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By Adri Drotskie, MBA Director at Henley Business School Africa

The corporate social responsibility of a business is about the way it assists in creating a sustainable environment outside the business context. Sustainability is essential in the investment in the people and progress of a country.

Social responsibility presents significant leadership challenges in South Africa that cut across all industries and businesses large or small. The education sector has a specific responsibility to society and communities to ensure growth and to enable a learning nation. As part of this responsibility, skills need to be transferred and utilised to uplift and grow communities in need. But how can this be done in a business school environment?

Under new challenges such as globalisation, the privatisation of education institutions and competition in the higher education industry, many higher education institutions globally are adopting a more business-like approach to compete in this changing industry. In this business-like approach institutions are discovering the importance of corporate image, corporate identity, reputation and social responsibility as a strategic advantage.

Henley Business School Africa’s mission is to “Build the people who build the businesses that build Africa”. So how does this relate to creating a sustainable environment? Students who embark on studying at Henley are exposed to social responsibility programmes through community projects where knowledge is shared, and it becomes more than just a programme. It introduces a way of thinking in areas such as learning, purpose and connection. It is about creating a better life and a better society through business and education.

Henley Africa’s unique MBAid initiative forms part of and runs through the life of the business school. This includes engagement of business leaders with non-profit organisations and intern programmes to entrepreneurship development, scholarships, internal staff development and collaboration with other like-minded organisations.

MBAid is a way in which we seek to use the energies generated within a business school to create positive, better social output. The purpose of MBAid is to create social-value-driven learning that produces value at the same rate or faster than society and businesses change.

A central activity within MBAid is its engagement in the non-profit sector. This interaction with over two hundred non-profit organisations (NPOs) over the past ten years is a key example of how business can step into a new role of social responsibility. Henley believes that individual people and the successful businesses they create are the ultimate engine through which social change can be driven.

Henley Africa has been in South Africa for 26 years. It is the only international business school accredited by the Council on Higher Education in South Africa, and with the triple accreditation of Henley business school, it now holds quadruple accreditation. Henley is now proceeding with accreditation by the Association of Africa Business Schools which will give it quintuple accreditation.

MBAid covers a range of contributions to development including working with over 270 NGOs, which has contributed some £2m worth of executive time and 75 000 hours of engagement by students. The goals of MBAid are linked to the UN sustainable development goals of quality education, decent work, economic growth and sustainable cities and communities.

MBAid is providing a range of scholarships and bursaries for the school’s programmes. 100 bursaries and scholarship have been awarded since 2013. We are supporting initiatives such as the J.S. Mpanza school in Soweto, where it is developing, in partnership, a head teachers’ development programme and an entrepreneurship centre. MBAid also covers staff development. J.S. Mpanza school has an active internship programme with a 100% employment post internship.

Students come up against their own beliefs and values, they have to re-assess what they believe and how they view the world. Many are overwhelmed by the experience. And in the moment of vulnerability and openness, they are able to grow.