Catalyst for change

The exchange is committed to aiding social upliftment, especially among the youth

Catalyst for change

It’s not unusual for JSE staff to take a day off, in fact company policy demands it. What they do with that day is up to the individual, or divisions, with the proviso that they spend it working with a registered NGO/NPO, ideally aligned but not limited to, one of three CSI focus areas: financial education, health and the environment.

Ralph Speirs, JSE CSI Officer, Marketing and Corporate Affairs, says that these three areas are specifically defined because they align with the fundamentals of the exchange – as in financial literacy – and respond to the economic development of the country as outlined in the National Development Plan (NDP) and the Financial Sector Codes of the B-BBEE Act. ‘Our CSI initiatives are all related to making a difference where we can be most impactful. Partnering with NGOs/NPOs allows us to contribute to the development of communities and the youth, mirroring the country’s identified priority areas.’

It starts with the baseline of health, particularly paediatrics, where the JSE assists disadvantaged children from a medical aspect. However, ‘health’ from the JSE’s perspective is also evolutionary. ‘If the youth are medically healthy, have access to nutritious food, and are safe in their environment, they are better able to absorb knowledge, and that ultimately allows them, if they wish, to participate in our flagship CSI project, the Investment Challenge.’ Now in its 46th year, the Investment Challenge attracts more than 22 000 school and university students in a virtual game, and the winners are rewarded with monetary and experiential prizes that benefit the institution they represent and themselves. ‘The Investment Challenge entrenches a culture of healthy savings and investment from a young age,’ says Speirs.

The exchange’s association with universities located near disadvantaged communities further entrenches the challenge, with the bourse identifying students who will receive two days of training to become mentors to school-going participants in the challenge. ‘Catalyst teachers receive a small monthly stipend over the six-month duration of the game,’ says Speirs, who works closely with Idris Seedat, Head of the JSE’s Transformation and Corporate Social Investment. Together they ensure that the bourse supports a number of worthy charities, and not just those that require financial support but where positive and meaningful contributions of time and effort can be actioned to improve lives.

‘These efforts play out within the organisation for – [notwithstanding] a JSE policy that every member of the JSE spends one day a year on community NGO/NPO activities – the staff have collectively embraced and welcomed their involvement, creating an ethos of responsible citizenship. Our division last year, for example, chose to work with youngsters in down-town Johannesburg, which also manifests in team building and a spirit of unity,’ says Seedat.

It is difficult in the context of SA to choose which projects to support, he adds. ‘Daily we have up to 15 NGO/NPOs requesting funding so we need to ensure those we take on are sustainable with maximum impact. Our association with Conservation SA, for example, has developed gardens to become fully fledged businesses that ensure our youth and surrounding communities are fed. ‘We also partner with Business Against Crime, highlighting our concerns about safety for communities and, for the past 12 years, have supported Cyril Ramaphosa’s Adopt-a-School Foundation, which creates conducive learning and teaching environments in disadvantaged communities.’

JSE’s CSI initiatives are not about compliance with the B-BBEE Financial Sector Codes, which dictate that organisations earning more than R50 million need to spend 1% after tax on social economic and consumer projects. ‘We do not restrict ourselves to the 1% rule,’ says Seedat. ‘If an NGO or NPO has a greater need, we will assist where we best possibly can.’

By Kerry Dimmer
Images: Gallo/Getty images