In order for South Africa's social development agenda to progress, greater collaboration between the private sector and the government is needed. For this to happen effectively the private sector needs to explore ways to present a consolidated voice to government. This was just one of the outcomes from the Business Day Kaelo Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) conference which was held at Spier Wine Estate last week.
Jay Naidoo, former Minister in the President’s Office and chairman of J & J Group Development Trust, during his presentation at the Business Day Kaelo CSR Conference which highlighted the importance of partnerships in development.
Tamaryn Smith from Kaelo PR leads a vigorous discussion during the Business Day Kaelo CSR Conference.
Sandile Koza, managing director of Kaleo Worldwide Media thanks Dr Jean Swanson, Deputy Minister of Social Development for officially opening the Business Day Kaelo CSR Conference.
“In collaborating with the government the private sector needs to plug into forums like the National Business Initiative (NBI) and the Youth Development Forum to present a unified voice that can highlight important issues to government. Last year corporate South Africa invested close to R3.5billion towards development but there is no definitive information on where the money was spent, what the outcomes of the spend were and where potential gaps exist. We need this information in order to make an impact at government level,” says Yogavelli Nambiar-Varma, the head of CSR Consultancy at Kaelo Worldwide Media.
The conference which attracted over 180 delegates from the private sector, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and government, was one of the first of its kind in South Africa, and focused on developing region issues and challenges. Through a series of presentations, breakaway sessions and discussion forums, delegates were exposed to challenging questions with insightful outcomes and interesting proposals being generated.The Deputy-Minister of Social Development, Dr. Jean Swanson-Jacobs, opened the conference with an address that emphasised the importance of private-public partnerships and highlighted the fact that opportunities are available to corporates to further social development through working together with government and NGOs.The responsibility of NGOs
The call for collaboration continued throughout the conference, with a focus on an NGO-specific platform for networking and knowledge-sharing, possibly through already established forums like Sangonet and Sangoco. During the conference, NGOs were also encouraged by corporate CSI practitioners to run their organisations according to sound business principles in order to be more effective in South Africa's corporate social investment (CSI) landscape.
“NGOs need to start talking the language of business as this will only enhance their chances of receiving funding and support. The sector needs to play an active role in educating the corporates on how their CSI can improve their reputations and how it links to their bottom line,” says Nambiar-Varma. Redefining sustainability
One of the keynote speakers, Jay Naidoo, former Minister in charge of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) and current chairman of J & J Group Development Trust, highlighted during his presentation on partnerships that we perhaps need to redefine the term sustainability, looking at it rather as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future. During his dynamic address, Naidoo placed the responsibility for social change squarely with the youth and reiterated the fact that development needs to come from empowered communities.Responsible business
Various speakers highlighted that the sector as a whole needs to improve ethical responsibilities and that good governance holds the key to driving effective social change. It was agreed that this would foster an enabling environment for more widespread responsible business across the board.Mapping, research and knowledge tools
During the conference it became evident that there is an urgent need for standardized CSI tools and processes. It was recommended that corporates invest in the Trialogue CSI mapping tool available which would assist them in tracking CSI spend through the country. It was also decided that a working group would be tasked with developing mapping and research tools for the industry.Learnings from other developing nations
Delegates were also able to learn from CSI expert, Sanjeev Gupta from India, who presented a paper on the relationship between NGOs and corporates with ideas on how to make this work. Gupta presented his views by focusing on Tata as an example of a good corporate citizen in India and reiterated that for funders, return on investment should be viewed as long term gain and not assets in the short term. Elkanah Odembo, Director of Ufadhili Trust in Kenya also gave his views on the East African perspective on the role of CSR in developing regions.
“I believe that South Africa's development community has a lot to learn from other developing countries that face similar challenges to ours. By being exposed to these different views, innovations and approaches, delegates were able to walk away with some new solutions-oriented thinking around our development challenges,” says Nambiar-Varma. Playing it forward
The conference ended with a firm commitment from Nambiar-Varma to ensure that further dialogue and access to information would be facilitated through the following channels: All presentation material from the conference will be available online at www.kaelosa.com/conference with the option of blogging and entering into further discussions on each issue
A summary of the conference and its outcomes will be published by the Business Day on 25th June 2008
Breakfast discussion forums will be held to ensure that the discussion stimulated by the conference continues and grows further
“Not only will we be ensuring that delegates have access to all the relevant information and that the debate is carried forward but we will also be implementing practical steps to ensure the CSR sector's voice is heard. Plans are afoot to present the outcomes of the conference to the Minister of Social Development to further the opportunities for collaboration and to ensure that all efforts are linked to the national development agenda.We are aware that there is a collective responsibility from all those who attended the conference to translate the outcomes of the conference into action points that will move the agenda forward. We look forward to supporting this drive and reporting on our actions at the second Business Day Kaelo CSR Conference to be held next year,” says Nambiar-Varma.
The Business Day Kaelo CSR Conference was proudly supported by Absa and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) in association with Department of Social Development, the University of Pretoria GIBS' Colloquium for Social Entrepreneurs and Social Surveys Africa.