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My observation concerning social responsibility in business in South Africa is that it was designed in such a way that civil society would exist by the mercy of the business fraternity. This status quo won’t go unchallenged and undebated.
The current social responsibility of business in South Africa only encourages businesses to create employment opportunities, to maximise profit thus maximising tax payable to state, charitable giving and corporate social investment. South Africa’s corporate social responsibility entrusted to the business fraternity and the profit they extract does not tally evenly.
Unfortunately, corporate social investments and charitable giving to civil society by business have for many years carried out a single-sighted monopoly game. Businesses use charitable giving to civil society as cheap advertisements and brand-building strategies, which will eventually increase their sales.
Actually, there must be a fundamental shift driven by legislatives; imperatives geared towards striking a balance between business interest and societal interest as both are interdependent.
Let’s not be apologetic to advocate for legislative imperatives for business to fund development. If we are to leave business off the hook then, who is responsible to fertilise the fields that it harvests from?
What is to be done? There are four key potential responses to put out there. Government must ensure that measures are in place to oblige big corporates and multinational companies to realise that the relationship between business and society is interdependent. To this end, business must underwrite huge investments on development of human capital by transferring technical and specialised skill. Invest in long term prosperity like education and health, and investing in shared value by addressing daily issues affecting society such as crime, shortage of water and sanitation. Above all, since society depends on business for affluence, business also relies on society to provide viable client base.
Ramakola Bopape is the Manager of Bulamahlo Home Based Care in Mentz, Mankweng. He can be contacted at 083 993 0910