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SKILLS AND DEVELOPMENT
By 8 December 2014 | Categories: Skills and Development

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In the two years since the Hitachi acquisition of Shoden Data Systems, the new entity has become increasingly involved in community initiatives. The willingness of staff to give is now being channelled into enhanced and formalised programmes that are already making a difference.

Morongwa Saro, HDS human resource manager, joined Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) in 2012, just two months after the acquisition. “I came from a background of corporate community involvement, and at HDS I discovered great willingness among the individual staff members to give back to the community. However, there were few formalised programmes and staff tended to do what they could in their personal capacity.”

Globally, Hitachi Data Systems has a strong culture of corporate social responsibility (CSR), explains Saro. “The global CSR committee encourages regional offices to do more than just give money – they would like us to become personally involved in the CSR projects we support.” Hitachi Data Systems has a tradition of encouraging its own people to shape its ‘giving policy’. Any employee can propose a gift to a non-profit organisation to which the employee has a direct connection, typically as a volunteer.

A coordinated effort

This approach resonates with the 200 HDS staff, interns and consultants based in South Africa. “The HDS staff has a culture of giving, but we have not coordinated these efforts until recently,” says Saro. In one of the new company’s first CSR initiatives, it called on staff to donate women’s and children’s clothing and supplies to Bethany House, which provides refuge for abused women and their children.

“The response was good and staff gave willingly. But after we handed over the donation, we found out more about the work of Bethany House and shared this information with the HDS staff. We discovered that women from all walks of life, who have nowhere else to turn, are given refuge at Bethany Home, part of the Bethany House Trust. Many of them flee their abusers without stopping to take even the bare necessities. The home is filled to capacity and is forced to turn away up to 40 women a day.

“When HDS staff heard this, they wanted to increase their involvement with Bethany House and other organisations. Staff were asking HR when we were going to do it again – they were eager to get involved and asked if we could do more in future. This year, we held a fundraiser to collect money for bags packed with toiletries and other essential supplies for the women at Bethany House. Our staff raised R5 400, which was matched and raised by management, who gave R10 800, and we were able to supply 132 bags of essentials to Bethany House.”

A willingness to do more

HDS CSR initiatives have also supported the Jes Foord Foundation formed by rape survivor Jes Foord. The foundation has a mission to create rape crisis centres that support rape victims and their families. At a fundraiser to support this initiative earlier this year, HDS donated 200 ‘comfort bags’ containing feminine hygiene products and toiletries to be given to rape survivors at crisis centres.

HDS has also actively participated in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with a series of fundraisers and awareness campaigns as part of the Hitachi PinkDrive initiative. Among the activities were a PinkDrive ‘high coffee’ event and participation in a fundraising run. “As a corporate citizen, we are committed to promoting PinkDrive’s cause and will continue to play a role by supporting their events and awareness programmes. Our staff get involved with the activities even under their own steam, as they truly believe in the good that the initiative can do. It addresses access to affordable and quality healthcare, which still presents a challenge for many South Africans, especially those in rural areas where they have to travel long distances to get even the most basic of services,” says Saro. “While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same. This is PinkDrive’s main goal and is the reason why Hitachi is proud to be a part because it reminds us that the health of our employees, and that of the broader South African community, is our wealth.”

More help to give

Saro believes that the focus on women’s issues to date is coincidental. “The organisations we have chosen to support were chosen simply because I or other staff members at HDS felt strongly about supporting these organisations. However, now that we are stepping up our CSR programmes in South Africa, we are investigating in areas where we feel we can become involved in the long term and where we can make the greatest impact,” she says.

Staff members are encouraged to bring their suggestions to the table and organisations supporting education and youth development feature prominently in their goals for future CSR work. Saro says: “Many people have long been willing to help welfare organisations, but often, they didn’t know how. With our more formalised approach and longer term CSR strategies, we are building a channel whereby our staff can contribute to the communities they work in on an on-going basis.”

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