The Board of Directors has identified the following key terms of reference in respect of social sustainability:

  • All stakeholders are treated with dignity, fairness and respect recognising their rights to life, to security, to free association and to freedom from discrimination.
  • The Group actively promotes the development and empowerment of its employees to achieve their full potential through employee retention, development and satisfaction.

The Group remains committed to the broader community which it serves and to its employees through its extensive social responsibility projects which include the following :

The Group has a policy of non-discrimination against employees who may be HIV positive.

Various programmes are run in the different divisions which effectively provide the following:

  • the opportunity for employees to be tested at their initiative so as to become aware of their status;
  • counselling in the event of them being HIV positive;
  • access to anti retrovirals either through private clinics or via the State operated programme should their CD counts be below the prescribed levels which would qualify them for this therapy;
  • in certain of the divisions, immune boosters, which are a combination of vitamins, are provided in order to improve the health and thus the quality of life of affected employees.

These services are provided at no cost to employees and are outsourced ensuring total confidentiality. The Group is only provided with statistical data so as to monitor the participation in the various programmes and to manage the situation.

Full benefits are extended under the various retirement funds to employees who may be HIV positive so that they or their dependants are not left to their own devices but receive the full risk benefit package of disability and death benefits in appropriate circumstances.

The rate of mortality for the Group’s workforce will again be under 1% including mortality through Aids related illness which accounts for approximately 50% of these deaths or 0,5% of the workforce. While the Company is very mindful of its responsibilities in regard to HIV positive
employees and the situation is managed with compassion and understanding, it is not envisaged that the effects of the pandemic will cause major disruption to the Group’s operations. There will, however, be an ongoing cost in managing affected employees so as to prolong their ability to be gainfully employed.

The Skills Training and Development Centre which was established during 2003 in the Group’s old head office premises in Germiston continues to operate extremely well. The various skills training programmes which include literacy, computer skills, cooking, sewing and marketing courses are filled to capacity as is the childcare operation which is also conducted at this facility.

The past year has seen further progress in the production of clothing, the profits from which are used to offset the running costs of the centre, thus reducing the dependency of the centre on the subsidies from the Group. These subsidies still amount to approximately R0,4 million per annum.

This project, consisting of a Childcare and Education Centre primarily targeting aids orphans in Kathlehong, is now fully operational.

The project was undertaken in conjunction with Unsung Heroes and MECHASA which is the social development arm of the Methodist Church of South Africa.

To date, an amount of approximately R1,4 million has been spent on this centre which includes the purchase and refurbishment of the building housing the centre, as well as the purchase of an adjacent building which is now contained within the perimeter fencing of the centre. This will provide the opportunity of supplementing the centre with a training/production facility which in time, it is hoped, will assist in generating income for the sustainability of the centre.

The Group was instrumental in obtaining a donation of a vehicle from the Atkins Foundation which is used to facilitate the transportation of the children to and from the centre.

This has been a very heartwarming project and it is fitting that it should be carried out in Kathlehong where the Group has its roots, with the first Ellerine shop having been opened in nearby Germiston some 55 years ago.

This fund has now been formally registered as a charitable trust and as a non-profit organisation.

A wide range of donations are made annually by the trust to institutions and organisations providing social benefits to the less fortunate in the broader community served by the Group.

Bursaries for tertiary education are provided to children of employees in the traditional retail division. In the past year, the value of bursaries granted to some 280 recipients was R0,8 million. The possibility of extending these across the greater Group will be looked at as part of the human resources integration project currently under way.