Industry urged to get wise to new BEE codes now

Transformation will remain on the South African agenda no matter who is in office at the Union Buildings. Adapting strategies to incorporate broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) into business, embracing the policies and meeting sector code requirements will deliver far more rewards than a head-in- the-sand approach.

Addressing members of the Exporters’ Club Western Cape recently, Juliette Fourie, CEO of Metro Minds, said transformation remained a top priority judging by recent comments by new President Cyril Ramaphosa. While the new B-BBEE codes have not yet been gazetted, it is just a matter of time. Preparing your business for these codes is far wiser than doing nothing and being caught off guard.” Fourie said as training providers servicing largely the logistics and related industries, the company had been inundated with B-BBEE questions.

“It’s a clear indication of the important role it plays in our businesses today, but also that it is a complex subject that is often misunderstood or misinterpreted.” She told exporters to take the time to familiarise themselves with the new codes which were focused on three pillars – ownership, skills development, and procurement spend for enterprise and supplier development.

“Far too often we encounter companies who are wanting to tick the boxes and are spending money unwisely as they scramble to make sure they are compliant with the codes,” she said. B-BBEE had to be approached in conjunction with a company’s long-term strategic objectives and skills development, she added. With the old codes companies were set a target across seven pillars, depending on the industry in which they operated, which if met set them at a specific level.

“The new codes however are focused on three priority pillars only and that is where companies need to put their focus. ”She said the codes did not demand that businesses hand over their ownership to black employees as was often believed. “Ownership comes in many shapes and sizes. It is not about giving your business away, but restructuring it. ”She advised companies to get legal experts to assist in this. “One of the areas where companies can really benefit with the B-BBEE codes is with skills development, utilising training initiatives like learnerships. This is an easy pillar to achieve – and while it requires money to be spent, if done strategically and properly there is true long-term benefit for the company in terms of its talent pool.”

Skills can be developed in the form of bursaries, registered internships, learnerships, apprenticeships, work integrated learning, informal learning and informal or formal training. “Our advice to companies is to first draw up a strategy of the skills they will need over the long term and then spread the spend widely across the organisation into skills development,” she said. “It is about planning properly, looking at what you can spend and then doing that wisely. ”This she said would not only see a company complying with the codes but also reap the rewards of skills investment.

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