Corporate social responsibility in
post-apartheid South Africa
Purpose – The purpose of the paper is to analyse the relationship between corporate social
responsibility and the concept of Black economic empowerment in South Africa. The paper examines
whether government interventions in the area of corporate social responsibility post-1994 have been
successful. The paper also assesses critically the level of voluntary commitment that businesses in
South Africa have displayed in the area of corporate social responsibility.
Design/methodology/approach – Corporate social responsibility in South Africa pre-1994 and
post-1994 is examined and compared. The Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act (2003),
the new South African Companies Act (2008) and the King Codes of Corporate Governance Principles in
South Africa are critiqued. A distinction is made between government and business corporate social
Findings – The paper principally concludes that meaningful corporate social responsibility in the area
of human rights can be better achieved if it is based on commitment and collaborative partnership.
Practical implications – The paper provides a basis for empirical research on corporate social
responsibility and socio-economic development in South Africa.
Originality/value – This paper adds to the growing discourse of academic literature that supports a
strategic partnership-based approach to corporate social responsibility.
Keywords Corporate social responsibility, Broad-based Black economic empowerment,
Post-apartheid South Africa, Partnership-based approach, Human rights, Economic development
Paper type Research paper
One of the goals contained in the Preamble to South Africa’s ﬁnal Constitution (the
Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996) is to ‘‘improve the quality of life of all
citizens’’. Sixteen years into democracy, it appears that South Africa is very far from realising
this goal. Ngwenya (2007) notes that ‘‘despite the democratic elections of 1994 which ended
the political oppression of black people, socio-economic oppression persists even today for
a large number of black South Africans’’.
In order to analyse properly the current state of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in
South Africa, this paper will ﬁrst offer a brief background of South African law. A
distinction will then be drawn between CSR pre-1994 (i.e. before the election of South
Africa’s ﬁrst democratic government) and CSR post-1994. The pre-1994 discussion will
set out the position according to South African common law, legislation and case law. The
post-1994 discussion will look at government and corporate initiatives in the area of CSR.
The success of government interventions in the area of CSR post-1994 will be examined
critically and the relationship between corporate claims regarding CSR and actual
practices on the ground will be explored. This will be followed by a discussion of the
recent amendments to South African company law and the introduction of a revised
corporate governance code.
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY JOURNAL
VOL. 8 NO. 2 2012, pp. 270-288, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1747-1117 DOI 10.1108/17471111211234888
Sharlene Ramlall is a
Lecturer in the Faculty of
Law, Rhodes University,