AVBOB CSI: Enriching lives through shared value with communities – The Mail & Guardian


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South Africa remains a deeply unequal society, with rising unemployment and poverty. Recognising the deep-rooted challenges created by poverty and inequality, AVBOB, the country’s largest mutual assurance company, is investing in the concept of shared value through caring and sharing. 

The effect of lockdown has laid bare numerous challenges in South Africa, most notably, gender-based violence (GBV) — a silent pandemic that has been a national crisis for many years. Data collected from the government’s GBV and femicide command centre recorded more than 100 000 victim calls in the first three weeks of lockdown in 2020, according to the Social Policy Network.

The fight against GBV has gained a new corporate partner. AVBOB is taking a stand against the alarmingly high rate of violence against women and children with its 365+ campaign. The 365+ campaign extends beyond donations, by creating awareness about this pervasive societal challenge, to enable people to speak up 365 days a year.

To launch the campaign, AVBOB donated R210 000 to seven NGOs across the country that are involved in assisting victims of GBV. The Society also sponsors TEARS, a South African NPO which makes innovative use of technology to fight the scourge of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. 

Madume Primary School in Orange Farm, Gauteng, is one of the schools that benefited from AVBOB’s literacy project

This is one of the ways in which AVBOB is deeply involved in the communities it serves, and supports people, communities and initiatives aimed at improving South Africans’ lives, while remaining true to its brand promise, “We’re here for you.”

For its part, AVBOB continues to invest in the concept of shared value through caring and sharing. AVBOB has, among other initiatives, invested R135-million to refurbish and upgrade rural schools as part of its Schools Infrastructure Project, and a further 15-million has been earmarked for the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) initiative. AVBOB prides itself on maintaining its level 2 B-BBEE status, which is partly attributed to procuring the services of local entrepreneurs to stimulate local economies. 

AVBOB CEO Carl Van der Riet says that the company’s relationship with the communities it serves is fundamental to its status as a mutual society.

“Our shared value model means AVBOB can also invest significantly in corporate social investment programmes and enterprise and supplier development initiatives. Being a good corporate citizen in the communities in which we operate entails being dedicated to responsible and sustainable approaches to doing business,” says Van der Riet.

AVBOB’s shared value business model is rooted in its mutual status. As a mutual, it has no shareholders. The profits that arise from the various businesses in the Group are deployed solely for the benefit of its members, who are its policyholders.

Fostering social cohesion through connectedness

Through its growing CSI initiatives, AVBOB aims to keep giving back to communities by empowering small businesses, promoting education at indigent schools across the country (through container libraries), and, most importantly, by being there for its policyholders during difficult times.

*Library Project: AVBOB’s flagship container library project commenced in January 2013 with the first container library handover to Shukumani Primary School in Tembisa, Gauteng. Manufactured by AVBOB Industries from old shipping containers, each container library is fitted with floors, shelves, tables, chairs and solar panels. Best of all, these libraries are filled with over 3 000 books. Their 56th container library was donated in March 2020. 

*Nelson Mandela Day: The aim of these annual campaigns is to offer a donation in the form of time or financial assistance for the beneficiaries involved. Every year, the AVBOB Foundation invites submissions from deserving beneficiaries and/or projects from each of their seven provincial offices around the country for their annual Nelson Mandela campaign.

*Poetry Project: On 1 August 2017, a remarkable and unorthodox event took place in the social media space: the launch of a poetry competition in all 11 official languages, to serve South Africans as a source of comfort and catharsis.

The AVBOB Poetry Project is a high-profile creative initiative in the South African landscape, contributing to the creative economy value chain and enriching society.

The core values of the AVBOB Poetry Project include co-operation, creative thinking, networking, encouraging poetry best practices, enhancing human potential, and supporting an enabling environment for poets to learn, participate in public, and bring a new dimension of social cohesion to the country in troubled times.

What distinguishes AVBOB’s initiatives from CSI and moves it into the broader sphere of shared value is the fact that they are boosting the economic engines of tomorrow by improving the lives of all stakeholders, from policyholders and learners to entrepreneurs.

AVBOB’s compassionate roots go back to the Spanish Flu epidemic that arrived in South Africa in the wake of World War I. It was amidst this death and trauma that the original founders of AVBOB stepped forward with a solution: a business started by a community for the upliftment of the community.

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