FACULTY OF ARTS
Bench Marks Centre for Corporate and Social Responsibility
The Bench Marks Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University (NWU) was formally established at the beginning of 2012 and the Centre was launched on 23 January 2012 by Bishop Jo Seoka in Potchefstroom. This entity came into being after numerous specialised studies on CSR by a focused research group at the NWU and the Bench Marks Foundation, were conducted since 2006. These research projects were conducted in different mining sectors in South Africa (coal, diamonds, gold and platinum), as well as in the wider SADC region (Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe) (see Research under Core Activities). The Centre was formed as a collaborative relationship between the NWU and the Bench Marks Foundation (BMF), an independent international NGO that sets and monitors CSR standards throughout SADC. The BMF is a partner within the Centre.
The core activities of the Centre consist of: research, teaching, community engagement and consultancy (see Core Activities). The research entity provides an alternative to similar centres and institutes at universities that rely on the business case for corporate social responsibility. The Bench Marks Centre promotes community engagement and development as the starting point of economic life with the understanding that if corporations are to be beneficial and accountable to communities, corporations cannot enjoy more rights than citizens. The main academic focus of the Bench Marks Centre for CSR is on the socio-economic dimensions of development and CSR; however, well aware of the fact that all other dimensions and facets are intertwined and inter-related, e.g. the environment, legal and political issues, and governance (see Research under Core Activities). Furthermore, one of the central aims of the Centre is to conduct collaborative research and, through this, CSR practitioners, academics, development agencies, corporations, government, communities, trade unions, civil society and the media are being engaged.
The Centre is primarily engaged in research in the mining sector, but the study focus does not exclude other sectors; research work in the retail sector as well the financial sector has also been done. With the help of research generated by the Bench Marks Centre, companies can improve their CSR by integrating social, economic and environmental performance standards into all their decision making and strategic planning. As part of the Centre's mandate, it also issues reports to companies about their CSR performance. Another service on offer is to classify companies’ ‘personalities’ according to a newly developed ‘Personality Typology’ in terms of their CSR activities and performance.
Currently, the Centre is formally hosted within the Focus Area: Social Transformation within the Faculty of Arts. The Centre also has strong ties with different subject groups (e.g. Public Management and Sociology) within the School of Social and Government Studies at the NWU, as well as with other entities and units over the three Campuses (Potchefstroom, Mahikeng and Vaal Triangle). Over and above the NWU connections, the Centre aims to collaborate over a wide academic spectrum; not only with other institutions in South Africa, but also with academia and other role players in different parts of Africa (e.g. Copperbelt University in Kitwe, Zambia and the University of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo), as well as abroad, (e.g. the University of Sheffield; the University of Kent; the University of Oxford; the University of Stirling, Scotland; the Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar Orissa, India; the Stockholm School of Economics and the University of Texas in Austin). At the end of 2012, the Swedish Embassy, through its development arm, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), provided seed funding to help the Centre become fully operational.