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ESG & Sustainability News South Africa

Conference highlights the power of business to positively impact society

Nation Builder hosted the fourth annual In Good Company Conference earlier this month with business leaders, social innovation experts and impact investment thinkers sharing stories inspired by hope and courage and providing solutions to build impactful businesses for business and civil society in South Africa.
Conference highlights the power of business to positively impact society

Among the keynote speakers for the day were Dr Graeme Codrington (TomorrowToday), Bonang Mohale (CEO of Business Leadership SA) and Tashmia Ismail-Saville (CEO of Youth Employment Services) who shared valuable insights into driving social change in business that impacts South Africa’s livelihood and economy. Pravin Gordhan, minister of public enterprise, made a surprise digital appearance at the end of the conference in support of Nation Builder, the In Good Company Conference and the power of business to impact society alongside government and civil society.

Social entrepreneurs, Nonhlanhla Joye (Umgibe Farming Organics and Training Institute), Lungi Tyali (Solar Turtle), Cobus Truter (Indlu) and grade 10 student Joshua de Miranda presented their unique businesses and explained how they have developed innovative solutions to solve some of the biggest challenges in South Africa through sustainable farming, alternative power sources and providing access to low-cost housing solutions within communities.

Greater collaboration needed

“Business, government and civil society all play a role in shaping South Africa. Our speakers discussed the role of various stakeholders in achieving our country’s greatest potential, while providing valuable insights into the future of South Africa’s economic environment,” says Keri-Leigh Paschal, executive director of Nation Builder, the organisers of the annual In Good Company Conference. “A common theme throughout the day was that business, government and civil society need to work together if we are to address unemployment, build a strong, stable economy and partner for meaningful and long-lasting social change.”

“To be able to see the potential our businesses hold, we need to face our country’s challenges and approach them as opportunities that are yet to be unlocked so as to build businesses for South Africa by South Africans,” adds Paschal. “If we can realise these opportunities, South Africa can and will pave the way for many a nation to follow in addressing difficult and complex social problems.”

Tashmia Ismail-Saville, CEO of Youth Employment Services
Tashmia Ismail-Saville, CEO of Youth Employment Services

Embrace disruption in the workplace

“We need to embrace disruption and experimentation in the workplace if we want to remain relevant,” stated internationally renowned speaker, futurist and author, Dr Graeme Codrington. “The future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed. The next 12 years hold far more change than we know, great, good and bad.” Dr Codrington emphasised the need to embrace the future and find ways to innovate internally.

“Choose your experiments wisely. Look at small incremental changes. This will create large consolidated change and create a mindset of experimentation.”

We need to understand how technology affects South Africa and Africa within the development sector and how it can be used for good.

Mark Sham from Suit & Sneakers, briefly discussed the role of blockchain technologies and the powerful disruptive force that it is yet to bring. “We need to be fascinated with technology as it is a means to an end to create incredible change,” stated Sham while he stressed that our perception of where we are going and where we will go is remarkably different, “The rate of innovation has a direct correlation to the ability to share knowledge with others.”

Focus needed on redistribution of wealth

“By sharing technology, providing access to knowledge and opportunity, our nation can be empowered, our economy strengthened and unemployment addressed. It will not be easy. It will take courage, dedication and the buy-in of all in our nation," said Paschal.

“The business of businesses is not only business. As businesses, we need to join hands with civil society,” said Bonang Mohale, CEO of Business Leadership South Africa, during his speech at the In Good Company Conference. Mohale stressed that we need to focus on the redistribution of wealth, and not the growing distribution of poverty.

“It’s not sustainable that 90% of wealth rests with 10% of the population,” said Mohale who feels that business in South Africa needs to help the government build the state and root out state capture. “It is the responsibility of people in leadership to lead ethically and thoughtfully.

Transformation is breaking with the past, it is not reformation, it is radical change. Companies led by women are more effective, efficient, happier as well as more sustainable. Increasingly, including more women is critical to the economy,” added Mohale who feels that we need to have more women in leadership positions to help build a sustainable economy.

Bonang Mohale, CEO of Business Leadership SA
Bonang Mohale, CEO of Business Leadership SA

Job creation

Tashmia Ismail-Saville provided a fresh perspective on the true state of youth unemployment in South Africa and what it will really take to get us where we need to be. She stated that “Economies aren’t built by large corporates, they are built by SMMEs.” She added that of six million youth with nowhere to go, graduate unemployment is not the problem, “The problem lies with those without a matric certificate who still have capabilities.”

The Youth Unemployment Services (YES) aims to provide one million job opportunities for the youth in South Africa, and they need help to achieve this. “Small businesses are the answer to employment and building the economy. If our country does not do well, our companies cannot do well. Without a country, we cannot have a business,” stated Ismail-Saville. YES is working toward creating opportunities for the youth of South Africa and are working alongside business and government to achieve this sustainably.

The outcome of the day can be summarised in a tweet posted by Next Generation, “Social development is no longer about programmes and money, but excellence, scale, innovation, impact and actual measurable sustainable development.”

Hlengiwe Zulu (Nation Builder) and Majozi closed off the day with the song written by the late Hugh Masekela, Thuma Mina (Send Me), which President Cyril Ramaphosa read in closing at his State of the Nation Address this year February.

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