Social Justice and Advocacy

[WEBINAR] Business and human rights

Business and human rights

The World Economic Forum says human rights should find a permanent place in the boardroom, but companies often fail to make this key risk a priority. In fact, the private sector has a poor track record when it comes to human rights, according to the 2020 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB). Almost half the companies assessed faced at least one serious allegation relating to human rights, and there is a disconnect between company commitments and actual performance and results.

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The development sector cannot transform society until it transforms itself

The development sector plays a crucial role in tackling issues of inequality and advancing social justice. However, as South Africa battles to heal from its violent history and legacy of injustice, the sector – like all other sectors of our society – is being compelled to critically examine the sustainability and impact of its work. In this article, Zyaan Davids, Thought Leadership Manager at Trialogue;  Kanyisa Diamond,  Development Practitioner working in the social investment sector, focusing on education; and Khaya Tyatya, Director of Programmes at Zenex Foundation, join the growing call – so well articulated in the Social Justice Sector Review Report released by the RAITH Foundation in 2020 – for stakeholders in the development sector to meaningfully engage transformation beyond compliance.

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Business and human rights

Human rights are a key risk for business, yet many companies fail to prioritise the issue. The World Economic Forum contends that human rights must find a permanent place in the boardroom – but how can companies embed them in the business and make them an integral part of corporate culture? And what does best practice look like? Fiona Zerbst investigates. 

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Black Lives Matter

On 10 April 2020, 40-year-old Collins Khosa was killed by law enforcement officers who said he had violated lockdown regulations. The South African National Defence Force exonerated the soldiers and police implicated in his murder, but their report was widely criticised and called a cover-up. Multiple reports and videos of police and soldiers kicking, slapping, whipping, shooting at, and humiliating people violating the lockdown regulations emerged. By June, 11 people had died due to police action. On 9 June, thousands of South Africans attended Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Pretoria to protest violence by security forces as well as the type of systemic racism that has given rise to such abuse. They took their cue from the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States following the death of George Floyd, who was murdered during an arrest in Minneapolis on 25 May 2020. In the workplace, there is a growing understanding that the business sector must address biases and power imbalances, provide tangible support for black employees, and focus on closing the pay gap. According to ‘Inequality Trends in South Africa’, published by Statistics South Africa in 2019, white people still earn on average three times more than black people.

Source: Trialogue Business in Society Handbook 2020

Embracing Advocacy to Drive Real Change

Social justice work advocates for fair distribution of resources, equitable access to Constitutional rights, public and private accountability, and the strengthening of democracy. Chief executive officer of the Social Justice Initiative (SJI), Bongiwe Mlangeni, examines why corporate social investment in South Africa will be forced to expand its sphere of influence to include social justice advocacy.  

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Collaborative long-term investment needed for systemic change

Development stakeholders have heard the question many times: with considerable monetary investment from government and the private sector (companies in South Africa contributed R153 billion in CSI funds in real terms between 1998 and 2018), what lasting social change is being made? While social justice and advocacy work may be confused for political and adversarial initiatives, it is ultimately focused on ensuring equitable and systemic social change. Mark Heywood, executive director at SECTION27 explained that, “contrary to popular thinking, social justice work can, in fact, be pro-government. SECTION27, for example, works well with the Department of Health – examining which Constitutional rights to access to healthcare are not being met, and helping to facilitate solutions.”


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Does Activism Have Real Impact?

With one of the highest rates of public protests in the world, South Africa has been referred to as ‘the protest capital of the world’. It can be argued that protests arise in the absence of, or lack of, information about relevant and effective democratic processes. Protests affect everyone, including big businesses, which is why all sectors of society also have a role to play in helping to ensure public democratic empowerment.

A panel discussion on the impact of activism at The Trialogue Business in Society Conference 2018 explored the determinants for success, how impact can be measured, as well as some of the ways that donors can support activism.

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Business that Contributes to Systemic Social Change

According to Trialogue’s annual research, total estimated expenditure on corporate social investment (CSI) amounted to R9.1 billion in 2017. It is also estimated that, over the past 20 years, companies have contributed approximately R137 billion to social development, but what long-term impact has this spend had in our country?

The Trialogue Business in Society Conference 2018 probed CSI’s ability to contribute to positive systemic social change in a panel discussion featuring case studies from Discovery, Anglo American Platinum and Volkswagen South Africa.

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Alleviating Injustice through Corporate Social Investments

Investing in Social Justice and Advocacy to increase Corporate Growth and Economic Freedom for  South Africa

By Madison Kasper

Following the anti-apartheid movement, reconstruction began with South Africa’s constitution that highlighted the importance of social justice in order to achieve economic equity and systemic change. The foundation of groundbreaking change happens through defeating social discrimination and overcoming economic inequality while moving towards a stronger democracy. An investment in social justice for South Africa, is an investment into a stronger economy, abridged rates of poverty, and decreasing economic disparity. Corporate responsibility practices in South Africa play a critical role to bring sustainable systemic change and economic prosperity.

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