CityPress - - Tenders & Auctions - EU­GENE GOD­DARD projects@city­press.co.za

You would imag­ine that, for an auc­tion com­pany started in 2011, ev­ery wak­ing mo­ment should be spent on ad­vanc­ing its own cor­po­rate cause, build­ing its brand, at­tract­ing cus­tomers and im­press­ing banks, liq­uida­tors, loss ad­jus­tors, and in­vestors alike. Reliance Auc­tions, how­ever, has a selfless ap­proach that, apart from ground-break­ing ini­tia­tives such as sell­ing ac­tion re­alty fran­chises to en­trepreneurs, also in­volves a strong el­e­ment of cor­po­rate so­cial in­vest­ment (CSI).

Once a month, for a few hours from around 10am on a Fri­day morn­ing, Reliance’s founder and CEO, David Sout­ter, takes a core com­po­nent of his staff com­ple­ment of 36 peo­ple to Stop Hunger Now South­ern Africa in Prole­con, Jo­han­nes­burg.

There, to the thump­ing pulse of loud mu­sic, and un­der the watch­ful eye of of­fi­cials over­see­ing health and safety reg­u­la­tions, they pro­ceed to play a small but sig­nif­i­cant role in pre­vent­ing hunger among the un­der­priv­i­leged.

Stop Hunger Now’s na­tional op­er­a­tions man­ager for South Africa, Brian Nell, ex­plains that the NGO, formed in the US in 1998 and ac­tive in South Africa since 2008, has so far packed about 5.5 mil­lion meals this year.

“Our task is re­ally twofold”, he says. “We ap­proach com­pa­nies for fund­ing, which pays for our in­gre­di­ents, and en­gage with the staff of the same bene­fac­tors, cor­po­rates and other vol­un­teers to do the ac­tual pack­ing.”

Each box of food aid con­sists of 36 pack­ets of vi­ta­min sa­chets con­tain­ing 23 es­sen­tial vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, in­clud­ing a full cup of soya, scoops of soup mix with rice added in to en­sure each unit weighs around 440g.

Given that most of the food goes out to kids be­tween the ages of one and six at early child­hood de­vel­op­ment (ECD) cen­tres, strict ad­her­ence is paid to nu­tri­tional value.

But the most im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent, Nell says, is the con­tri­bu­tion com­pa­nies like Reliance make to­wards meet­ing tar­gets.

“CSI in­volve­ment is cru­cial. In SA we have some­thing like 3 mil­lion kids fac­ing hunger ev­ery sin­gle day. It’s a huge cri­sis and we would not be able to reach these kids if it weren’t for the con­tri­bu­tion com­pa­nies like Reliance make.”

The out­pour­ing of aid work, with around three to four CSI ses­sions tak­ing place at Stop Hunger Now ev­ery week, is of such a na­ture that it has also en­abled ECD cen­tres to save money.

“We have a whole pro­gramme,” adds Nell. “We dis­trib­ute food to about 185 ECDs, just in Jo­han­nes­burg, crèches es­sen­tially, that, for ev­ery 20 chil­dren, re­ceive a box of food, which in turn cre­ates a sav­ing of about R100.

“We then as­sist with mon­i­tor­ing spend­ing, mak­ing sure sav­ings go to­wards installing fire ex­tin­guish­ers, first aid equip­ment, en­abling teacher train­ing and so on.

“The aim is re­ally to get these crèches reg­is­tered with the de­part­ment of so­cial de­vel­op­ment so they can get reg­u­lar sub­si­dies from the govern­ment.”

Ac­cord­ing to Nell, the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s goal to erad­i­cate global hunger by 2030 is well un­der way, par­tic­u­larly at ECD level, where “there is an in­creased fo­cus on and more in­volve­ment in feed­ing kids younger than six”.

Alarm­ingly, there’s a grow­ing need at ter­tiary level where a lot of older chil­dren don’t speak out about go­ing hun­gry be­cause of the stigma that’s at­tached to it.

“Up to 40% of first-year dropouts are at­trib­uted to home prob­lems and hunger is one of these,” he says.

Drop­ping out from its CSI re­spon­si­bil­i­ties cer­tainly isn’t an op­tion for Reliance, even though its con­tin­ued al­tru­ism comes at a price, re­quir­ing time, hu­man re­sources and com­pany trans­port.

How­ever, when wit­ness­ing the ben­e­fits of team­build­ing through CSI care work, it quickly be­comes clear why Reliance’s staff are ad­dicted to its Stop Hunger Now ef­forts.

With a pair of large venue speak­ers fac­ing the pack­ing ta­bles, vol­un­teers jive along as the in­gre­di­ents are mea­sured, and the pack­ets weighed, sealed and boxed, ready to be de­liv­ered, more of­ten than not by the vol­un­teers them­selves.

“We dis­trib­ute to West­bury,” says Sout­ter. “It’s an im­pov­er­ished com­mu­nity where there’s a lot of drug abuse, sin­gle mums, wi­d­ows and chil­dren that are in need.”

Sout­ter, a seasoned auc­tion re­al­tor who worked for sev­eral other cut-throat com­pa­nies be­fore start­ing his own out­fit and is faced daily by the prospect of a tough and tight­en­ing mar­ket where com­peti­tors won’t think twice be­fore slam­ming the door on you, says their CSI in­volve­ment is one of their monthly highlights.

“I don’t think our re­sources can be bet­ter ap­plied. It’s all about do­ing some­thing for the com­mu­nity, help­ing kids have a whole­some meal at least once a day.”

Whether it’s through bring­ing the ham­mer down on the head of hunger and boost­ing the morale of his staff in so do­ing, or by other means, Sout­ter and his fel­low direc­tors are deter­mined to carry on in­vest­ing in


HUN­GRY FOR SUC­CESS David Sout­ter, CEO of Reliance Auc­tions, and one of the com­pany's staff mem­bers on the pack­ing line at Stop Hunger Now, where the com­pany as­sists as part of its CSI re­spon­si­bil­i­ties

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