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Corporate Citizenship: A strategy or tragedy?

Corporate Citizenship: A strategy or tragedy?

As the National Development Plan (NDP) aims to eliminate poverty, reduce unemployment and reduce inequality by 2030, private sector companies are expected to help realise these goals. With this pressure to support the mentioned NDP, sought out initiatives in which the private sector has contributed (directly or indirectly) includes economic development, employee equality, improving the quality of workforce through skills development; rural development and social cohesion and social entrepreneurship.

The question that begs to be answered is: How effective and transparent are these initiatives?.

Streamlining an organisation’s strategy to factor in the above has the potential to positively make a difference (however small or big it may be) to those impacted by it. The challenge organisations often encounter in a strategic initiative of this type is the “belief” that capital is required to drive this; which relays towards a horse blinker vision approach. Think of it like this – if your business was taking strain, instinctively you identify ways to mitigate risks i.e. innovation, diversification in revenue streams, new products/services etc. By being “forced” into this situation, we consciously put an effort to execute successfully. Similarly, as leaders, should we not consider an organisation culture that replicates the same for “voluntary” strategic initiatives; especially those that have the potential for positive economic and social impact?

The burning question lies: How is it we make voluntary strategic initiatives mandatory in our organisational strategy?

Corporate Citizenship

The very impact organisations’ have on society today is a core strategic component of brand image and brand identity. Corporate citizenship is no longer a corporate social responsibility initiative or marketing gimmick, but rather an executive leadership business strategy – one that defines an organisation’s very identity. Recent research as far as 2018 by Deloitte reveals that eliminating poverty, reducing unemployment and reducing inequality is gaining global popularity as a hot topic for discussion. Interestingly, the research reveals that organisations are not willing to wait for political solutions but prefer to self-act upon addressing these critical problems proactively.

Authentic Citizenship Strategy

In the current era of social enterprise, this is an ideal opportunity for organisations to make citizenship a core part of their strategy and identity. Leaders need to communicate a single, comprehensive authentic strategy which defines the organisation’s purpose. Subsequently, organisational leaders should be held accountable for the outcomes. In describing this, there are various aspects regarding authentic citizenship, from; how your organization impacts society, how well your product/service meets people’s needs, what your impact on community is, how your employees feel about their jobs etc.

The authenticity of these diverse activities moves the shift of corporate social responsibility to authentic citizenship strategy. Window dressing these activities as corporate social responsibility can result in bypassing an organisation’s potential to positively impact economic development and social development.

Assuming authenticity is maintained, another question lies: Should organisations not be fairly recognised and acknowledged for their efforts?

CSR: Citizenship Strategy Recognition

Even though corporate citizenship is gaining rapid popularity in an organisation’s self-interest; there still lies that grey cloud – is it mandatory or voluntary?


The saying of “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” holds true. If the National Planning Commission expects to achieve Vision 2030 successfully with the support of organisations, there needs to be “recognition” for business leaders who have proven the results in elimination of poverty, reduction in unemployment and reduction in inequality. This inherently has the potential to create continuous commitment and authenticity behind citizenship strategies. As a knock-on-effect, this may create a competitive landscape environment where organisations automatically digest authentic citizenship strategies in line with their brand image and brand identity.

We all have a role to play in moving our Nation forward. We need both sectors – public and private – to play their part in advancing the South African economy. The support of the one for the other will inherently eliminate impediments to a successful future.

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