Remembering a revered sociologist


Prof Freek Cronjé, former director of the Bench Marks Centre for CSR, had an illustrious career, the pinnacle of which was founding the centre in collaboration with the Bench Marks Foundation, an international and faith-based NGO.


Under his leadership, the centre took part in the groundbreaking “policy gap research” series in South Africa and on the continent.

He obtained a PhD in Sociology at the young age of 28 and lectured in sociology and migration studies, both locally and internationally.


Freek was promoted to full professor in 2016. He was also the vice-president and later president of the South African Sociological Association (SASA) and travelled extensively, particularly to India, Russia and Brazil.


Freek passed away on 1 April 2016.


Centre focuses on corporate social responsibility

The Bench Marks Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plays a pivotal role in sustainable development through its various research and community engagement projects.

 The centre is primarily engaged in research in the mining sector, although it has also done research in the financial and retail sectors and does not exclude research in other sectors. The research can be extremely valuable to companies wishing to evaluate and improve their CSR policies and practices.


Hosted in the focus area for Social Transformation within the Faculty of Arts on the Potchefstroom Campus, the centre is the brain child of its first director, the late Prof Freek Cronjé.


Since opening its doors at the beginning of 2012, it has embarked on exciting projects that not only enhance research and training in the CSR arena but also emphasise relevant and effective community engagement.


“The Bench Marks Centre is especially instrumental in raising awareness locally and internationally of the circumstances that mining communities find themselves in with regard to mining operations,” says Suzanne Reyneke, researcher.


The postgraduate programmes are major components of the academic activities of the centre, which offers a unique master’s and doctoral programme. Both qualifications are in development studies with a CSR curriculum. The centre also offers three accredited short courses in CSR.


Its postdoctoral fellow, Dr Ignatius Mariyadoss, says the centre’s expertise is renowned. “I became involved with the centre after searching for CSR experts on the internet. The names of the Bench Marks Centre for CSR and Prof Freek Cronjé were the first search results.”


The projects


The centre’s current research projects include its Soweto health project, an assessment of the extractive industries transparency initiative (EITI) and a revenue-sharing project in the mining sector.


The Soweto health project looks into the conditions people face when living near working or abandoned mines. The project will also investigate badly managed operations or mines that have been illegally abandoned in the Soweto area.


The Bench Mark Centre is critically assessing the EITI as part of another project. The EITI is a voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiative for the extractive industries, bringing government, industry and civil society together.


The newest project focuses on revenue sharing in the South African mining context, and is funded by the Open Society Foundation of South Africa.


This project aims to define the imperative of revenue sharing. It also determines and scrutinises revenue-sharing initiatives that are enforced or implied by legislation. Its aim, keeping international best practices in mind, is to recommend functional, viable and sustainable revenue-sharing models for the South African mining industry.


The future is bright


“The centre has a well-established relationship with other countries in BRICS (consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). We have international students in our master’s and doctoral programme. We hope to see that these international relationships extend even further,” says Prof Eddie Bain, senior researcher.


Christine Knoetze, administrative officer, says the centre has a promising future and will grow its research platform and master’s and doctoral students. It will also continue to reach affected communities through its research.


How alumni can get involved


The centre relies on funding for their projects and research. This is where alumni can become involved. “Alumni can identify and fund projects and we will then do the research on their behalf,” says Eddie.


Suzanne says the centre also uses experts in other disciplines and fields when they work on projects or academic publications.


For more information, phone Christine Knoetze, administrative officer, at
018 285 2561.


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more info

  • What is CSR?

    CSR is the proposition that companies are responsible not only for maximising profits, but also for recognising the needs of such stakeholders as employees, customers, demographic groups and even the regions they serve.


    Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers, www.pwcglobal.com In: Blowfield Michael & Murray Allen. 2014. Corporate responsibility. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

  • What is revenue sharing?

    Revenue sharing is the distribution of profits and losses between stakeholders, who could be general partners (and limited partners in a limited partnership), a company's employees, or between companies in a business alliance.


    Source: Wikipedia


    Revenue sharing can also be described as the splitting of operating profits and losses between the general partner and limited partners in a limited partnership. More generally, it is the practice of sharing operating profits with a company's employees, or of sharing the revenues resulting between companies in an alliance.




  • More about extractive industry

    The extractive industry consists of any operations that remove metals, mineral and aggregates from the earth. Examples of extractive processes include oil and gas extraction, mining, dredging and quarrying.




The Bench Marks Centre is also part of the National Research Foundation’s multidisciplinary project with the Vaal Triangle Campus. This project investigates the health and wellbeing of the Bekkersdal community near Westonaria from different perspectives and academic disciplines.


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