A social return
‘A shared vision of a thriving and robust future for SA’
“THERE’S NO DOUBT that the world is awash with money. Companies are returning record profits globally. The issue, therefore, is not so much that there’s not enough money but whether there’s a route of channelling that money to projects that aren’t only deserving but that can ensure a social return and be perceived profitable from a business viewpoint,” says Raymond Ndlovu, Noah Financial Innovation CEO and trustee of The Greater Good SA Trust.
As a black entrepreneurial stockbroking and financial services company with an enviable track record, Noah has a shared vision of a thriving and robust future for South Africa. “We believe that in addition to delivering a solid value proposition to our clients it’s imperative to have a strong social ethos of contributing to the future prosperity of the country and Africa as a whole.”
Says Ndlovu: “Government has repeatedly called on SA’s corporate sector to be active in forming public/private partnerships and to become more involved in effective strategies to address poverty and poverty-related issues.
“Business is prized in society for its efficiencies, responsiveness, resourcefulness, technologies and know-how. Those are exactly the attributes that SA’s development sector urgently needs to expand its capacity to change people’s lives for the benefit of the entire nation.”
Ndlovu says the challenge is to shift the paradigm of corporate social responsibility from an outdated view of business “paying something back” into a 21st Century idea of dynamic, forward-looking, purposeful corporate social investment that achieves results in terms of changing lives for the better.
“Mindsets also need to change – that it’s not about handouts or ‘ag shame’ but that there’s a fortune that potentially lies at the bottom of the pyramid; that even in poverty there are opportunities, businesslike in nature, that can create skills, jobs, development initiatives and ensure that small-scale entrepreneurs are provided with the required funding under less stringent criteria. That could lead to a meaningful intervention to break the poverty cycle.”
The next challenge is to find the people on the ground with the right “get-up-and-go” attitude who aren’t waiting for a handout but
determined to make a difference, irrespective of their poverty, by, for example, starting a beadwork business or growing vegetables.
Those are precisely the kind of projects Noah has been involved with through the South African Social Investment Exchange (Sasix) and its own Broking for Good Trust (which has, since 2004, partnered the Greater Good SA Trust).
Since its inception two years ago, Sasix has raised more than R3m and expanded its investment projects to well over 30, of which more than 20 are fully funded.
“What we’re really looking at are bottom-up projects driven by people but that engage the business community very much on its own terms concerning social investment capital and skills development, for which there must be sustainable returns. These must certainly also stand up to scrutiny for measurement from a social impact perspective and the application of normal business principles and practices in equipping organisations that are responsible for channelling that money,” says Ndlovu.
“In that way every rand or dollar invested in that kind of project could be traced and accounted for in a transparent report and language familiar to the investor.”
A new Noah project that causes great excitement is its sponsor- ship (in conjunction with Unisa’s Centre for Corporate Citizenship) – of the Noah Chair for Responsible Investment at the centre. “The chair, which will be launched in the near future, will be responsible for creating outcomes in the education sphere where candidates at undergraduate as well as potentially at post-graduate level learn and understand key concepts that may be applied to ensure that long-term investments are done in a responsible and sustainable investment paradigm.”
Mindset needs to change. Raymond