Challenges and opportunities regarding CSR in South Africa
Together with the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) and Bench-Marks Foundation, Diakonia held a seminar on the 20th of November about challenges and opportunities regarding corporate social responsiblity (CSR) in South Africa.
Ten year analysis
First up on the seminar was John Capel from Diakoina's partner organization Bench-Marks Foundation in South Africa,which Diakonia support through the Africa Economic Justice programme (AEJ). He presented Bench-Marks Foundation's CSR study on Lonmin, one of the biggest mining companies in South Africa.
No new housing since 1999
One of the CSR aspects studied was housing, where Lonmin had promised in 2004 to build 650 houses for its workers, and 2,000 houses in 2005. However, no new houssing has been constructed since 1999, and the houses that do exist are not houses where any of the workers want to live due to the houses' low quality.
Broken promises and worthless commitments
Coupled with the broken promises regarding housing, Lonmin has, according to Capel, also been unable to keep its commitments regarding environmental pollution. This is due to the fact that the values of spread mining dust and sulphur oxide from Lonmin are way above the standard limits of mining companies in South Africa.
As a conclusion of the study, Bench-Marks Foundation sees that Lonmin's CSR work is full of "broken promises and worthless commitments". Due to this, the organization was filed a complaint, asking for Lonmin's mining license to be removed. "We of course know that this will not happen, but it is important to make this point for future reference", said Capel at the seminar.
Conflict sensitivity - a key for the private sector
after Capel, Diakonia's project manager Niklas Hansson presented the CCDA (Commercial Conflict Dependent Actors) project, which is run by Diakonia, the University of Gothenburg and the Church of Sweden. In his presentation, Hansson emphasised that it is crucial that when companies start working in high risk countries, conflict sensititvity needs to be central in order to not make the conflict worse.
Need for transparency
Hansson also stressed one of main findings of the studies from Myanmar, the DRC, Colombia and the occupied Palestinian Territory; the need for corporate transparency. Being transparent in where taxes are paid and who the companies are co-operating with are pivotal to not spur the conflict in the high risk countries. Another part is also to invets reources in control of actors co-operating with the company, to exclude foul play in all instances.
Comparison between Sweden and South Africa
The smeinar finished with a presentation of a study made by SSE professor Håkan Tarras-Wahlberg, where he compared how Swedish minig companies do work regarding CSR, in comparison to how South African ones do. His results showed that the established Swedish companies often have low quality CSR work due to their inexperience in dealing with CSR, while South African companies also fail to live up to their CSR promises despite their high knowledge within the area. There is thereofre a need for results in companies's CSR work, both in Sweden and South Africa, to ensure that the damages made by the companies are diminished.