The correct strategic implementation of BEE came under the spotlight at a recent Financial Mail Essentials event, held in association with the LFP Group, industry leaders of turnkey BEE aligned solutions.

The very fact that there is still a need to discuss BEE and transformation implies that SA still has some way to go in terms of achieving a more equitable society, despite nearly 25 years of democracy.

Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) is not about further enriching a wealthy minority of society but is intended to economically empower the previously disadvantaged, said Nthabiseng Phoshoko, Commercial Director for the LFP Group. It’s for this reason that it’s so important that BEE is not viewed as a ‘tick box’ exercise but instead is implemented correctly in a legally compliant manner.

The LFP Group sets the industry tone by delivering a full spectrum offering of BEE compliant service solutions based on its clients’ needs. The company’s training division delivers industry first SETA accredited learnership programmes which are aligned to BEE Codes of Good Conduct.

A common theme emanating from the moderated panel discussion was that, if implemented correctly BEE could potentially offer companies a strategic advantage.

Tashmia Ismail-Saville, CEO of Youth Unemployment Services said that while the primary motive of most businesses is to make a profit, the health of society relies on these businesses caring about more than just making a profit but also about being a sustainable business and ensuring diversity amongst its board, management and employees. “Research has consistently shown that businesses with more diversity on their boards are more successful than those without diversity. Good BEE choices are good for business,” she said.

It makes no sense that there should be resistance to BEE, said Advocate Shawn Swiegers of the LFP Group given that it is part of the social contract SA society made after democracy in 1994. He denied that BEE is a method of exclusion and insisted that it is instead aimed at driving equal opportunities. “However, we need equality before we can move forward,” he said.

Jayshree Naidoo, CEO of Yiedi, agreed that BEE is a strategic tool and said large corporates need to start seeing its value, particularly in terms of empowering staff with entrepreneurial training. Not only will this result in employees looking at their work in a different and more productive way, but it also equips them with the necessary skills should they decide to leave and start their own businesses at some point.

Mummy Mthmembu-Fawkes, South African Business Speaker, Entrepreneur and Industry Pioneer pointed out that women continue to be under-represented in the corporate world, particularly in the tech space. Employing a more diverse workforce, she pointed out, has significant benefits for companies. “BEE is at the very centre of a rapidly turning tide,” she said.

The panel agreed that much has been accomplished in terms of transforming SA, despite the fact that a great deal still needs to happen in order to reach a truly equitable and inclusive society. BEE is not independent of inclusive innovation but requires courage to implement, concluded Ismail-Saville.