A so­cial re­turn

‘A shared vi­sion of a thriv­ing and ro­bust fu­ture for SA’

Finweek English Edition - - Csi -

“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

Ndlovu

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