Last week’s newsletter mentioned the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, and its reaffirmation of the Agenda 21 implementation plan.  Agenda 21 was targeted primarily at the public sector: national civil service and planning authorities, but as the newsletter suggested, “think globally, act locally” is a maxim that should be embraced by all, including citizens, and the non-governmental and private sectors.  This was explicitly recognised in Johannesburg with endorsement of public-private partnerships, or “type 2 outcomes” in UN-speak.

Over 220 type 2 outcomes were agreed in Johannesburg for implementation around the world, and perhaps more importantly paved the way for public-private partnerships, which are now commonplace in service delivery around the world.  In South Africa there are two types of public-private partnership: where a private body performs an institutional/municipal function, or where a private entity acquires use of state property for its own commercial purposes.

Public-private partnerships provide a mechanism for the private sector to apply their expertise to addressing social issues.  But there are other ways that businesses can contribute to society.  Corporate Social Investment (CSI) refers to the donation of funds, with a tax break, to charitable causes, and is common amongst JSE-listed companies, who typically commit up to 1% of post-tax profits to various development-related causes of their choice.

But whilst financial resources are important, businesses should not overlook their greatest resource – their people.  A popular way of engaging with corporate responsibility in the 21st century is for businesses to enable their staff to make a regular commitment to a particular venture by funding their participation.  An example might be an afternoon off every second week to assist with a local school/children’s sporting venture, or perhaps, in the case of specialised skills, to enable skillshare – for example an accountant spending time with a recently registered non-profit to teach them the basics of record-keeping and financial management.  As well as contributing to society, programmes such as these highlight a company’s commitment to the wider community, and furthermore are important in boosting staff morale and their sense of worth.

To find out more about sustainability and your business, please contact the team at Kulima Solutions.

Kulima Solutions is a specialist Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility Consultancy whose principals are:

Katharine Vincent, BA Hons. (Oxford), MREs (University of East Anglia), PhD (University of East Anglia)

Email:  katharine.vincent@gmail.com, Phone: 072 1964525.

Tracy Cull, B. Soc. Sci. Hons (University of Natal, Durban)

Email: tracymcull@gmail.com, Phone: 082 820 6608