The secret to meaningful business: investing in society

Johannesburg, 18 Feb 2019
Read time 4min 00sec

What can your company do to uplift communities and create tangible solutions for societal challenges? Is it even your responsibility? Would you use your profits to benefit others?

Wynand Smit, CEO of INOVO, believes it is our responsibility as individuals and as businesses, and that there are practical ways to support various initiatives.

So much so that his company, through its new shareholder SAAD (the private equity investment wing of the Tree of Life Group), is providing a direct means of channeling INOVO's profits and skills into meaningful PBO-driven projects, he writes.

"SAAD has acquired a non-controlling stake in INOVO. As a result, a significant proportion of profits made by INOVO will now be distributed by the Tree of Life Foundation to the PBO sector. This is something we are really passionate about as a company; using the work we do as a vehicle to help others."

Where to start?

Desmond Tutu once said: "There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time."

The challenges facing South African society are enormous. As individuals, it's hard to know where to start when it comes to contributing to society. That's why we believe that through collaboration and partnership, more can be done to make a tangible difference.

The nature of the agreement between INOVO and SAAD ensures the initiatives we engage in are ongoing and create greater room for long-term results, compared with other CSR efforts that may produce short-term results with limited longevity. The organisations that benefit are held accountable and have all been vetted by the Tree of Life Foundation.

We may be a business services provider primarily operating in the contact centre environment, but at heart we realise that it's our responsibility to engage with issues head-on. This is something our workforce has in common with the underlying philosophy of the business: the desire to do what we can, and shift the barriers from the ground up.

Your skills, making a difference

Besides providing financial support to various PBOs, we also plan to allocate a percentage of every employee's time to devoting their unique skills to work directly on projects that can help NPOs/PBOs (they could assist NPOs/PBOs with their technical requirements, for example, or identify ways to optimise efficiency or improve business processes, etc). It's essential that this becomes part of who we are as an organisation. Rather than simply paying lip service to CSR initiatives once a year, this will then become an intrinsic part of our DNA.

Every employee can now work with the knowledge that our profitability is being put towards creating remarkable change in South Africa, and that this strategy is a meaningful one that will have a positive impact on our communities and the world at large. It's a value that is increasingly prevalent in the broader workplace: to move beyond working just for a salary to a place where you become personally involved in influencing the fabric of society, for good.

Shared solutions, collaborative outcomes

The great thing about this is that this commitment also seeks to address a wide variety of social challenges across numerous PBOs, ranging from human rights and social justice causes to education. One PBO currently being supported seeks to inspire, equip and grow future leaders, fathers and teachers through establishing innovative low fee, high quality schools in South Africa, while another donee is dedicated to eradicating unemployment and other legacies of injustice in South Africa through its market-related skills development and job creation projects.

This decision to significantly alter the way we do business has not been taken lightly; we see profitability as the road forward for ourselves as a company, but also as a means of edifying and uplifting historically disadvantaged individuals and communities. Each person working with us also has the opportunity to achieve greater personal fulfillment through the work they do.

That's a principle we can all take ownership of within the company.

Ultimately, the company's focus remains on profitability, with the welcome knowledge that this will have a direct impact on the lives of others. The more profit we make, the more can be done to empower our communities.

Editorial contacts
Irvine Partners Scott Dunlop (021) 462 4033