Inspiring words of leadership from Iqbal Surve

Under the pioneering leadership of Iqbal Surve, Sekunjalo has had its fair share of trouble including the life threatening Leisurenet debacle and lately commotion around the company’s BBBEE credentials and the noise surrounding the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry tender. The group has managed to navigate these challenges through the inspiring leadership of Surve. His is a kind of business leadership that we at ujuh.co.za campaign for.

Here follows his 2012 Chairman statement. You might want to read the founding statement of this series in ujuh.co.za here;  http://www.ujuh.co.za/opinions/magnifying-the-role-of-the-board-chairperson/; to fully comprehend what we are on about.

Iqbal Surve’s 2012 Sekunjalo Chairperson’s Statement

I recently had the privilege to deliver a keynote speech at an Innovation conference. I was impressed by this wonderful quotation which emphasised for me the importance of social, economic, resource and intellectual capital.

“In the knowledge economy, those who best understand today’s economic, political and social challenges are the ones who succeed. They are also the ones who can discern the true value of intellectual capital.”

South Africa is a young democracy in which there are many pressures to conform to the stereotype. As a business, Sekunjalo is constantly bombarded by others asking us to be “the same” as every other business. Our emphasis on being true to our ethos and identity can best be explained by Emerson, the American poet, who said – “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is an honour and privilege to reflect and report on the performance of Sekunjalo Investments Limited in its 13th year as a JSE-listed company.

In a year where there is much discussion about Black Economic Empowerment (“BEE”), its modalities and different applications through government’s BEE codes, Sekunjalo continues to be a pioneer. In recognition of Sekunjalo’s continuing contribution to the transformation of South African society, the development of micro entrepreneurs, the support of social entrepreneurs, the extensive corporate social investment programmes, employee development and, more importantly, our strong focus on enterprise development, the company once again features as the top empowerment company in the Annual Financial Mail Empowerment Survey.

It is worth noting that Sekunjalo remains the only company to have consistently topped the rankings in its sectors and overall over the last few years. I have no doubt that Sekunjalo’s placing as the number one empowerment company is due to its strong ethos of developing a business model which attempts to narrow the inequality gap in our society and that uses the talent of all South Africans to build a model company for the future.

Sekunjalo’s recognition of its leadership in the transformation of our society, its innovation in business models in a developing country and its strong focus on investing for social good has seen the company continue to be invited to participate in a number of global forums and multilateral organisations.

Recently, Sekunjalo has ensured that sustainability with a particular reference to climate change emains a core pillar of the Group’s sustainability platform. Sekunjalo has been invited by the World Economic Forum (“WEF”) to join a number of countries in the Green Growth Action Alliance (G2A2) where Sekunjalo, together with other members of the WEF and the G20 group, will be supporting initiatives to limit the impact of climate change.

Sekunjalo’s executives have also been involved in a number of climate change initiatives, including co-hosting the Nobel Laureates Symposium on Climate Change at COP17, and the Rio+20 Earth Summit. This included learning journeys on climate change to Greenland and, most recently, Iceland. My own personal experience of having hiked through the glaciers of Iceland to the volcanic crater and witnessed the Ilulissat Glacier in Greenland diminishing has impressed upon me the need for businesses and

business leadership to become more involved in impacting the issues of climate change.

In a world of increasingly limited resources, a growing population, and change in weather patterns as recently seen on the east coast of the USA this year, there is an urgent need for business leaders to address collectively what they are able to do in the area of climate change.

Sekunjalo is committed to being part of this process and it has also invested in a number of enterprises that are able to impact resource efficiency and better energy utilisation.

In the past year, Sekunjalo worked closely with a number of local environmental groups to support the initiatives on climate change.

Sekunjalo continues to perform well and in line with the expectations of the Board. This performance is all the more remarkable, considering the very difficult global business environment, the crises in Europe, the slowing Asian economies, as well as social and labour unrest in the South African landscape that has created an unsettling business environment, which impacts corporate growth. I am, however, confident that this “perfect storm” will pass and that the South African economy will continue to grow and create jobs.

The African economy will likely show exceptional growth over the next ten years. Companies such as Sekunjalo will continue to play a leading role in reinvesting our profits into the economies on the African continent, thus ensuring growth, stability and prosperity for the people of Africa.

South Africa itself continues to grow as a young democracy and the year 2012 is not only the centenary of the ruling ANC party but is also a year in which the ANC has its elective leadership conference. We are confident that the conference outcome will further strengthen our young democracy and ensure that South Africa continues to take its rightful place in the global political and economic landscape.

It would be amiss if I were not to mention the numerous initiatives of the Sekunjalo Development Foundation in supporting the arts, young musicians, educational programmes with a focus on extremely poor students, and entrepreneurship support initiatives. Some of these programmes are highlighted in the integrated report that follows.

Many people have questioned why Sekunjalo spends so much of its resources in supporting an extensive social development programme. Such critics argue that Sekunjalo should only be focused on its businesses. The events of the past few months in South Africa and globally where young people, workers and miners have felt dislocated from the enterprises around them, have vindicated our view that the role of business must be beyond that of short-term profits and gains. It is Sekunjalo’s view that business in a developing society must play an important role as part of a social compact to improve the lot of that society. This has remained the core ethos of Sekunjalo from its founding to its current view on the role of business in society. Our objective is that, through our business initiatives, social development programmes, and innovative leadership, we will be able to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor and in so doing, enable people to have dignity.

Sekunjalo’s continued commitment to innovation has seen it invest in highly innovative technologies and businesses which are now beginning to contribute a greater part of the Group’s profits. The lesson from this is that although there is a long period of investment required for innovation, the results are often rewarding due to the job creation outcomes and the ability to attract technical and scientific expertise which otherwise would have been lost to South Africa and the African continent.

Sekunjalo would not be as successful as it is today without the rich talent of its many diverse and competent employees. One of the highlights of the Sekunjalo calendar is the recognition of these employees at the annual employee awards ceremony. It is my particular delight to see young people who have climbed this great hill of success and who continue to excel in our various businesses as entrepreneurs, business leaders and scientists. Most importantly, these are young people who exemplify the kind of leadership which is true to the core values of Sekunjalo.

I would like to use this opportunity to thank the employees of this company who are located in every part of our country and parts of our continent for their unselfish commitment and for putting their immeasurable talent at the disposal of our company. We are thrilled that many of our employees have in the past year become shareholders of our company. I know that their continued passion, dedication and commitment to our company and its goal to bring about a more prosperous society would not be

possible without the support of their families and friends.

Sekunjalo and I thank you for this commitment and continue to consider our employees as our partners in our onward journey to remain a group with integrity, singular dedication to upliftment, multiple innovation, and a company that respects and applauds the diversity of its employee base. Sekunjalo’s representatives continue to represent the company in Africa and globally in multilateral forums. Our initiatives are directed at the creation of value for all of our stakeholders and a very clear vision of the kind of South African society that we need to work towards, especially in the early days of our democracy.

When Sekunjalo was founded its name reflected its mission – Now is the time. We believed then that the time for business to be a bridge in a developing society was important. Now we once again say, Africa now is the time for business to bridge the gap between civil society and government by using its influence to create employment and opportunities. Now is the time to create a vision of a future that people can believe in, now is the time to make the challenges of economic and social deprivation history.

This is the kind of company that Sekunjalo is.

Sekunjalo continues to create a platform of hope to many South Africans in its employ and society through its activities and various initiatives. If ever there has been a time in the history of our country that requires business leaders to play a more leading role in holding the centre together, then this is it. The time is now for business to work in a non-partisan way with its stakeholders, to create an investment climate that will see more and more South Africans and foreigners investing in our country and continent.

The time calls for a correlation of the good for innovative solutions directed at solving the challenges of our society, for more effective delivery mechanisms, for balance in the needs and wants of business and public sector leaders so that we are firmly committed to a sustainable and better future for millions of Africans who deserve such a future.

A large part of my report as executive chairman this year is a call for leadership to embrace a constructive approach to the challenges facing the country and in this regard I acknowledge the contribution of our own employees to our company’s success.

Many years ago Sekunjalo ran an outstanding leadership programme which was aimed at ensuring that our employees always act in a sustainable manner. These guidelines in some ways represented a charter of what and how Sekunjalo should conduct itself. It is worth recollecting many of these points and perhaps reigniting such a charter today which would incorporate many of the following guidelines and principles:

•             To always act with integrity in whatever we do

•             To always respect fellow employees, customers and partners

•             To be creative and innovative in our solutions

•             To have self-criticism and self-reflection of our success and our failures

•             To ensure that each of our employees is given the opportunity to optimally advance their knowledge base and skills

•             To work towards a positive culture and attitude in Africa

•             To provide sustainable employment opportunities for all of our employees and others

•             To have responsible and accountable leadership that addresses the expectations of diverse stakeholders and to embrace these responsibilities with efficiency

•             To foster social justice as a key principle of the Group

•             To lead initiatives through our businesses on climate change to ensure a better world for the future

•             To use our innovative spirit to commit towards social good in our business practices

•             To stimulate investment in the areas of green enterprises, social innovation and societal development

•             To augment our historic social compact as a business that is responsive to society’s needs

•             To have strong and knowledgeable commitment to social, environmental and economic change with an emphasis on marginalised groups

•             To aim to integrate all of the above in the Group’s core functionality and attributes, to use our many awards to inspire us to continuously work towards transformation and social good

It would be amiss if I did not thank the Board and our senior management team. To all of them I express my gratitude and the gratitude of all of those affected by their efforts and who continue to contribute to the success of Sekunjalo.

Dr Iqbal Survé

Executive Chairman

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