A time for giving
Posted on: 1 January 2020
When a company defines itself by its capacity for caring – for being mens-mense – the focus and impact of its Corporate Social Investment (CSI) strategy takes on a particular significance.
MARKtoe! spoke to Tasneem Sulaiman-Bray, Kaap Agri’s dynamic Director of Corporate Affairs, and found that opportunities for ploughing back abound. “CSI is of fundamental importance across the entire Kaap Agri Group. In fact, the ethos that permeates throughout the company, is that all our stakeholders should be better off because the company exists, better off than if the company did not exist,” says Tasneem. Kaap Agri has been a major player in the agribusiness sector for over 100 years and owns several trading brands, including Agrimark, its retail division with over 70 stores across South Africa and Namibia. Every Agrimark store strives to bring its community closer together by adding value to the community that it serves. According to Tasneem, Agrimark’s far-reaching footprint provides a localised understanding of the diverse community needs in the areas in which they operate.
BREAK THE CYCLE
The Group believes that education is one of the most powerful means of breaking the cycle of poverty. “Whilst we run community outreach programmes, we have chosen education as our core focus area,” she says. The Kaap Agri Academy, which identifies and empowers emerging farmers, celebrated its 10th year in 2018. The Academy’s National Certificate courses are AgriSETA accredited and focus on mixed farming as well as animal and plant production.
Since its inception, 361 farmers having passed through its doors. Many have used their newly acquired knowledge to grow their businesses and employ more people. 2019 also marks the 10th year of Kaap Agri’s school bursary programme, with financial support being extended to a select number of learners for tertiary education. Exposure to the wide spectrum of career opportunities in today’s world is key to unleashing one’s full potential. “Having the learners in our Young Stars programme experience this in a work environment, gives them a good sense of what resonates with them and what doesn’t. The bonus is that we get to know the learners and we are able to identify future talent for our company,” she adds.
MAKE THE CALL
CSI has become entrenched in corporate South Africa although the implementation and impact thereof varies greatly. According to Tasneem, Kaap Agri’s approach is characterised by the desire to leave a lasting legacy and to make a difference that resonates with all staff. Through the network of Agrimark branch managers, the business gets to know the needs of each community and are able to better support them. Instead of a top-down, corporate rollout, initiatives often come from branch level and range from providing bursaries and drought relief support, to addressing the needs of vulnerable children and the aged.
Instead of a top-down, corporate roll-out, initiatives often come from branch level and range from providing bursaries and drought relief support, to addressing the needs of vulnerable children and the aged.
“If our communities thrive, our business thrives, and so do all our business partners, employees and investors.”
With numerous communities, projects and individuals in need of support, identifying potential beneficiaries can be difficult. The company has established criteria which Tasneem and her team use to vet all programmes, thereby ensuring funds go to where they are needed most and where they will make a meaningful difference. “The programme should be aligned with one of our core socio-economic development focus areas and should be geared to support those in financial need with the main outcome being impact, impact, impact,” explains Tasneem.
CSI is a critical building block for the much-needed long-term societal change in South Africa. A recent study by Trialogue found that Corporate SA had spent R9,7 billion rand on CSI in 2018. Forty-four percent was spent on education with 92% of companies surveyed, supporting education. “Through our collective support, particularly in education, we are providing youth with the proverbial rod and teaching them to fish,” says Tasneem. Whilst a large number of Kaap Agri initiatives are direct investments to beneficiaries, Kaap Agri recently entered into a three-year partnership with the Nelson Mandela Child-ren’s Fund to provide educational support for rural communities.
Tasneem recalls a particularly meaningful letter from parents in the Soetendal area, expressing their gratitude for a donation of school socks and shoes. A group of learners, farm workers’ children who walk up to 5 km to school every day, had no shoes or socks. Kaap Agri staff delivered school shoes and socks to them and joined them on the long walk to school to literally experience walking in their shoes. “The gratitude expressed by the parents for what we considered a small deed was truly humbling. It reminded me that no matter how small we believe a gesture to be, it may mean the world to someone else.”
According to Tasneem the days of providing funding in isolation, devoid of understanding the broader dynamics of a community’s needs, are long gone. Kaap Agri’s CSI will increasingly focus on reviewing proposed initiatives based on a comprehensive needs analysis, resulting in a consistent, long-term commitment. “This approach has borne fruit in other areas and we plan to approach our stores’ community outreach initiatives in much the same way,” she says.
CSI offers Kaap Agri the opportunity to share with a wider audience – the mens-mense ethos that forms such an integral part of the company’s corporate DNA. This culture of caring encourages all employees – from the forecourt to store level and the corporate office – to see the silver lining in any situation and keeps everyone engaged.
“If we have made a positive difference in the lives of others, we will have honoured our brand promise of being a place where people still count.”