The future of business is philanthropy and sustainability

Portrait of volunteer woman holding plant in park. Picture: iStock
Portrait of volunteer woman holding plant in park. Picture: iStock

Charitable giving is not a new phenomenon. It has been embedded in most societies for centuries, although it is at different phases of maturity across the globe. This decade sees philanthropy and sustainability at a pivotal point…

The changing face of philanthropy

The forever evolving geopolitical landscapes of countries, continents and the world; changing societal attitudes and behaviours adjusting to a more connected and data driven world; the considerable acknowledged gaps between wealth and poverty, and a greater awareness of how philanthropy can create social change have led to new ways of thinking and doing.

For an increasing number of philanthropists, creating a legacy has finally taken a back seat to making an immediate impact. These factors and more are influencing our traditional approaches to giving. We are seeing a fundamental shift in how and when we give as individuals, and as organisations, how we receive and how change is created through our development work.

In truth, philanthropy means generosity in all its forms, sometimes referenced as giving gifts of “time, talent and treasure”.

This may sound as if it applies to individual giving only, but there are many types of philanthropic efforts in South Africa that apply – local community giving, corporate giving, private foundations and grant making organizations all have a hand in effecting change.

Corporates have, by far, the largest potential to start a revolution in the humanitarian space. Meeting government legislation, CSI, CSR and Corporate Social Value (CSV) departments, socially responsible impact investing, BEE compliance, collaborations with similarly driven conscious companies, and offering internships and bursaries are the types of initiatives that support our shared transformational efforts. Business as usual won’t get the job done – we must adapt.

Conscious Social Responsibility

Social responsibility is now seen as a strategic tool for economy and nation building, as opposed to the traditional welfare lens from which it has previously been viewed. As the Baby Boomer generation gives way to the next, the rationale of where and how to give is changing. Millennials are known for being extremely invested in social good and Gen Z follows this trend towards more sustainable living. Seeing as both generations are set to become the majority of workers and consumers in the future, businesses must start acclimatising.

Afrika Tikkun works in the social responsibility arena with a focus on South Africa’s youth. As such, we are a conscious company that is authentic, transparent, ethical, innovative and responsible. For us, earned income, funding, corporate citizenship and sustainability is of utmost importance. The partners we work with have a like-minded approach to business.

It’s also vital to mention that corporate citizenship cuts across all players in the private sector from big business to small. If we can find alignment and common purpose across all sectors, we will be on the right path towards the transformation we all seek. Responsible business practices all round can drive societal development


Sustainability deliberately focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future with regard people, planet and profit. For businesses efficiency, reputation and profits are the biggest ways in which sustainability benefits companies. But more than in-house planning and implementing, for real sustainability in business there needs to be a blend of approaches across all operations and partner relationships should be considered in shaping wider sustainability schemes. Efforts to track results, measure impact and invest in long-term outcomes must be at the heart of companies making social investments.

It’s obvious that companies entrenching sustainability practices now will be more resilient in the future. Today’s sustainable businesses are set to be tomorrow’s industry trailblazers.

More and more we hear about the benefits of being mindful, conscious, sustainable. Do these philosophies not parallel the meaning of philanthropy? These practices should absolutely be built into the mainstay of organisations, as well as on an individual level. They need to become part of company strategy and workplace culture, with people actively engaged in sustainability programs. In fact, in absolutely every facet of life we should all be acting on the ‘do no harm principle’.

We should value the people and communities in which we operate and show appreciation for kind, hardworking and passionate staff, volunteers and partners. This, I believe, should be part of the mission of all companies in the country if we are to see lasting change.

And whilst there is hope, a lot more can be done to build a stronger society in South Africa. How we achieve this hinges on the involvement of all parties in the country, not least of all private business.

Onyi Nwaneri is CEO of non-governmental organisation Afrika Tikkun Services


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