Business needs to play an active role in society

In the past, it has always been government’s duty to deal with issues that affected our communities. However, in recent years the concept has been flipped on its head as corporations continue to take a more active role in the communities they operate.

In his recent address, President Cyril Ramaphosa rightly pointed out that forward-thinking companies are aware that it is not enough to invest in factories, machinery and supply chains, but to also invest in society. Investments don’t necessarily need to be hefty; a small act of kindness goes a long way in changing someone’s life or circumstances.

I fully concur that business should be an active citizen. This should be motivated by the desire to contribute to building better communities. It must be rooted in any corporation’s understanding that business is not separate from society, but inextricably bound to the fortunes of its people. As poverty, unemployment and inequality decline, businesses grow. As young people gain skills and work experience, businesses thrive. And as businesses grow and thrive – and employ more people and pay better wages – so the lives of ordinary people improve.

I am of the view that any CSR initiative shouldn’t be driven by regulation, but by the company’s desire and commitment to the well-being of the society it serves. Companies can exhibit their inherent, welfare-creating strength by means of words and action. By actively tackling issues that affect society, individual companies can show that voluntary efforts are more effective than regulation.

A recent research report corroborates this by stating that if companies can independently build trust in the desire and ability of businesses to tackle issues without coercive rules, there is a better chance of avoiding cumbersome political regulation. This is important since experience shows that negatively founded regulations affect the companies’ desire to take business risks and develop new goods and services.

At Goscor Cleaning Equipment (GCE), we believe that business is the cornerstone of prosperity in society. Apart from creating jobs, offering goods, services and processes, as well as investing in the skills of our employees, we have always gone the extra mile to make a difference in societies that we operate in.

A case in point is our recent involvement with the FNB Run Your City Series races. Driven by our desire to maintain clean streets in communities where we operate, GCE recently deployed resources to help clean Johannesburg CBD streets ahead of the FNB Joburg 10K CITYRUN. We also undertook a same initiative ahead of the FNB Cape Town 12 ONERUN, which took place in May this year. We will also embark on a same initiative ahead of the FNB Durban 10K CITYSURFRUN, scheduled for the 14th of October this year.

Not only does this street cleaning initiative improve the aesthetics of the city, but it reduces the risk of accidents. Clearing the streets of debris minimises slip and fall accidents, as well as protecting people from dangerous garbage like rusty nails and broken glass.

Meanwhile, like we always do, this year we also invested time and resources towards a worthy cause during Mandela Day. Nelson Mandela’s famous words, “what counts in life is not the mere fact that we lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others”, remind us that as a nation, companies and individuals, we have to extend a loving and kind hand. It is in this spirit of Madiba and his vision to make the world a better one for all that saw GCE and its employees partner Wollies animal shelter during to make a difference to the lives of abandoned animals at the shelter.

In conclusion, I believe that it is very much in the interests of any company to be a good corporate citizen. There is no set definition of corporate citizenship; in my view it should take sustainable development as its starting point; that is to say, efforts to unify economic, social and environmental development. These efforts involve every section of society, and therefore good corporate citizenship is the way in which businesses work towards sustainable development of communities.