How Corporate SA’s CSI Initiatives Can Make A Real Change In South African CommunitiesYolandaAD
Corporate Social Investment (CSI) can be defined as ‘the transparent and ethical investment and activities that an organization undertakes to impact society and the environment to accomplish four goals: (i) Contributes to sustainable development, (ii) Improves the health and welfare of society, (iii) Takes into account the expectations of stakeholders; and (iv) Is in compliance with applicable law and consistent with international norms of behaviour.
With such a broad definition, it is hard to believe that the majority of corporates in South Africa still struggle to effectively incorporate CSI into their business strategies and operations. But why is that? When companies fail to shift their focus from how much money they are spending on CSI, to how they are spending their CSI budgets, success may be more elusive and unmeasurable.
It is reported that the private sector is spending more than R60 billion per year on socio-economic development, yet despite this significant spend, many of the outcomes have not benefited the communities where the CSI is targeted. One could argue that corporate SA needs to do less “giving” and more “investing”. Companies need to change their approach from quantity to quality. A common reason for the lackluster impact is because companies tend to undertake multiple isolated CSI initiatives without a unifying purpose and an inability to scale up programs that have an impact to a national level to reach multiple communities.
If real impact is the goal, then opting for focused, long-term, and comprehensive campaigns is the way to go. Instead of applying CSI on an ad-hoc basis, companies should integrate CSI into their strategies, policies and operational processes. Companies should work towards being more purpose-driven and engage with communities and individuals who are directly impacted by the challenges that the company’s CSI initiatives plan to alleviate.
CSI therefore should not be viewed as a short-term investment decision that is undertaken in isolation but rather requires careful and close collaboration between corporations, government and communities to leverage each other’s strengths. Collaborative long-term CSI initiatives are the key to developing responses that will positively mitigate social needs while also enabling corporate-community based knowledge sharing, empowerment, and sustainability.
At Five Tulips we consider ourselves to be catalysts for sustainable change. We facilitate collaboration between various stakeholders in order to drive significant CSI initiatives while strategically positioning your brand towards sustainable development. We believe that CSI is not merely investment or operations, it is the responsive and ethical outcome of a company’s strategic vision and is therefore a crucial component of a company’s brand identity.
About the Author:
Yolanda Gossel is the Founder and Programme Director at Five Tulips, a South African based sustainability and corporate social investment (CSI) consultancy. Five Tulips forges partnerships between communities, public and private sectors and individuals for social upliftment and preservation of our planet’s resources and ecosystems.
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