The role of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in business ethics

The Development Bank of Southern Africa was established as a financial institution with the role of procuring financial and other resources for various developmental projects in South Africa and neighbouring countries. 

It is our primary focus to promote economic growth and human resource development through project funds. These funds are created in collaboration with industry partners in the national and international private and public sectors. 


What is corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

Corporate social responsibility refers to a corporate organisation’s commitment to giving back to communities, the industry, environment or toward the growth of the country through a number of structured projects. The purpose behind CSR is not to simply give back, but to make an impactful change using the resources available to the organisation. Companies which uphold ethical CSR practices have the opportunity to become more connected to the world around them. 

Corporate companies can set up any practices that align with their brand reputation, vision and mission. Typically, organisations set up CSR work in these categories: 

  • Volunteering - organisations attend voluntary events and do their part in injecting positive change to the communities. An example of this would be the 67 minutes on Mandela Day. 
  • Philanthropy - this refers to generous donations corporate organisations make toward worthy causes, whether in monetary value or it’s resources.
  • Environmental efforts - this includes a commitment to reduce environmentally damaging production resources. For example, an energy organisation will opt for renewable energy instead of traditional energy resources that rely on fossil fuels, which are damaging to the environment.
  • Labour practices - corporate organisations practice CSR by improving their labour practices to ensure fair treatment to their employees. 


Why does CSR matter?

Several studies have found that consumers search for more than quality products or services when looking into a company. They look for transparency in all its forms, including the causes organisations are associated with. Organisations which invest in CSR efforts stand to connect and engage more with customers as they get familiar with the burning social issues of the community around them. The importance of social responsibility in business and the ethics behind the responsibilities can be drawn by each organisation to fit their own objectives.

 There is no blueprint rule on which CSR strategies are ethical and which are not. However, according to King IV Report on corporate governance from the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa NPC, “good corporate governance requires an acknowledgement that an organisation doesn’t operate in a vacuum, but is an integral part of society and therefore has accountability towards current and future stakeholders.”

It states that corporate social responsibility is no longer a “nice-to-have” aspect but an essential ethical business practice for all organisations to hold them accountable and steer clear of corruptive methods. The report concludes that good governance is not a tick-box, compliance exercise or a marketing opportunity. Therefore, organisations need to engage in good business ethics which are appropriate for the organisation and the sector in which it operates.


A breakdown of DBSA’s role in CSR

Corporate social responsibility is embedded at the core of our work in the water and sanitation, energy, transport, and the information and communications technology (ICT) sectors. 

We work with, and on, various municipal and non-municipal projects within the above-mentioned sectors. Municipalities play a crucial role in supplying communities with basic services such as access to electricity, bulk water supply, roads, transportation and more. The non-municipal public organisations are hugely responsible for creating access to other services such as access to education, health services, telecommunications and more services. These projects are all aimed at stimulating economic growth and job creation for the betterment of our communities.

At DBSA, we are responsible for facilitating trade in Africa. We provide funding and related products and services for commercially viable and sustainable projects to countries within the Southern African Development Community region. This, in turn, enables us to contribute to economic development in these regions as well as promote regional integration.

We have strategic plans to increase the growth of each of our projects. Our aim is to maximise developmental impact and integrated infrastructure solutions for all communities within South Africa, as well as the countries within the Southern African Development Community region. We also hope to achieve operational efficiency to enable growth in equity and fund developmental activities.