Local community development is changing the future of our industries
- Posted by Craig Simmer
Companies are formally starting to think about and change how they impact the world around them. As business we are recognizing that the long-term health of our industries is directly tied to our support of our people, local communities, and the environment. It’s uniting in the pursuit of sustainable development that underlines
our goal of positive change.
Corporate social responsibility is more than a marketing opportunity
We all know that we’re meant to demonstrate a sense of corporate social responsibility when it comes to sustainability. This idea isn’t new. But we’re beginning to move beyond the perspective that it’s simply because that’s what people want to hear.
Companies that genuinely embrace and deeply integrate their corporate social responsibility initiatives do so because they understand that it not only benefits others, it has a significant positive impact on their bottom lines.
How community development shapes long-term business and market opportunities
Under the broad umbrella of sustainability, local community development is one of the most valuable investments companies can make for the long-term health and success of their businesses and the markets in which they operate. There is perhaps no better place to observe this than in South Africa.
The Tugela River, the largest in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province and one of the most important in the country, once separated one of the province’s poorest communities from an area of economic activity and access to schools. In response to the provincial government’s community access program, our project team built a safe, all-weather bridge across the river to allow communities to access social and economic needs without putting their lives at risk.
The power of legislation and formalized corporate programs
Historically, the metals, mining, and infrastructure sectors in South Africa have been slow to respond to calls for better corporate citizenship. More recently, both legislation and big corporate mishaps have jolted companies awake to the realities of the negative financial impacts of not taking social responsibility seriously.
The South African government has established the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) program to redress economic imbalances created during the apartheid era that concentrated prosperity into a narrow majority while disadvantaging many populations across the country. This legislation has led to the formalization of many corporate programs to invest in and support the development of local black- and minority-owned businesses. Beyond the local benefits, the BBBEE program is repositioning South Africa’s competitiveness on the world economic stage.
Bridging the gaps for underserved communities
Many of the world’s mine sites, plants, and industrial operations are located in or tied to remote or rural areas where community development often requires starting from the most basic foundations.
Such community development projects have a positive impact as local communities are given the tools to elevate their own prosperity. They also provide community members with opportunities to access education, participate in the country’s economy, and establish a new standard of living for generations to come.
Socioeconomically stable and better educated citizens create larger, more diverse talent pools and greater participation in the economy. For increasingly globalized industries, the ability to be competitive with other nations is fundamental for establishing a successful, sustainable future.—Craig Simmer
Lessons for the rest of the world
Our project teams are taking lessons learned from South Africa’s approach and applying them to the way we do business globally. The benefits of local community development are widely applicable for business leaders around the world.
Through enterprise and supplier development programs that support local minority-owned businesses, we have nurtured better partnerships and built stronger supply chains.
Legislating such programs brings rigor to these initiatives by mandating the establishment of formal processes that measure impacts and compare results against original objectives. The measurable benefit of community development is the hard evidence of its far-reaching impact.
Community development initiatives constitute some of the longer-term investments companies can make for their future business success. From building critical infrastructure in underserved communities to supporting youth and STEM education programs, we’ve witnessed the power of early-stage interventions in shaping more robust and prosperous communities.
Socioeconomically stable and better educated citizens create larger, more diverse talent pools and greater participation in the economy. For increasingly globalized industries, the ability to be competitive with other nations is fundamental for establishing a successful, sustainable future.
Interrupting the business-as-usual mentality
It’s almost impossible to say what the world will look like in another fifty years. What we do know is that we need to adapt. We need to adopt sustainable practices.
We know that we all have a better vision for what the world could look like if we choose to act with purpose. We have the tools and the opportunity to reduce socioeconomic inequality, provide better access to basic needs, and uplift our people and our planet. The evidence is on the table: it’s good for the world and it’s good for business.
About the author
Craig is the regional director of Infrastructure for Hatch’s Africa, Europe, and Middle East region, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Craig also leads Hatch’s socioeconomic development efforts in South Africa, which have contributed to Hatch achieving a Level 1 Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment rating for three years standing.