For most developed economies like the US, the UK and Netherlands, hunger is a fleeting inconvenience, easily elucidated by stepping out to the stores or ransacking the fridge.
However, persistent hunger is part of everyday life for many people in the rural backwaters of South Africa. Halving the proportion of people in South Africa’s rural areas who do not get enough to eat is one of the goals of the country’s corporate social investment (CSI).
Reducing hunger and poverty are a complicated matter it seems. At this stage, many South Africans are getting poorer. Yet the indication is that South African corporate and individuals give less than those in developed countries like the US, the UK and the Netherlands.
This is too sad for words because South Africa, as one of the pre-eminent transforming nations of the world, should be ranking high in the giving stakes as it has millions of poor people.
South Africa ranked an embarrassing 108th position out of 153 in the 2011 World Giving Index ranking poorly in general against other parts of the world.
The UK-based Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) released its 2012 Annual World Giving Index, which seeks to measure the amount of philanthropy and volunteerism within the polled countries.
The report compiled by CAF using Gallup polling information, is based on three measures. These are ‘giving money’, ‘volunteering time’ and ‘helping a stranger’.
The global average of the three giving behaviours in 2011 was 32.4 percent, compared to 31.6 percent in 2010.
Colleen Du Toit, the CAF Southern Africa CEO, says South Africa and the region needed an increased social investment as large amounts of foreign aid money were being withdrawn from the country.
“The spirit of a giving civil society in the post-1994 administration has dissipated. These days there is very little enabling policy, though of course legislation does require all listed companies to plough 1 percent of their net profit into the communities they serve,” Du Toit says.
“These days, companies aren’t content to just throw money at anyone who asks. Corporate social investment isn’t just about giving anymore. Companies want to see tangible benefits. But this doesn’t mean that the process need be painful for either the company or the non-profits organisations involved.”
CAF specialises in trying to nudge companies in the right CSI direction. CAF will even arrange so-called employee corporate social investment, where company workers who want to volunteer their time and energy can do so through the intervention of CAF.
Unsurprisingly, the index ranked the USA as the number one giving country in the world, with Ireland coming second and Australia coming in close third.
According to the study, the UK is the second most generous nation globally in monetary terms, with 79 percent of the population donating to charity each month.
The highest-ranked country for ‘giving money’ is Thailand with 85 percent of the population having made a donation. Ireland and the Netherlands are jointly third with 75 percent each.
However, this report drew the ire of Tshikululu Social Investments which manages grant-making funds and trusts for large and medium sized businesses in South Africa.
Gina de Villiers, Tshikululu’s Senior Communications Specialist, says South Africans do in fact have a strong culture of giving and in the case of some companies, have done for many decades.
But de Villiers says corporate social investment (CSI) in South Africa can become smarter. “Every research report can be questioned, the methodology attacked, the number of interviewees disputed and the results dismissed.
Instead of picking at the CAF research, I’d like to offer some alternatives…,” de Villiers says. “The 2010 Barclays Wealth report entitled “Global Giving: The culture of philanthropy” indicated that the wealthy in South Africa were second only to the USA in philanthropic giving. I believe that this report surveyed individuals, not companies, but as the CAF research included individuals, I thought it made an interesting comparison.”
Regarding corporate giving, de Villiers urged CAF to consider the 2011 edition of Trialogue’s CSI Handbook, a guide to CSI in South Africa that is well-regarded in our “industry”.
For this, the 14th edition, 148 respondents from 97 “large” South African companies were interviewed face-to-face and their responses combined with “publicly available secondary information” and Trialogue’s own databases.
“They state that companies invested R6.2 billion into CSI in 2010/2011. This is quite a bit more than the R4 billion mentioned in CAF. Whether this improves the impression of the private sector’s culture of giving is, of course, up for debate, but here are two more numbers that I find interesting.
Again according to Trialogue, “82 percent of the companies surveyed allocated additional contributions over and above their CSI expenditure” and “over the past ten years CSI has outstripped inflation by 77 percent”.
Written by: Mzwandile Jacks – Transform SA Editor
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