We speak to CEO of Spar Group, Graham O’Connor about the business of caring
HOW DO THE COMPANY’S CSI PROJECTS CONTRIBUTE TO THE BUSINESS AS A WHOLE?
We believe that, as a business, we exist in order to make a difference in the communities we serve. To this end, our responsibility is to ensure that we positively impact the communities around us by getting involved in the projects that uplift them. Our relationship with the communities is a symbiotic one and it goes beyond just giving, as we strive to provide sustainable solutions to the identified social challenges. For instance, we have projects that are aimed at reducing unemployment and we believe that this contributes to the grow the of the economy and, in turn, to the grow the of our business.
WHY DO YOU BELIEVE TR ANSFORMATION IS SIGNIFICANT IN SOUTH AFRICA?
Our beautiful country has a challenging history and i t is our job, as corporate South Africa, to drive transformation. For instance, unemployment and lack of skills are real problems which cannot be tackled by Government alone. I f we are to have a skilled work force and reduce unemployment, we need to be implementing solutions that bring us a step closer to addressing these problems. A transformed and productive work force can only mean grow the for our economy and therefore i t is important that we see transformation as a business imperative rather than a compliance issue.
WHAT ARE YOUR COMPANY’S KEY TR ANSFORMATION MILESTONES?
We believe that true transformation has got to be about empowering the previously disadvantaged communities, developing identified individuals and helping them set up their own stores. We tirelessly work with financial institutions in investing, in order to help previously disadvantaged qualifying individuals enter retail.
We are firm believers in skills development and we invest heavily in this area, as we know that it benefits both our business and the communities. We run several programmes and learnerships aimed at young people, as we believe that they are pivotal to a constant supply of skilled people.
We have also worked tirelessly to ensure that we incorporate small farmers into our supply chain.
Through our rural hubs, we have identified small- scale farmers, trained them and set up a facility to sell their products. We then use our infrastructure to sell their produce to our retailers, thereby ensuring that they have a reliable market.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR EXCITING PL ANS FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
We have recently partnered with Government in the Youth Employment Service ( YES) initiative, where we will be t raining 410 learners in our stores. We will be partnering with our suppliers in ensuring that we address scarce skills within our supply chain.
Our efforts in developing our previously disadvantaged retailers will continue and we are excited about the benefits that will be derived from this focus area.