Corporate Social Responsibility in the South African forestry industry – a Western Cape perspective
Globally plantation forestry plays a pivotal role in terms of timber production, ecological services and maintaining local livelihoods. In South Africa commercial forestry occupies a relatively small portion of the total land area, but contributes significantly towards the national GDP. Forestry had been labelled as a streamflow reduction activity. Thus further afforestation is not possible. It is of paramount importance that plantations are managed on a sustainable basis in order to meet future timber demands. However, sustainability goes beyond the replenishment of natural resources or economic prosperity and also includes social responsibility. (CSR) initiatives are a means for companies to maximize the positive contribution their operations can make to the promotion of fair work practices and ecological sustainability. Plantations are mostly located in rural areas and often reflect the only form of local employment. Often employees are at risk of economic exploitation and high risk of injury while little scope for economic and educational betterment exists. CSR incorporates people, planet and profit. It is important to fulfil the basic needs of the workers in order for the company to realize environmental and economic prosperity. It is the aim of this study to highlight the essential role of people in insuring the long-term sustainability of the Western Cape plantations. The primary aim of this study is to investigate the over-all well-being of forestry workers in the Western Cape plantations. In order for people to reach the over-all goal of the organization, they first need to satisfy their basic needs. More often than not this is the case with forestry workers. Some of the issues that negatively impact on their over-all wellbeing are: Their working environment and conditions Lack of investment in resident / neighbouring communities Lack of adequate stakeholder consultation Poor standards of worker accommodation If companies wish to be sustainable, they need to address these issues that forest workers are being confronted with. The secondary aim of this study is to explore CSR initiatives that could address these issues in the Western Cape plantation villages.This study deploys a mixed approach, using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Data were collected through the distribution of structured questionnaires, interviews, meetings, company documents and reviewed literature. The research shows that the social issues that confront forest villages include poor sanitation facilities, lack of home ownership, poor state of worker accommodation, lack of extramural activities, substance abuse and relatively low remuneration rates. The company also faces challenges with regards to the implementation of its CSR programme. This study makes several recommendations which are based on the findings. One such recommendation is a tripartite approach to CSR. Here a tripartite approach refers to the partnership between the company, Government and civil society.