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Massmart awards research grant to unisa’s centre for corporate citizenship

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Massmart has awarded an annual grant of R100 000 to the Centre for Corporate Citizenship (CCC) at UNISA to do research and host a series of discussion groups on brand citizenship. The practice of corporate citizenship is regarded as one of the major debates of this century. The role of brands in advancing good corporate citizenship should therefore be seen as a vital part of this very important debate. The CCC is already regarded as thought leaders in the broad field of corporate citizenship in SA and made the strategic decision to include brand citizenship as a vital part of its critical reflection, research and education.

“The importance of an increased co-operation between business and society is acknowledged the world over – not only by politicians and academics but also by a growing number of businesses and civil society leaders,” says Prof Derick de Jongh, director of the Centre for Corporate Citizenship and convener of the Massmart Brand Citizenship Think Tank.

The theory that the business of business, is business, and that the sole social responsibility of a company is to maximise profits for its shareholders, as postulated by Milton Friedman in the seventies, no longer enjoys the popularity it once did.

The notion that business has a much broader citizenship role is strengthening within the context of the global economy. Many companies, such as Massmart, are discovering the benefits of aligning their corporate citizenship practices with their overall business strategy.

Brian Leroni, Massmart’s group corporate affairs executive says that Massmart’s various operating companies serve a large and diverse consumer base in fourteen African countries. This places the group in a position of considerable influence with the responsibility to act ethically and to embed responsible business practices in all its operating environments.

“We anticipate that the outcome of the research will guide us in our own sustainability initiatives that will identify new value-added dimensions for Massmart,” he says.

Consumers are demanding more from companies, particularly the well known brands. They want to know where products are manufactured and under what circumstances they are produced. In order to make informed buying decisions, consumers should be able to feel reassured that products and merchandise are sourced from ethical manufacturers and suppliers. Above all, they want to know what impact their purchases have on health, social and environmental issues.

“We recognise the importance of social, cultural and environmental responsibilities to the consumer as well as economic and financial ones to our shareholders. Over and above that, there is a growing recognition that brand citizenship is a significant and increasing factor in brand recognition and value,” he says.

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