Whereas improvements in the overall socio-economic position in South Africa are heartening, these should not blind observers to a reality for many people of severe deprivation and closed opportunities.

The reality of this being a country of “two nations” in the daily realities of our people cannot and should not be ignored. For the private sector, part of the answer to this challenge of our times must come through a greater commitment to effective corporate social investment.

Corporate social investment (CSI) is carried out across much of South Africa’s larger corporate sector and increasingly among smaller operators in the formal private sector as a fundamental part of business practice.

Although the SA private sector is a world leader in establishing professionally-run CSI programmes (with the earliest of these starting in the 1950s), most of the uptake in this activity has come post-1994, beginning with larger entities establishing grantmaking trusts and foundations, and now encompassing medium-sized businesses too.

The waste industry is, however, lagging in this activity even though there are reasons of immediate and long-term advantage to its embracing of CSI.

When this is done, however, it could be in ways that are most effective, drawing on lessons already learnt elsewhere in the private sector.

These lessons must be shared and acted upon. One effective way of doing so is through the Mertech-supported Nation Builder programme.

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