Extending corporate social responsibility programmes in the food retail industry to social grant recipients.
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The study proposes a corporate social responsibility (CSR) model for willing, major local food retailers, in an attempt to supplement existing poverty alleviation initiatives in South Africa. The study is motivated by the fact that nearly a third of the population receives state social grants and that these grants are used to support family members in the context of multiple socio-economic challenges. The study focuses on a particular crisis — the lack of access to basic food commodities. A lack of food has far reaching consequences as it impacts overall health, psycho-social wellbeing, productivity levels and most of all, a person’s sense of dignity. The proposed CSR model serves to produce consumer pricing for some basic food commodities, set far below the national average for inflation, exclusively for social grant recipients. Reduced consumer pricing is envisaged through a subsidisation scheme that involves a partnership between participating retail chains and their customers. The CSR model also requires collaborations between participating retailers, their supporting industries, the State and well-established NGOs with an intimate knowledge of the needs of poor communities. The proposed CSR model is a culmination of research into four areas. Firstly, the study delineates the extent to which social grants address poverty and socio-economic inequality in South Africa. Secondly, to explore the relationship between poverty and the access to affordable basic foods, the study examines India’s Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) — a nationwide basic food distribution programme designed to respond mass poverty. Thirdly, the study attempts to determine the potential of CSR programmes in attenuating poverty levels. Finally, the study evaluates two specific CSR programmes, KFC’s Add Hope and the Woolworths Group’s MySchoolMyVillageMyPlanet, in order to establish the possibility of adapting aspects of these CSR programmes to suggest a new CSR model for major, local food retail chains. The study employs John Rawls’ theory of distributive justice which explores the idea of justice as fairness (Rawls, 1999). The theoretical choice is apt because Rawls uses basic theoretical elements to suggest that a just society can permit social and economic inequalities amongst primary social goods — such as wealth and income — provided that such inequalities produce maximum expected social benefits for the least advantaged. Upon researching the four areas of interest, the study finds firstly, that despite the efficacy of social grants in preventing people from falling into destitution, grant amounts alone are insufficient in producing the desired redistributive effects. Secondly, through the exploration of the TPDS, the study finds a positive correlation between access to subsidised basic foods and poverty reduction. However, the study also establishes that a system such as the TPDS cannot be transplanted in South Africa because of the severe constraints on the South African economy. Thirdly, the study finds theoretical evidence that supports the efficacy of strategic CSR in producing ‘shared value’/mutual benefit for corporates and society. Finally, evaluations of the Add Hope and the MySchoolMyVillageMyPlanet campaigns, highlight the possibility of adapting aspects of these programmes in order to suggest the study’s proposed CSR model which is aimed at creating ‘shared value’ for greater redistributive effects.