Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address reignited the hope that it was still possible to build an inclusive society using our collective talents and resources. It was a presidential call to action, grand and inspiring. Then, during the budget speech, this wave of enthusiasm crashed headlong into the harsh fiscal realities facing SA. It was clear it will be hard work. It will also challenge corporate social investment (CSI) decision makers about where to focus their efforts. Companies spend R8bn/year on CSI — a contribution mirrored by R8bn in philanthropic donations from high-net-worth individuals. This doesn’t take into account contributions towards skills and supplier development. The 2017 Trialogue Business in Society Handbook says companies have spent R137bn on CSI over the past 20 years. One can rightly argue about the quality and impact of this investment. But the fact is, our transformation and governance codes (such as BEE codes and King 4), ensure that companies are a...

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