Ensuring sustainable CSI

Much still needs to be done to ensure a successful outcome for corporate social investment beneficiaries.
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Corporate social investment (CSI) in terms of black economic empowerment (BEE) and the relevant industry charters has taken on different forms over the last few years.

Initially, in its embryonic stage, it was seen to be politically correct to use CSI to benefit targeted beneficiaries. However, CSI has now evolved to a point where organisations are looking at the sustainability and impact of their interventions, and measuring the biggest "bang for buck" in terms of outcomes and beneficiaries rather than the larger public relations spin.

This maturing of the CSI programme has led to a separation between the basic PR outcome and the measurable impact that an investment generates.

In terms of CSI, sustainability and impact have become so important that corporate SA is putting measures and targets in place centred on these issues. This means there is now a larger scrutiny of any application for assistance or investment. A larger, more in-depth infrastructure capacity and resource is invested in organisations for CSI and more initiatives are being implemented that are not just urban-centric but increasingly moving into rural communities.

Together with this maturity on the part of corporates has come an improvement in the rating process of obtaining scores, which are now also better audited. Simple public relations centricity can no longer withstand audit scrutiny. Like most aspects of the scorecard, while it is all very well to be seen to be doing the right things, the greatest contribution from a CSI point of view other than financial resources is intellectual capital.

Industry sources should focus their initiatives around their competence.

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The greatest contribution from a CSI point of view other than financial resources is intellectual capital.

Dr Hasmukh Gajjar is deputy CEO of Faritec Holdings.

While still awaiting codification by the government, the ICT charter makes the most specific reference to CSI spend that is focused towards closing the digital divide. Role players in this sector can marshal their resources and are best placed to provide CSI initiatives that are centred on ICT.

Although the IT sector has done it better - possibly because it's a little easier, others may be embarking on CSI initiatives centred on their professions, like cultivating basic financial management skills in SMEs or NGOs.

The issue of greater involvement of employees is critical. Like all the scorecards, issues around BEE are often seen to belong to some peripheral department that takes ownership of transformation and BEE.

Ownership of CSI, however, has the greatest capacity to make a contribution with the larger involvement of the employee base. Without this involvement of staff, a general non-engagement of social issues prevails.

Intellectual support

Business does a generally bad job in involving staff in being good corporate, giving citizens. Some organisations have made attempts at this, but it is more event-centric rather than based on output or outcomes.

Typically, one could develop a mentor programme using any specialised area of skills where employees are encouraged to engage as mentors to others. Especially in the non-governmental sector, this could take the form of support with intellectual skills. These programmes could become better organised and managed with good support from companies where it could be much more formally structured.

CSI is a behavioural and personal characteristic that should be developed by organisations - and by the individuals within those organisations.

Clearly, if CSI intervention is not just about throwing rands but rather about the larger involvement of an organisation and the active participation of staff, these investments have much greater room for sustainability and a greater propensity for success.

* Dr Hasmukh Gajjar is deputy CEO of Faritec Holdings.

Hasmukh Gajjar

Deputy CEO and executive director of Faritec.

Dr Hasmukh Gajjar, MB ChB (UCT), is an entrepreneur with extensive IT experience and was previously CEO of IT firm Consilience Technologies, former chairman of the Black IT Forum and past president of the Black Business Council. He serves on numerous IT and telecom bodies. Gajjar is deputy CEO and executive director of Faritec, responsible for driving business transformation and black economic empowerment.

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