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South Africa: The Role of History, Government, and Local Context

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This chapter discusses the context and practices of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in South Africa. It argues that the country's complex and painful history has significant implications for how CSR is understood and implemented. On the one hand, big business has been implicated in human rights abuses committed under apartheid; on the other hand, the apartheid history gave rise to early manifestations of voluntary initiatives to contribute to government policy changes and social development. The chapter describes the historical progression of the CSR discourse and practices in South Africa from an emphasis on corporate social investment — philanthropic initiatives especially in education and health — to a more integrated approach focused on sustainable development and linked to collaborative governance initiatives and partnerships. It also discusses the emerging market-based drivers for the increasing prominence of CSR in South Africa, though it also emphasizes the key role played by the government, in particular, in terms of its black economic empowerment (BEE) policies. The second argument of this chapter, therefore, is that in a country like South Africa, CSR cannot be defined purely as voluntary initiatives (as in Europe, for instance) and arguably there are no clear distinctions or divisions between voluntary business actions and state-led interventions. The third and final argument of this chapter is that CSR-related performance assessments and rankings play an important role — and the chapter considers one such assessment in some detail — but they often adopt a relatively superficial perspective on the interactions between companies and their socio-economic and natural environments. In particular, there is a need for more context-specific assessments that take into consideration the complexities of sustainable development at the local level, and this is illustrated by means of a brief discussion of mining companies CSR policies and practices in the Rustenburg area.

Keywords

  • Corporate Governance
  • Socially Responsible Investment
  • Forest Stewardship Council
  • United Nations Global Compact
  • Collaborative Governance

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Hamann, R. (2009). South Africa: The Role of History, Government, and Local Context. In: Idowu, S.O., Filho, W.L. (eds) Global Practices of Corporate Social Responsibility. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-68815-0_20

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