How a successful CSI programme benefits everyone

In 2019, “companies spent an estimated R10.2 billion on corporate social investment (CSI) in South Africa.” (Trialogue Business in Society Handbook 2019) The retail and wholesale (22%), mining and quarrying (19%) and financial services (16%) sectors made up the top three contributors. While CSI is not to be confused with a company’s purpose, the two can often be very closely aligned, with one giving rise to the other. Let’s take a look at how an effective CSI programme has the ability to impact the community it serves, the business that backs it and the employees who drive it.

The community

“Only a life lived for others is worth living.” – Albert Einstein

There are many ways in which a business can support and impact people through its CSI programme, all of which can contribute significantly to the upliftment of the community. These include creating job opportunities, improving facilities at schools, offering bursaries and empowering people through skills development.

According to the Trialogue Business in Society Handbook, in South Africa, “education was supported by 94% of companies and accounted for an average of half of companies’ CSI spend (50%) in 2019, up from 44% in 2018. Social and community development remained the second most supported sector and health the third, with 77% and 51% of companies funding these sectors respectively.” 

The business

“Creating a strong business and building a better world are not conflicting goals – they are both essential ingredients for long-term success.” – Bill Ford

While the primary intention of a CSI programme is neither to drive company profit nor function as a marketing strategy, playing an active role in community upliftment can have notable knock-on effects for the business behind the initiative. These can be as varied as increasing brand recognition among clients and consumers, building the business’ reputation, attracting top talent and increasing customer loyalty. 

Perhaps, however, one of the most valuable outcomes of a CSI programme is its ability to help foster a sense of purpose within the business – something that research conducted by the EY Beacon Institute and Harvard Business School has shown drives measurable economic results.

The Business Case for Purpose (2015), a global survey of 474 executives, found that, “in those organizations where purpose had become a driver of strategy and decision-making, executives reported a greater ability to deliver revenue growth and drive successful innovation and ongoing transformation.” What’s more, when analysing the growth of companies in the three years leading up to the survey, 58% of prioritizers (companies where purpose was clearly articulated and understood) experienced growth of more than 10% vs. 51% of developers (companies where purpose was understood by some areas better than others) and just 42% of laggards (companies where purpose was not well understood or communicated).

The workforce

“In my view the successful companies of the future will be those that integrate business and employees’ personal values. The best people want to do work that contributes to society with a company whose values they share, where their actions count and their views matter.” – Jeroen van der Veer

An effective CSI programme, one that is closely aligned with a business’ purpose and values, has the ability to create a sense of purpose not just within the business, but amongst employees as well. And that spells success for both. 

The 2015 Workforce Purpose Index, a US-based study conducted by Imperative and New York University, found that “on every measure, purpose-oriented workers have better outcomes than their peers: 20% longer expected tenure, 50% more likely to
be in leadership positions, 47% more likely to be promoters of their employers, 64% higher levels of fulfillment in their work.” 

In 2016, Imperative partnered with LinkedIn – this time to conduct “the largest global study on the role of purpose in the workforce” which surveyed 26,151 LinkedIn members in 40 countries around the world. The findings were published in the Purpose at Work, 2016 Global Report, which confirmed that “purpose is an important factor in the workplace globally, with more and more employees putting a premium on jobs that allow them to connect with their purpose.”

It found that purpose-oriented professionals experienced greater job satisfaction than their non purpose-oriented counterparts (73% vs 64%) and were also more likely to stay with one company for over three years (39% vs. 35%).

CSI lies at the heart of Lithon

Lithon is a Namibian-based company whose purpose – making a significant and positive impact in the lives of people – is supported by a CSI programme that has been placed firmly front and centre and run through the Lithon Foundation, a section 21 company and welfare organisation with the Ministry of Health and Social Services. 

The foundation is built on the principle of bringing love and hope to people and organisations, an objective it achieves by supporting, guiding and strengthening individuals and organisations that are already making a difference in the lives of people and communities. 

To find out more about the work Lithon does, visit