CSI gains mo­men­tum

Has also be­come more fo­cused on achiev­ing de­vel­op­men­tal ‘im­pact’

Finweek English Edition - - Csi -

AS MORE AND MORE COM­PA­NIES make cor­po­rate so­cial in­vest­ment (CSI) a cor­po­rate and strate­gic pri­or­ity and ap­proaches to CSI be­come more pro­fes­sional, struc­tured and per­for­mance driven, CSI in South Africa is slowly but surely gain­ing mo­men­tum, says CSI Hand­book ed­i­tor Heather de Wet.

Over­all CSI fund­ing has grown steadily in the last 10 years, with an es­ti­mated R2,88bn al­lo­cated to CSI bud­gets in the 2005/06 year.

Says De Wet: “Not only has cor­po­rate giv­ing in­creased, but it has also be­come more fo­cused on achiev­ing de­vel­op­men­tal ‘im­pact’, and fun­ders are far more strate­gic about how and where they ap­ply fund­ing.”

With re­gard to the latest CSI trends, De Wet be­lieves that the busi­ness op­er­at­ing con­text in con­tem­po­rary SA is one where large com­pa­nies are ex­pected to con­trib­ute to so­cioe­co­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and to be part of the so­lu­tion in ad­dress­ing the chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with poverty, un­em­ploy­ment and skills short­ages. The BEE Codes, gazetted in Fe­bru­ary, make it manda­tory for large com­pa­nies to spend 1% of NPAT on so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment (SED).

“As CSI has be­come more of a cor­po­rate pri­or­ity, the sec­tor has be­come more pro­fes­sional, struc­tured and per­for­mance driven. It has def­i­nitely be­come more strate­gic, with com­pa­nies ex­pect­ing a re­turn for their rand both for ben­e­fi­cia­ries and for the com­pany it­self. Com­pa­nies are also recog­nis­ing the value of align­ing their CSI pro­grammes with core busi­ness to achieve max­i­mum re­turn.”

Strate­gic CSI pro­grammes are more for­mal

in their approach and are guided by a CSI strat­egy that’s aligned with core busi­ness and has buy-in from top man­age­ment and the board. Th­ese pro­grammes tend to be run by a ded­i­cat- ed de­part­ment or Foun­da­tion, with pro­fes­sional CSI staff mem­bers and have a clearly de­fined bud­get. A suc­cess­ful pro­gramme is likely to have well-de­fined fo­cus ar­eas, guide­lines for best prac­tice and indicators for mea­sur­ing ef­fect, she ex­plains. “How­ever, we must be care­ful not to con­flate ‘suc­cess­ful’ – in terms of a well-run and man­aged CSI de­part­ment – with ef­fec­tive,” she cau­tions, not­ing that one of the big weak­nesses in the CSI sec­tor at the mo­ment is the lack of rig­or­ous mea­sure­ment of de­vel­op­ment out­comes, es­pe­cially over a pe­riod. In other words, a pro­gramme may be spend­ing money and run­ning well, but its ac­tual ef­fects are not recorded or eval­u­ated. An­other is­sue is that no­tions of what’s ef­fec­tive may also vary.

De Wet be­lieves that com­pa­nies that se­lect a few flag­ship pro­grammes, where they con­cen­trate re­sources and ex­per­tise and con­sol­i­date re­la­tion­ships with ser­vice providers and ben­e­fi­cia­ries over time, are more likely to get a re­turn on their de­vel­op­men­tal spend. If com­pa­nies sup­port causes that are in some way aligned to their busi­ness, it’s also eas­ier to max­imise non- fi­nan­cial in­puts, for ex­am­ple time spent men­tor­ing.

“One of the big­gest chal­lenges ahead is mea­sur­ing out­comes and for this com­pa­nies need to en­gage in de­vel­op­ing more ef­fec­tive mea­sure­ment tools. The CSI sec­tor as a whole also needs to be­come more co­he­sive, find­ing mech­a­nisms to com­mu­ni­cate, col­lab­o­rate and to share de­vel­op­men­tal knowl­edge and repli­cate suc­cess­ful mod­els,” says De Wet. An over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity (86%) of cor­po­rate CSI de­part­ments would like to col­lab­o­rate with other cor­po­rates, yet in prac­tice cor­po­rate col­lab­o­ra­tion in the CSI sec­tor is weak, says De Wet.

Though there’s no doubt that the CSI com­mu­nity is do­ing in­no­va­tive and ground-break­ing work in some ar­eas, it’s hard to com­pare it to other coun­tries be­cause our con­text is so dif­fer­ent, she adds. It’s the only coun­try in the world where CSI or as­pects of CSI are cod­i­fied and this brings a dif­fer­ent im­per­a­tive and dy­namic into the sec­tor.

“At the mo­ment, it’s un­clear ex­actly how the SED el­e­ment of the BEE Score­card in­ter­sects with CSI. This needs to be clar­i­fied. It would be a great pity if ex­cel­lent work in ar­eas such as health or ed­u­ca­tion was sac­ri­ficed in pur­suit of point-scor­ing ac­tiv­i­ties,” says De Wet.

One of the big­gest chal­lenges is mea­sur­ing out­comes. Heather de Wet

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