Business Playing a Citizenship Role

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The concept of shared values includes corporate policies and practices that improve the reputation of an organisation while evolving social and economic situations in the societies it operates. The United Nations Global Compact is a voluntary “corporate citizenship initiative” launched in 2000 with over 3000 participating organisations in 100 countries and about 700 international civil society and labour organisations. Organisations participate in the UN Global Compact and make a pledge to share the idea that business practices embedded in common principles contribute to stable, inclusive global market and help shape affluent and thriving societies. The organisation’s participation can also be a strategic tool in building the organisation’s reputation.

The Global Compact of South Africa, the Global Network South Africa was established in 2007 and is managed by a multi-stakeholder advisory committee. The Network is headed by the National Business Initiate, a voluntary coalition of national and multi-national companies that want to achieve sustainable development. It is vital for the organisations that participate in the Global Compact to work towards implementing its principles. The integration of the principles as part of the business strategy and operation, the dialogue with the organisation’s stakeholders, transparent communication and practical actions taken by the organisation are the key success elements in implementing the principles of the Global Compact. The United Nations Global Compact suggests that the inclusion of the global compact principles into strategies, policies and procedures and forming a culture of integrity, organisations are performing their basic responsibilities to people and the planet and they are also preparing for long term business success. The UN believes that businesses need to address and monitor issues of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption as their responsibility.

Pohle and Hittner (2008) argue that CSR is not just a regulatory or optional cost anymore but an investment for financial returns and a “sustainable growth strategy”. Strategic philanthropy helps organisations to align charitable giving with business strategy, company skills and market desires. It is best for businesses to practice CSR as it stakeholders rely on business to not only be in the pursuit of profits but to be responsible to their workers, communities and other stakeholders to have a healthy environment in which to operate in the future and ensure its long-term sustainability.

Although critics of the concept of creating shared value claim that it simplifies the complexity of social and environmental issues, the Harvard Business School suggest that creating shared value goes beyond philanthropy. It is more about the organisation’s ability to create economic value while addressing the needs of the society. The UN Global Compact and the ten principles require a shift in thinking, it requires a move from just a philanthropic position to a more strategic and sustainable outlook of the concept.


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