The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the fact that people and business share a common destiny. One cannot exist without the other, and it is through our shared values, joint initiatives and mutual empathy that we will move beyond the pandemic to a new and better future, says Old Mutual.
Everybody, whether employed, retrenched or facing salary cuts, are confronting similar challenges, says Ms Thamini Sewbran, chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Board of Old Mutual.
“By supporting our communities, we can work towards mutually beneficial outcomes and build shared value,” she says. “If the communities in which we operate are not able to thrive beyond this crisis, we don’t have a business. Therefore, it is by investing in our fellow citizens that we help create an environment of hope and opportunity in which communities, individuals and businesses like Old Mutual can prosper sustainably.
“These efforts go far beyond making donations to good causes and building brand recognition or even brand goodwill. It is about making meaningful corporate social investments. Key considerations include what our contributions should be, which initiatives are appropriate and how to take action that reflects our shared values to help us all grow together.
“Old Mutual’s actions are guided by the essence of who and what we are. We are committed to relationships that span generations and we are driven by our understanding that what truly matters to society doesn’t change over the years.”
Acknowledging that Old Mutual in KwaZulu-Natal cannot address all the issues facing the province, Old Mutual turned to the Premier’s Office for guidance. With inputs from his office, departments including Social Development, and in partnership with NGOs, Old Mutual launched several programmes.
Together with the Office of the Premier and Disaster Management Office under the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA):
• We supplied personal protective equipment (PPE), food parcels, and dignity packs to vulnerable women and children
• We donated PPE to the SAPS for province-wide distribution to members
• We provided PPE to the South African Local Government Association for distribution across the province
• We contributed to the SAPS Education Trust’s “Widows and Orphans Fund” initiative
• Additional efforts to address food security needs in the province included the donation of food vouchers to the Thandanani Childen’s Foundation as well as to Food Forward SA.
Over the next few months, more food parcels will be donated to child and orphan-headed homes, and financial education sessions will be launched at an institutional and community level.
The common threads running through the Covid-19 and ongoing Old Mutual CSI programmes is a commitment to leadership and governance.
“Covid-19 has interrupted our lives, but we have survived many global ‘whirlwinds’ before, says Ms Sewbran. “We do not yet have all the solutions, but as leaders we know we will rise above this pandemic by consistently applying the fundamentals of accountability and resilience regardless of the challenge being faced.
“In times of uncertainty, leadership is about the ability to foster trust in an organisation as it moves towards achieving its objectives. Trust, however, has to be continuously earned and must be driven by integrity, transparency and empathy.
“We must take the time to listen to people and understand their experiences. At the moment, we are all facing issues, collective and individual, that require understanding so that people can buy-in to ideas and programmes and work together while going forward.
“When the lockdown was announced, Old Mutual immediately launched a supportive programme called ‘Adapt’ for its employees. People learned about what and why things were happening and were equipped with survival tools that went beyond just the business impact. These messages were supported by renowned subject matter experts on the newly enabled companywide digital platforms and were also taken externally to audiences like SMMEs and heads of businesses.
“It was clear to Old Mutual’s KZN Provincial Management Board that the first step in its Covid-19 relief programme was to identity the causes that were best suited to Old Mutual’s objectives and mandate. With limited resources, it was essential to extend help where it was most appropriate and most needed.
“Through our partnerships and ongoing involvement and oversight, we are confident we have been able to support and make a difference to the people who have been most vulnerable to the pandemic. In doing so, we could once again live up to our credo of being ’a certain friend in uncertain times’,” concludes Ms Sewbran.
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