Last week we saw the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos to discuss a very timely theme – “Creating a shared future in a fractured world”.
Addressing the international audience, Professor Klaus Schwab
stated, ‘We have managed the financial crisis and returned to strong economic growth. But still, we restock in a social crisis and there is no doubt that we are living in a fractured world.’
One just has to look around on one’s daily commute or read the news to know this “fractured society” is as present as ever in South Africa. It is also a stark reality when analysing the results of the Inclusive Development Index
, which takes into account not only the GDP, but many other factors as well to give a more holistic view of a country’s growth. South Africa is ranked at 69 out of 74 countries. (There has been a slight improvement over the last 5 years and it is, therefore, a slowly advancing nation).
As a South African this comes as no surprise. Daily we see the effects of poor access to quality education, high unemployment rates and poverty. This all points towards Schwab’s “social crisis”, a crisis that affects us all. It should also be the responsibility of all to address and, hopefully, find solutions to the crisis.
Many business leaders, and in turn, businesses, have taken a stand and embraced their role in addressing social ills. They have started a business revolution of sorts, and have moved beyond compliance-driven social investment to include a social contract at the very heart of their businesses. These social contracts take responsibility for the future, intentionally sharing prosperity with shareholders and stakeholders in order to achieve growth paired with inclusiveness.
I believe that as businesses grapple for sustainable solutions to the social challenges that we face in South Africa, they will be leading the way locally and internationally. Internationally, businesses place great priority on ensuring they look after the physical environment. While this is not wrong, I feel there needs to be as much focus on people – and this is where many South African businesses shine. We have seen many wonderful models, such as the Mergon Group, an investment company that gives away 70% of its profit to invest in organisations that uplift society. If more businesses emulate these kinds of inclusive models, there is no doubt that society can be transformed.
As Pope Francis announced to the WEF, “There is a grave responsibility to exercise wise discernment, for the decisions made will be decisive for shaping the world of tomorrow and that of future generations. Thus, if we want a more secure future, one that encourages the prosperity of all, then it is necessary to keep the compass continually oriented towards “true North”, represented by authentic values. Now is the time to take courageous and bold steps for our beloved planet. This is the right moment to put into action our responsibility to contribute to the development of humanity.”
Paschal is the executive director of Nation Builder, an initiative that equips business leaders to achieve the greatest possible positive impact in our country through effective social investment. www.proudnationbuilder.co.za