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Thursday, 17 June 2021 22:31

Business can play a key role in 'building back better'.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Caption:Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub.

The upcoming Trialogue Business in Society Conference focuses on post-pandemic solutions for society.

At the G7 Summit that has just taken place in the United Kingdom, the UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, expressed the need for nations to ‘build back better’ after the Covid-19 pandemic. Such a global recovery should be “based on greener and fairer foundations”.

The ‘building back better’ theme – first adopted by UN member states as one of the four priorities in the Sendai Framework for disaster recovery – has captured the imagination of leaders tasked with building a post-pandemic economy. It is against this backdrop that the upcoming Trialogue Business in Society Conference ponders what is required to bring about a more equitable and sustainable future.

The pandemic has brought us face to face with glaring injustices – for example, women have been disproportionately affected by job losses (according to Oxfam International, women around the world lost 64-million jobs in 2020, a 5% loss as against a 3.9% loss for men, costing women more than $800-billion in income) and gender-based violence has increased (UN Women have named this the "shadow pandemic"). In addition, the climate emergency has fuelled a dual crisis for pandemic-affected communities faced with natural disasters.

How can businesses faced with these challenges be a force for good in our recovery? The conference, which takes place on the mornings of 22, 23 and 24 June, focuses on three urgent themes for business, namely why organisations need to fine-tune their purpose, how ICT can help to drive gender empowerment, and why we can no longer afford to ignore the nexus between social and environmental sustainability.

According to Trialogue director Cathy Duff, “There has seldom been such great expectation placed on the private sector to bring about a more just world. The pressures on companies have never been more intense. At the same time, companies have never had such a good opportunity to reimagine what business could and should look like. The conference looks at how the private sector has stepped up during the pandemic, but also asks what more can be done to ensure prosperity for all stakeholders in the future. We need purposeful leadership, as well as innovative thinking, to solve some of the pressing challenges facing our societies.”

Group CEO of Momentum Metropolitan Holdings Hillie Meyer will deliver the executive overview on the morning of 22 June, the first day of the conference.

"Trialogue has designed a conference that is particularly relevant in the current uncertain and challenging times, when all leaders across the world have been reminded of their responsibility to society," he says. "Business leaders have an important role to play – and in many countries around the globe, businesses have handled the pandemic better than governments. Politicians have always been criticised for their lack of ethics, but their inability to have empathy for their voters is a growing concern."

For Meyer, it is only ethical and empathetic leaders who can drive the kind of recovery we need. “It is their duty to nurture company culture, be fair, and care for their people and the business, but also care for society and the communities in which they operate,” he points out.

Sazini Mojapelo, group head of citizenship and community investments at Absa, will deliver the executive overview on the morning of 24 June. She believes the Trialogue Business in Society Conference is taking place at a critical juncture – particularly as we are reaching an environmental tipping point. “We believe it is a very important dialogue that we need to have in these forums, not only to generate debate, but to build understanding of the broad-based impact of climate change on our economy, and on human development and social justice,” she says. “At Absa, our strategic objective is to play a shaping role in Africa’s growth and sustainability. We view the growth we want to achieve as an organisation as inextricably linked to our commitment to be an active force for good in the communities in which we operate.”

Shameel Joosub, group CEO of Vodacom – who will deliver his executive overview on 23 June – agrees that companies need to be a force for good as never before. "The Covid-19 pandemic provided Vodacom with an opportunity to live its purpose," he says. "It required us to step up."

For companies that are ready to live their purpose, the Trialogue Business in Society Conference offers insights and key ingredients for how to build back better. And as Joosub points out, "Doing good, you see results coming back to you in different ways."

The conference features a full programme of global and local business and thought leaders. To read more about the sessions and speakers, download the draft programme and register here:

Take advantage of group discounts – three to five delegates from the same organisation will receive a 30% discount and six or more delegates will receive a 40% discount. A ticket to attend the three-day event costs R1 500, but attendees are welcome to book for any one of the three days at a cost of R500 for a single day.

For more information, email or call +27 (0)21 671 1640.