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Investigating a South African listed company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives in varying economic conditions.

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The role of the organisation in society has been an ongoing conversation with many scholars believing the organisation should play an active role within the community they operate and should be held accountable for the social and environmental impact of their business activities. Almost every major organisation has a CSR programme of some sorts, or they at least report annually on the impact of their business’s activities on society and the environment as stipulated by the King Report on Corporate Governance and enforced by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). A warranted question is what would be the firm’s approach towards investing back into society and the environment if its financial gains were to be strained by an economic downturn or incline? This study aims to explore CSR initiatives during boom and bust economic periods by exploring a South African listed Company’s CSR programme during the varying economic climates. A qualitative study was conducted. The study was conducted at the organisation’s headquarters in Midrand, Gauteng, South Africa. A purposive sampling strategy was used with a targeted population made up of 11 members of the organisation’s CSR department, where all their national CSR activities are decided. Respondents were chosen based on their ability to adequately respond to the interview questions. Secondary data was collected in the form of integrated reports. Content and comparative analysis was implemented in the analysis of data. Findings from the study identified a shift in the purpose of the organisation with a stronger economic focus during the 2007-2009 bust period when South Africa’s economy was in a recession. Findings also identified customers and employees as the most significant stakeholders during the boom and bust economic periods. Company X’s social programmes focused on Education, Community and Health initiatives during all economic periods. Company X invested in improving their operation’s impact on the environment as part of its environmental effort during all economic periods. Company X CSR budget was unaffected by South Africa’s economy and grew every year. In conclusion, there was no evidence of a shift in the implementation of Company X’s CSR programmes during the economic periods assessed due to the organisation’s financial performance rallying despite South Africa’s and the industry’s GDP growth. That being said, there is evidence of the purpose of the organisation shifting during these economic periods.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.