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Covid-19 will create opportunities for localisation but has widened trust deficit, Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) says

Boards must help create more resilient companies and be more involved in public policy.
As the industry balances responsible business as a driver for a national purpose, the renewed call to mitigate social risk will require a clear business focus on managing stakeholder capitalism towards social stability.
Navigating this complex landscape will require strong leadership, with senior executives expected to have broader fluency in tackling Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and changing regulatory environment everything from technology to environmental impacts and seeking new ways to create value.

The Covid-19 pandemic will create more opportunities for localisation as it has exposed the fragility of the global supply chains. For the African continent, this means deepening intra-continental trade in areas such as manufacturing. The pandemic has also highlighted the need for company boards to create more resilient businesses that can withstand such external shocks. These are some of the themes that emerged at the Deloitte Africa Risk Conference, held virtually in Johannesburg today.

The conference coincides with the release of the 12th annual edition of the Global Risk Management Survey produced by Deloitte and explores key trends that organisations have been less prepared for the impact of the pandemic on broader business and operational risks on strategy and performance, challenging organisational resilience in areas of supply chain disruption, cyber security, corporate culture, and conduct.

Chief Executive Officer at Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), Busisiwe Mavuso, who gave the keynote address, said that Covid-19 exposed the fragility of global supply chains and in South Africa widened the trust deficit due in part to corruption related to the Protective Personal Equipment purchase and the Temporary Employment Relief Scheme. Mavuso notes that there is a fracture within society that hinders the notion of bringing in a “conscious capitalism” and responsible business where public-and private partnership should stand to bring inclusivity of business and society measuring up to stimulate growth and close the inequality gap.

Ruwayda Redfearn, Deloitte Africa Board Chair highlighted that ethical leadership cannot be outsourced, it’s a fundamental component within social fibres that set a precedent to tackle the most pressing issues facing public-private partnerships. The context of encouraging the right conversations is driven by the need to solve education, health, and business continuity issues she added. She said businesses must become more involved in public policy formulation. For example, Deloitte has formed the Deloitte Africa Health Equity Institute (DAHEI) which uses data and analytics, research as well as strategic partnerships with government and health care organisations to advance health care equity in Africa, and in South Africa particularly has assisted with Covid-19 response.

Mark Victor, Deloitte Africa ESG Leader introduced the notion of building a continuum of resilience in business, “at the same time, organisations are needing to address climate change, developing new opportunities, strengthening community relationships, and investigating new ways to create value. All of this is in the service of pursuing sustainable growth and is reflected in the key industry trends identified for the new edition of our report.”

The webinar takes place as businesses are and should be responding to the future of risk, leveraging emerging technologies and the implementation of more responsible business practices. Social cohesion and business’ role in creating the safety nets have a firm responsibility to work towards addressing social injustice as a key theme that stood out firmly in the webinar.

Gavin Dalgleish, Group Managing Director, Illovo Sugar Africa expressed that social cohesion is important to communities in Africa where businesses are mandated to fulfill the community needs where these communities’ benefit from the production of economic inclusivity and employments. Dalgleish said the agro-processing industry is one of the key areas that can create high-value rural jobs while companies’ social responsibility programmes must be more responsive to local needs.

Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman, Chief Executive Officer, Gift of the Givers Foundation shared a similar view that social accountability brought the South African country together from the unrest that took place in July this year. Within cohesion he spoke to the prospect to create hope in society in a simple manner where people will want to see progress, and they cannot do it alone, Sooliman said there has been an immense strain on the social structures which have been neglected by the government in aspects of training, curbing the seven million unemployed youth, and finding an equilibrium of supporting the frontline industries to reignite the economy; so many skills need to be developed and absorbed into the social zeitgeist he pointed out. He pointed to the textile industry as a job creator and the use of psychology graduates to help ease the mental strain of the past two years.

In addition to civil society activism, other trends explored in the webinar series included building a responsible business of the future in Environmental Social and Governance factors, the future of risk, seamless service delivery, and sustaining public trust in government which the JSE, Woolworths, Sibanye-Stillwater, Interswitch Nigeria, MTN Uganda, and FNB contributed towards.