There is growing acknowledgement that businesses have an important role to play in contributing to the dignity, equality and upholding of human rights in South Africa. Nation Builder and its partners prove that businesses around the country are already contributing.

While a lot of attention is paid to human rights in South Africa, the focus is mostly on the rights of individual citizens and rarely on responsibilities that come with these rights. Even less so is the spotlight on companies as citizens and how they conduct themselves in nation building.

The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR), as the overarching concept of corporate social investment (CSI) and shared value, means that businesses have a responsibility not only towards the possible economic consequences of their actions, but also the social and environmental implications. The triple bottom line approach considers the economic, social and environmental impact of one’s business activity and human rights.

Trialogue, a CSI consultancy, reported that South African companies contributed R9 billion in corporate social investment during 2016 and 2017. It’s a significant amount, fulfilling the National Development Plan’s call for businesses to be “active citizens”.

Companies play a huge role to help South Africa through corporate social investment, enterprise development and skills development programmes.

Leading from the back

An admirable example of an initiative that aims to help businesses to lead social change in our country is Nation Builder. This not-for-profit (NPO) is dedicated to inspiring and equipping the business community to spearhead social change and uphold human rights, especially through strategic and collaborative partnerships with civil society. The organisation provides free best-in-industry resources and tools, an interactive peer-learning community and opportunities to collaborate with like-minded businesses.

To create these world-class, yet homegrown, resources, Nation Builder hosts collaborative panels (Collabs) with social development industry leaders within businesses, NPOs and consultancies.

177 people representing 116 companies have attended Nation Builder’s Collabs since 2017 to 2019; 40 people representing 32 companies attended a Business X-Change in 2018; and by the end of 2018, there were over 100 published articles, videos and best practice case studies relating to social development impact that have been written by contributing businesses.

Participants and thought leadership contributors have included organisations such as the MMI Group, GrowthPoint, Deloitte, Val de Vie, Millennium Trust, Trialogue, Investec and Tsogo Sun in addition to a wealth of expert advisors from the NPO sector. Through these sessions, Nation Builder has extracted numerous impactful, homegrown solutions that South Africans are implementing to address some of the social challenges the country faces. This has resulted in a free online resource platform with content that is developed and written for South African businesses by South African businesses, a prime example of local content and collaboration at its best.

Mobilising the CSI space

“This community is about the empowerment of decision-makers in the CSI space. We share our expertise and also our mistakes and our ‘learnings,” says Charlene Lackay, Group CSI Manager of MMI Holdings, about her experience of the colab panels and online community.

“It is a fantastic experience being able to have a platform where you can document your own journey into something that can now aid someone else”.

The Nation Builder Peer Learning platform is the first of its kind that includes an interactive online community to ensure further learning and opportunities for dialogue, collaboration and sharing of best practice.

“We developed the platform to make the cumulative knowledge of our expert community available to all organisations who have a passion for using their business as a force for good, and with the ultimate aim to encourage and equip them to have a greater social impact,” said Lauren Henning, Nation Builder Public Affairs Director.

The online community is intended to offer shared learnings, best practice tips, case studies, animated videos and resources developed by CSI experts, academics, practitioners, NPOs and consultancies as a means to get a fuller perspective of industry best practice.

Contact Nation Builder

Nation Builder is passionate about resourcing business, as it believes that social upliftment efforts are most effective when businesses, communities, civil society and government work together. To be part of this dynamic community, visit www.proudnationbuilder.co.za.

The organisation is part of Mergon, a private investment group that uses 70% of its proceeds to impact lives, and work to equip others to do the same.

You can also call on +27 21 816 1111 and +27 12 003 2126 email nationbuilder@mergon.co.za

This article first appeared in The Business Day on 20 March 2018.

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