This past weekend has seen us through one of South Africa’s well acclaimed arts festivals and one of Kwa-Zulu Natal’s most prominent, the Witness Hilton Arts Festival. Amongst all the visual and performing arts that the festival paraded, an intense dialogue on “Business, Education and Sustainability was under way. This involved representatives of corporate, small business, the government and the general public, in discussion on the importance of economic, environmental and social sustainability.
Sustainability, is the new buzz word in business, in South Africa and all over the world. This is since in recent years research has established that investors and stakeholders interest in business is no longer only of the financials but also of the organisation’s effort to increase social investment. For business and its stakeholders, sustainability represents the commitment of companies to achieve current financial objectives without compromising the achievement of future financial, economic, social and environmental objectives.
This vigorous interaction on sustainability included Mr Sandile Zungu of Zungu Investments and a member of the World Economic Forum, stressing the importance of business leaders approaching the matter of sustainability with the right attitude. He emphasised on the great need for business to channel a significant amount of resources to eradicating poverty , and giving opportunity to the average person. He expressed his belief by saying “ We can’t sit around being a few achievers” and expressed his concern about business leaders “turning a blind eye on poverty just because it is convenient to do so.”
Some insight was also shared into the government’s effort to cultivate a sustainable culture of education, through listening and interaction with regards to the implementation of some educational policies.
Mr David Polkinghorne, CEO of Grindrod Bank, highlighted the increasing awareness and interest of society in a sustainable economic and environmental future and the importance of companies to make a considerable effort towards social integration. He added that a business that does this successfully definitely may get to profit. He expressed this without ignoring the fact of the natural objective of businesses to seek profit and not realistically implement a sustainability policy. He made an example of cashing in on “Being a green bank” which does not necessarily automatically mean that as a company you are implementing a comprehensive sustainability strategy. Other companies represented at this dialogue included Uniliver, represented by Ms Louise Duys.
It is apparent from this dialogue, of the effort the south African arts, business and the government to maintain social interest in business in order to create a sustainable future. One can only hope however, that this is a beginning of more dialogues and inspiration towards immediate positive action by all the relevant parties, towards a more sustainable business, economic, education and environmental future for South Africa, and the world as a whole.