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It is important for a bank to make a difference and uplift communities that it services

By unknown | Oct 29, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Standard Bank has introduced innovations to its existing corporate social investment strategy to bring it more in line with its vision, its values, its business objectives and the needs of the people it serves.

Standard Bank has introduced innovations to its existing corporate social investment strategy to bring it more in line with its vision, its values, its business objectives and the needs of the people it serves.

Nomsa Masuku, head of the strategy (CSI) at Standard Bank, says measurables are being put in place to ensure that all CSI expenditure represents a valuable investment in the development of South African communities.

She says the bank has throughout its 145-year history had a progressive soul. Though it always maintained a low-key position, Standard Bank has always been connected to its communities in some form or another.

"In today's market, we need more than the right heart, we need the right actions for the right reasons," says Masuku.

"The recognition of the need for change came from the business itself. We experienced a groundswell of interest in the impact we were making in the communities that we serve.

"We asked: How many lives were we touching? Were we really making a difference? How do we know for sure?" says Masuku.

This interest from the community has become the bank's new focus at looking at its strategies for social investment.

The bank's strategy is a radical shift from the conventional approach to CSI by big business. Normally businesses allocate and divide lump sums of money into focus areas linked to their business, and then fund suitable projects.

"We have adopted a community-centred approach," explains Masuku.

"We cannot separate ourselves from the communities in which we do business - by the very nature of our business. We rely on the communities themselves for many resources.

"The bank in turn adds value to those resources and derives profits.

"The more we can build into a community, the greater are our chances of deriving better profits," says Masuku.

"It's a matter of proactively working in the environment in which we do business, to ultimately improve our overall competitiveness. This means that it's simply a sensible business decision," she says.

The bank will invest in five local municipalities in each province every year and add more year after year.

Once the areas have been identified, Standard Bank will carry out an in-depth assessment of the communities on three main tiers:

l Health and Wellness;

l Education;

l Enterprise Development.

It will make decisions about that, which from the bank's perspective, is the greatest threat to a community's economic progress and what it is that is stopping it from achieving a vibrant local economy?

The entry point is always wellness and health, because if people don't have a sense of physical, mental and emotional wellness, this clouds their perception of life.

It comes down to basic needs such as: "Do I have a roof over my head?" and more specifically, "Do I believe I will be alive tomorrow?"

Assessing the state of wellness in a community is calculated by assessing the prevalence of the co-pandemics of HIV-Aids and tuberculosis.

If the prevalence is higher than 60percent, the fabric of that community's society is under threat.

The second tier is education. This is the information age, where our greatest commodity can no longer be touched or felt.

Masuku concedes, though, that access to information is not enough and that people need to be taught how to interpret and analyse information and use it to make decisions.

Education is a natural sequel to wellness. Once people have wellness under control, they need to learn to filter the available information, identify opportunities and convert those opportunities into means to improve and enhance their lives.

The quality of schooling becomes a great consideration when we look at the social and economic potential of a community.


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