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Social justice and the supply chain

supply chain

A Mergon initiative, Ziwani is a platform for business leaders to share inspiring stories and innovative local resources while equipping one another for Kingdom impact. Ziwani’s latest series, Business & Justice, highlights the redemptive role that business can play in bringing about social justice. Through podcasts and accompanying articles as well as a downloadable guide, this practical series explores how businesses can drive economic growth whilst seeing Africa’s people grow and flourish. 

In this article, Kerryne Krause, CEO of eyeSlices, a multinational brand, shares how Christians in business can make a tangible contribution to the social justice landscape around them. Here is an overview of the conversation on how business can go beyond ethics to be transformative, bringing meaningful impact and redemptive solutions to the marketplace. 

Kerryne kicks off the conversation, acknowledging that ‘linking the supply chain to social justice is not a new idea, nor is it limited to Christian businesspeople.’ In today’s world, ethical business is not just expected, but all the more demanded and prioritised. How then does the biblical view on business look any different from what ethical business is already doing?

Transformation at the heart of redemptive business

Kerryne answers, ‘The first thing that comes to mind, is motive. God looks at the heart. Many businesses fall in with emerging trends, or contribute to various causes, purely for the sake of positive brand association. But the ‘why’ behind our actions matters – is our aim to be compliant, or to be transformative?’

She continues, ‘God’s kingdom is often counter-intuitive. In tough economic times, business leaders feel justified in cutting their labour force, or cutting salaries. But would the CEO be prepared to take a salary cut, in order to retain more staff? It is important to be wise, but are they willing to do what is right, as opposed to what is acceptable?’ As a Christian business leader, you are sometimes called to make big sacrifices, without anyone else knowing about it.

Kerryne disagrees with the notion Christians often have that their role in society is to point out everything that is wrong or evil., ‘We need to realise that part of our role as agents of redemption is to affirm what is good. Ethical business is already doing so much with respect to auditing the supply chain – and as Christian business leaders we can affirm that it is good, and add momentum to it. Then, we can trust God for even more creativity and wisdom to address social justice issues, and be even more generous in spirit.’

‘If we look at the universe, nature, and the way God treats us – it is with such generosity of love, provision and beauty,’ she says. ‘His generosity should stir ours. Are we willing to go beyond the basic call of duty? For example, we should not be satisfied with paying the minimum wage. Are we paying our staff a living wage? Are we helping them to learn sound financial management? Are we assisting them to find better housing?’

Supporting social justice through manufacturing

Kerryne explains how eyeSlices® supports social justice through redemptive practices in manufacturing.

‘As business owners, even when we don’t have a lot of resources, the one area where we can make a difference is skills development. We need to see the potential in people,’ she says.

Another way Kerryne and her team supports social justice through manufacturing, is to support local business. ‘We source 99% of our ingredients, packaging and other manufacturing requirements from South Africa, as opposed to importing from China. We visit our suppliers in person, we know their values – so that we can authentically audit our supply chain, while also stimulating the local economy.’

Even this is not a fail-safe approach. Kerryne remembers, ‘Besides sourcing from local suppliers, we looked for other product packing companies to pass on our overflow work. We were so excited when we found a company that employs people with disabilities, because we believed it would give their staff the opportunity to be economically active, and to have dignity. When we asked a few questions about their cost structure, we realised they were paying their staff way below the minimum wage. The company had concocted a system where they qualified for government subsidies, as well as earning from market-related pricing, but without passing on the financial benefits to their staff.’ In the end, eyeSlices® didn’t do business with them.

Social justice impacts the individual

‘We are confronted with social justice issues and poverty on such a massive scale in South Africa, that we feel we have to make a difference on a massive scale. It can sometimes feel like we’re trying to fill up an abyss. But whatever efforts we make in engaging redemptively in society, make a difference’ Kerryne comments.

‘Again it circles back to the ‘why’ behind our actions. Don’t be deceived – Christians also have an ego! We would love to say that we changed the lives of 200 people a year, instead of admitting we upskilled one person. But we need to balance the tension of trying to impact whole communities, with empowering an individual.’

Kerryne encourages other Christians in business to keep engaging the issue of social justice. ‘Sometimes we get tired or disappointed, sometimes we fail to help when we had the means to do so. But it’s never too late to try again. God wants to guide you – in the season of your business, with the resources you have, in the changes you need to make, where you need to step out in faith. Don’t look at what other people are doing – focus on your own journey, on what God is saying to you, and walk that out in obedience.’

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