Businesses urged not to cut social responsibility

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cape Town - The business sector has been urged to ensure that expenditure on social responsibility does not become the first and easiest budget item to cut when adapting to the current economic slowdown.

Speaking during the Presidency's Budget Vote in the National Assembly, this afternoon, Minister for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, said corporate social responsibility was no longer just a gesture of goodwill viable only during good economic times - but a necessary investment in the socio-economic sustainability of the country.

"The Codes on Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment requires that companies spend a minimum of 1 percent of net profit after tax on corporate social investment initiatives.

"In addition, this expenditure comes with tax and significant public relations benefits," Minister Mayende-Sibiya said.

Acknowledging the current pressure on profit margins, the minister called on business to adopt a long-term view of where each company and its community would like to be in 5 to 10 years time.

"A company operating in a socially sustainable environment with a diverse workforce in terms of gender and race will have a competitive advantage when our economy recovers," the minister said.

She noted that government was playing its part to ensure the welfare of children, adding that the review of the status of children in the country has been completed and its outcomes were going to guide the programmes of her department.

"We will be supporting the efforts to improve the quality of life of children including stepping up the Early Childhood Development programme. We have to ensure universal access to Grade R and double the number of zero to four year old children attending early childhood centres by 2014," said Minister Mayende-Sibiya.

She said the department will also strengthen relations with the Children's Advisory Council and other stakeholders as well as build on the progress made to streamline childrens' rights issues in government programmes at all levels.

The department will during this financial year undertake one of the main campaigns and advocacy programmes in government, by further implementing the Campaign on 16 Days and 365 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children.

On persons with disabilities, the minister said, while there are clear targets already available including an employment equity target of 2 percent and 4 percent for skills development, the challenge was to move both the public and private sectors towards meeting these targets.

"Our Department is determined to take on this challenge and ensure that every sector moves with necessary speed to meet disability targets, failure to achieve these targets is not an option if we are to remain true to our vision of an inclusive South African society," the minister said.

During this financial year, the department will finaliSe the Draft National Disability Policy and also prioritise issues of access by ensuring that public buildings and facilities are fully accessible to persons with various forms of disabilities.