Sustainable Business Futures

Sustainable Business Futures:

Setting the Global Agenda for Corporate Responsibility and ‘Ubuntu’ Capitalism

Article by Wayne Visser

Within the space of a decade, South African business has moved from being pariahs of the world to leaders in the global corporate responsibility movement. This section highlights the significant progress which has been made by the private sector, as well as the potential for South Africa to continue to shape a new agenda for capitalism across seven key dimensions.

Legal Reform

Building on the ANC’s Reconstruction and Development agenda (which in turn was based on the Freedom Charter), human rights, sustainable development and corporate transparency became enshrined in the 1996 constitution and embedded in what is widely regarded as some of the most progressive legislation in socio-economic and environmental development in the world. For example, the environmental rights now enshrined in the Bill of Rights are hailed worldwide.

While many countries still rely on outdated legislation, the wave of reform over the past decade in South Africa has resulted in brand new statutes on ecological responsibility (e.g. the National Environmental Management Act), occupational health and safety (e.g. the Mine Health and Safety Act), investment in human capital (e.g. the Employment Equity Act), governance (e.g. the Promotion of Access to Information Act), ethics (e.g. the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act) and socio-economic development (e.g. the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Act).

By inextricably linking social, economic and ecological development in its legal framework, South Africa is showing the world that the old conflicts between environmental conservation, social development and economic growth can be resolved by adopting a new model of integrated sustainable development. The foundation for improved quality of life has therefore been laid and in the next 10 years in South Africa we can expect to see:

  • Civil society demonstrating increasingly healthy activism to bring about environmental and social justice;
  • Government continuing to enact and refine progressive legislation and to enhance its enforcement capacity; and
  • Business becoming the primary vehicle for ensuring that integrated sustainable development is delivered on the ground.

Corporate Governance

When the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoD) published the King Report on Corporate Governance in South Africa in 1992, it was the first of all the governance codes in the world to stress the importance of wider stakeholder interests beyond narrow shareholder demands. This global thought leadership was once again demonstrated when, in its revised King Report in 2002 (King II), the IoD included a whole chapter on sustainability reporting, including extensive referencing to two leading-edge international standards, the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, and Accountability’s AA1000 framework.

The King II requirement that “every company should report at least annually on the nature and extent of its social, transformation, ethical, safety, health and environmental management policies and practices” has already paid dividends. Surveys by KPMG show that 85% South Africa’s top 100 listed companies in 2003 were already reporting on sustainability-related issues, compared with only 48% in 1997. This remarkable progress is assisted by the fact that the Johannesburg Securities Exchange has made compliance with King II a listing requirement.

In King II, therefore, we see that South Africa’s progressive legislation is backed up by a voluntary …

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/article_ubuntu_capitalism_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Sustainable Business Futures (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/corporate-citizenship-in-africa”]Page[/button] Business Frontiers (book)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (2004) Sustainable Business Futures: Setting the Global Agenda for Corporate Responsibility and ‘Ubuntu’ Capitalism. In South Africa 2014: The Story of Our Future, edited by Bret Bowes, Guy Lundy & Steuart Pennington, SA Good News: Johannesburg.

Share this page

Share

Ubuntu Capitalism

Setting the Global Agenda for Ubuntu Capitalism

Chapter by Wayne Visser

Extract from South Africa 2014: The Story of Our Future

Within the space of a decade, South African business has moved from being pariahs of the world to leaders in the global corporate responsibility movement. This section highlights the significant progress which has been made by the private sector, as well as the potential for South Africa to continue to shape a new agenda for capitalism across seven key dimensions.

Legal reform

Building on the ANC’s Reconstruction and Development agenda (which in turn was based on the Freedom Charter), human rights, sustainable development and corporate transparency became enshrined in the 1996 constitution and embedded in what is widely regarded as some of the most progressive legislation in socio-economic and environmental development in the world. For example, the environmental rights now enshrined in the Bill of Rights are hailed worldwide.

By inextricably linking social, economic and ecological development in its legal framework, South Africa is showing the world that the old conflicts between environmental conservation, social development and economic growth can be resolved by adopting a new model of integrated sustainable development. The foundation for improved quality of life has therefore been laid and in the next 10 years in South Africa we can expect to see:While many countries still rely on outdated legislation, the wave of reform over the past decade in South Africa has resulted in brand new statutes on ecological responsibility (e.g. the National Environmental Management Act), occupational health and safety (e.g. the Mine Health and Safety Act), investment in human capital (e.g. the Employment Equity Act), governance (e.g. the Promotion of Access to Information Act), ethics (the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act) and socio-economic development (e.g. the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Act).

  • Civil society demonstrating increasingly healthy activism to bring about environmental and social justice
  • Government continuing to enact and refine progressive legislation and to enhance its enforcement capacity
  • Business becoming the primary vehicle for ensuring that integrated sustainable development is delivered on the ground

Corporate governance

When the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoD) published the King Report on Corporate Governance in South Africa in 1992, it was the first of all the governance codes in the world to stress the importance of wider stakeholder interests beyond narrow shareholder demands. This global thought leadership was once again demonstrated when, in its revised King Report in 2002 (King II), the IoD included a whole chapter on sustainability reporting, including extensive referencing to two leading-edge international standards, the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, and Accountability’s AA 1000 framework.

The King II requirement that “every company should report at least annually on the nature and extent of its social, transformation, ethical, safety, health and environmental management policies and practices” has already paid dividends. Surveys by KPMG show that 85% South Africa’s top 100 listed companies in 2003 were already reporting on sustainability-related issues, compared with only 48% in 1997. This remarkable progress is assisted by the fact that the Johannesburg Stock Exchange has made compliance with King II a listing requirement …

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/chapter_wvisser_ubuntu_capitalism.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Setting the Global Agenda for Ubuntu Capitalism (chapter)

Related pages

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.sagoodnews.co.za/”]Page[/button] South Africa: The Good News (website)

Cite this chapter

Visser, W. (2004) Setting the Global Agenda for Ubuntu Capitalism, In B. Bowes, S. Pennington & G. Lundy, South Africa 2014: The Story Of Our Future, Johannesburg: South Africa The Good News, 349-351.

Love this page

Click on the pink heart in the heading if you LOVE this page

Share this page

Share

Afrocentric Business in Southern Africa

Afrocentric Business in Southern Africa

Article by Wayne Visser

In the dizzy wake of socio-political euphoria following the birth of its new ‘rainbow nation’, South Africa now faces the sobering task of creating an accompanying economic miracle.  The prevailing mood is pessimistic, with many business and economics critics all too ready to point out the grim facts:  In 1996, South Africa saw a dramatic weakening of its currency, a lower-than-expected growth in Gross Domestic Product of around 3 percent, a steady trickle of the emigration ‘brain drain’ of its professional skills, and an unwillingness of foreign investors to commit their resources in a crime-anxious climate with relatively high labour costs and low productivity.

But while many shiver beneath the shadow of these ominous storm clouds, a visionary core of business thinkers and practitioners in Southern Africa has their eyes on the rainbow.  They see the “failure” of most African economies in terms of a neglect of their peoples to foster home-grown indigenous business cultures that are in harmony with the African soil and soul.  And they are working hard to rekindle native values in business contexts, to provide the sparks needed to transform the economy into a blazing sun of new traditions in Afrocentric management.

Values – Colonial Hangovers and Ubuntu

Colonialism is a process whereby one dominant set of values gets imposed on the diverse cultures of ‘conquered lands’.  This has been the thread of the world’s political history and is now being repeated in the economic sphere through globalisation of corporations and trade.  South Africa, which was invaded by Dutch burghers in 1652 and English settlers in 1820, became industrialised with a pervasive Eurocentric mode of commerce, and more recently has begun to internalize the seductive consumerist culture of America as well.  Add to this the legacy of economic marginalisation of the majority of native South Africans through the apartheid system, and it is unsurprising that traditional African ideas about trade and business have to date been totally ignored (note the root word ‘ignorance’).

The values inculcation that has accompanied the North Western hemisphere’s footprint on Southern Africa has left many of its people culturally schizophrenic.  Some of these conflicts between African and North Western culture that manifest in a business context are, for example:

  • Social harmony and cohesion versus individual performance and reward;
  • Participative decision making versus bureaucratic managerial authority; and
  • Creative expression and motivation versus rationality and quantitative argumentation.

Underlying these dynamics is a value concept fundamental to African culture that has been largely overlooked by outsiders and hardly explicitly acknowledged by Africans themselves until recently.  This is the concept of ubuntu, or African Humanism.  In South African culture, it is often associated with the proverb:  Umuntu ungumuntu ngabantu, which literally means, “A person becomes human through other people.”

South African manager Reuel Khoza describes ubuntu as the philosophy of “I am because you are, you are because we are.”  It is a concept, he says, “which brings to the fore images of supportiveness, cooperation, and solidarity, that is, communalism.”  Zimbabwean businessman …

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/article_afrocentric_business_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Afrocentric Business in Southern Africa (article)

Related websites

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.csrinternational.org”]Link[/button] CSR International (website)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/corporate-citizenship-in-africa”]Page[/button] Corporate Citizenship in Africa (book)

Cite this article

Visser, W. (1997) Afrocentric Business in Southern Africa. World Business Academy Perspectives, Volume 11 No. 3, September.

Share this page

Share