cannot operate in isolation to the communities in which they live and work, the more they are beginning to embed sustainability practices into their core operations. When a company’s values align with their CSR programme they make a genuine and lasting contribution to the development of South Africa.
LEAP, as part of their commitment to social responsibility, integrates CSR into their B-BBEE policy to create more sustainable and long-term support through the payment of school fees and purchasing of school books for staff.