With failing moral integrity in the country's leaders, self-focused capitalist businessmen and inflation being the rubber dingy South Africa clings to over the rapids of economic instability, corporate social responsibility (CSR) offers a solution as the systemic approach for changing South Africa into the country Mandela had hoped for.
CSR is a business buzzword for some, but it should be made more commonplace amongst all business owners. CSR is predominantly responsible for ensuring that a business is beneficial to the economic, social and environmental context within which it operates.
Because our current government has a "laissez-faire" approach to regulating business, the state is no longer a reliable source of leadership for sustainable development, which leaves the future of South Africa in the hands of marketers and private business owners.
What CSR essentially boils down to is respect and mindfulness of the environment within which companies do business. As a marketer, this is tricky because of the mounting pressure to meet a client's ROI needs. However, incorporating CSR into your brand strategy will be greatly beneficial to your bottom line, as well as for meeting your social and environmental responsibilities.
Over the last decade, CSR investments grew 550%* faster than mainstream investments. Peter Chapman, the Executive Director of the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), reported that shareholders, particularly institutional investors representing unions or pension funds, are carrying more influence over corporate activity through divestment campaigns, proxy fights, and shareholder activism.
But what exactly does good CSR look like? Sir Juice and Woolworths are two distinctive South African brands that seem to be striking a fair balance between ROI and return on environment.
Sir Juice has a holistic approach toward implementing CSR, ensuring that every aspect of its production process is minimising waste, saving energy and educating society. By tweaking various aspects of its day-to-day business procedures, such as monitoring their delivery vehicles' revs per minute and switching from heaters to air conditioners, the company is saving more than just budget.
You're probably familiar with the Woolworths "Good Business Journey" without even knowing it. If you've bought coffee from Woolworths recently you'll sleep well at night knowing that it's Fairtrade. Woolworths has gone so far as to invent and employ its own farming method called "Farming for the Future", which encourages biodiversity while reducing water use. This initiative has greatly improved the quality of soil, environment and cost involved in the farm production process.
We may be a long way from realising South Africa's full potential and saving the planet, but at least we're becoming more aware of the small steps required for making a long-term difference. In today's business arena, ethical infractions along the supply chain can cause serious damage to a company's reputation and are often the fuel for consumer boycotts and shareholder divestment campaigns. Consumer activists have been taken to court for punishing supply chain irresponsibility by way of business-to-business strikes, as in the case of Nike.
Building the South African economy will require a combination of social and environmental awareness and business-focused strategy. Only when companies and governments realise that they don't operate in isolation will South Africa begin its transformation toward maturity.
* The Ethics of Corporate Social Responsibility: Management Trend of the New Millennium? Peter Chapman
Read more about Sir Juice CSR tactics here. http://www.sirjuice.co.za/sustainability/
Read about the Woolworths full project here. http://www.woolworths.co.za/store/fragments/corporate/corporate-index.jsp?content=corporate-landing&contentId=fol110068