NWU gives Africa’s social responsibility a huge push
The North-West University’s Potchefstroom Campus has started a new research centre, which will lead to the improvement of the living conditions of communities in the mining industry.
According to Prof Freek Cronje, director of this new Bench Marks Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, it was decided to focus their activities and expertise on the North West Province in particular. “We have a diverse province in which mining activities in particular figure quite extensively. Thousands of employees are involved and we must make sure that the wellbeing of these communities is looked after.”
The research centre was started in collaboration with the Bench Marks Foundation and they agreed on a collective research process. According to John Capel, executive director of this foundation, they have already been involved with research on the impacts of corporate social responsibility for a considerable time, but with the help of the NWU they can now strengthen and broaden their focus. “We find that there are many companies that misinterpret the term social corporate responsibility. However, we can now, together with the NWU’s expertise, help to make sure that companies fulfil their responsibilities.”
Cronje says that various methods were identified that will serve as measuring instruments regarding the influence that big companies have on the different communities in the province. “One of the major objectives of the initiative is to apply continued development in the different communities. We will apply it by means of research that is done on the issue of social responsibility. Our big focus lies in the North West Province, but our master’s and doctor’s degree students are also working on various facets of countries that form part of the Southern Africa Developing Communities.”
According to Prof André Duvenhage, director of the research entity: Social Transformation, the new centre will also do research with reference to the quality of life and the quality of natural resources where communities are directly affected by mining activities. “Issues such as the impact of the spreading of HIV and Aids, asbestosis, water pollution, air quality and even job creation must come under the magnifying glass.”
Cronje says they are currently in a final phase of preparation for a considerable grant from the Swedish government. “The grant will be applied to give the centre a financial push. A Swedish organisation, Diakonia, as well as the Stockholm School of Economics were also identified as partners.”
Prof Freek Cronjé.