Profit with Purpose

Thursday, 20 May 2021

The impact of the global pandemic has been engaged through various lenses, including that of the economic impact on women, small businesses and the imprint of digital transformation, and national government preparedness and response strategies on what has been a turbulence that has resulted in a loss of life, funds, and intensified public sector engagement and call for collaboration. A new lens engaged by the Sage Foundation, spotlights the impact on over 4000 businesses, its leaders, and employees, and how they have and are driving and thinking about corporate philanthropy.

In their Harvard Business Review essay entitled “The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy”, scholars, Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer excellently paint the inception of the term, how the business practice has evolved over time, and the (potential of the) value created from strategic, focused corporate philanthropy and how it can drive company competitiveness beyond the outlook of charity. One of the latter arguments that the essay makes prominent, is the obscene vapidness that the true aspiration of this business engagement loses itself to, resulting in this chilling statistic from the People Powering Change Report by the Sage Foundation on the effect and residue of the pandemic, and that is how businesses’ engage in philanthropy, with 64% reporting that funds for corporate philanthropy have already been cut – or will be cut in the coming 12 months.

But what if corporate philanthropy wasn’t a charitable drive? Instead, an opportunity to invest in not only the public image of the company, but to strategically support the business’ bottom line and how it contextualises its corporate social responsibility to strengthen its competitiveness for its engaged stakeholders.

“My company encouraged volunteers to assist individually in their local communities. People also opted for money donations as opposed to the usual giving of time. My organisation matched the money donations received.”

At the end of 2020, the Sage Foundation commissioned Kantar, a leading  data, insights, and consulting company to conduct a global study of business leaders and employees on corporate philanthropy and its current state. The findings of the report were anchored on unpacking the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on corporate philanthropy, to challenge the relationship between purpose-led businesses and engaged employees, and to standardise the various four markets (of Sage) in South Africa, United Kingdom, United Sates and Spain. Here is what the report has informed us about corporate philanthropy:

1. COVID’s Negative Impact on Corporate Philanthropy Investment

For corporates, the impact of the pandemic has been felt mostly by the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Corporate Social Investment (CSI), and Socio-Economic Development (SED)  departments, often observed through the singular lens of expenditure and non-revenue generating business activity. As such, the study reveals that 64% of the interviewed business leaders believe that COVID will impact on their businesses’ ability to invest in corporate philanthropy in the long term, and as a further consequence, 49% of the business leaders believe the ripple effect of reduced investment will cause a delay in progress being made against reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Where does your company stand?

In South Africa, according to the latest data published by the latest Trialogue Business in Society Handbook, corporate philanthropy investment grew by a marginal 1,2% in real terms from R10,2 billion in 2019 to an estimated R10,7 billion in the 2020 financial year.

2. A Company’s CSI Engagement Matters

Who engages on the billions of dollars, globally, that companies invest in? One of the 4000 group of stakeholders that the People Powering Change Report by the Sage Foundation engaged, was socially responsible employee. Globally, 58% employees referred to an organisation’s commitment to corporate philanthropy being a priority to choosing the company that they end up working for; and even through 2 out of 3 businesses do not offer volunteering opportunities to their employees during paid working hours, 1 out of 3 business leaders have felt the increased pressure from their employees since March 2020 to support the local communities.

“Great Management that gives the right level of autonomy and support. Great tools that allowed me to do onboarding remotely, great culture of the company that communicates a lot, and Sage Foundation is the cherry on the cake. Very happy to be part of this great company.”

3. The Opportunity to Redefine Corporate Philanthropy

For the Sage Foundation, their 5 paid volunteer days provides the business with a differentiator for their talent acquisition attraction strategy, a context-based objective that participates in the broader purpose-led business agenda of Sage.

Financial services company, Investec’s CSI strategy engages through the lens of education and entrepreneurship as they see these two pillars being “critical to creating employment and socio-economic growth in South Africa.” During the pandemic, Investec invested their corporate philanthropy through the Solidarity Fund, the YES programme with 1440 interns receiving funding and for entrepreneurs, supporting Uconomy.

“Sage Foundation is excellent -5 days a year each for everyone to give back to our charities and communities is great. This is only part of a good benefits package you get for working at Sage.”

The rise of smartly investing in corporate philanthropy, paired with the commitment to SDGs and strategically engaging with stakeholders like employees and investors, enlightens us how far the school of CSI thought has come. A business led by operating with purpose at the center, with an inclusive and diverse way of consulting is sure to grab the opportunity to redefine how it innovatively engaged in corporate philanthropy, and not just for the community it aids, but those who can volunteer their time and money.


In Conclusion

“Employees are keen to keep their commitment to volunteering despite the global health crisis with almost all (97%) employees saying that disadvantaged people and non-profits needed support now more than ever due to the pandemic. Over half (57%) go even further than that and say they would volunteer their own time money to the organization or initiative that their company supports.”

From the People Powering Change Report and the case studies provided, it is clear that corporate philanthropy’s role and impact is well understood and articulated by stakeholders involved and engaged. It benefits the company’s triple bottom line, provides an elevated attractiveness and competitiveness from a talent acquisition and retention strategy, and introduces capabilities of strategically and smartly investing in company growth.

Does your company care, how does it engage philanthropically? As an investor, employee or business leader, does this matter to you?

I’d love to hear from you!






Published in Inno trep tech

 On 7 July 2020, I was greeted by an email in my inbox with the subject line “Software Company Content Campaign”, followed by an urgent request outlining the impact of my work in industry. A few negotiations and months later, this would be the birth of a partnership now known as #SageForSmallBiz with multinational enterprise software company, Sage.

Six months later, and we’ve designed a conversation engaging with innovators, entrepreneurs, financial practitioners on themes of digital transformation, financial strategy and business innovation for the optimization of successfully running your business.

To mark this 6 month landmark, I’ve decided to share some of my 6 favourite moments and resources from the #SageForSmallBiz conversation:

Announcement of the Partnership

This was a conversation and partnership that was months in the pipeline, and I’d had a relationship with a few of my current colleagues, so when we hit the ground running, it was like a aligned well-oiled machine. This lead to getting profiled on the Sage website, engaging on the value of impact innovation.

Smart Money Tribe

The prospect of being in such a partnership meant that the #SageForSmallBiz stakeholders like yourself, were looking for value-add that wasn’t just centred around my expertise of being in business innovation, but also to engage on shared experiences. This is why, when I had the opportunity, I brought in my smart money tribe who are investors, entrepreneurs, venture builders to talk about their financial strategy that they use in their businesses, and treating their entities like legacy babies.

The Evergreen 30 Day Sage Trial

As a founder of a small business, managing your expenses and income is often afforded by the affordability and accessibility of an Excel spreadsheet. As you move your business from stage of growth to another, and you cannot afford to be inputting on excel at every purchase because more high-level prioritise require your attention, or the services of an accountant, the attractiveness of automating your accounting software becomes more alluring. This is why the Evergreen Sage Business Cloud Accounting Start 30-day FREE trial is one of my favourite resources from Sage.

“Accountants don't come cheap and as a startup, you generally have a very minimal budget in the early stages of your business. So Use accounting software to remain organized.” – Tinyiko Simbine, CFO and Co-Founder of GirlCode


Trust me when I say that takes a village to raise this conversation. From my fellow brand partnership colleagues, to the Sage engine that ensures we get our wish list to give you the best engagement and resources, getting on the monthly calls and strategy sessions definitely make the journey to work on this campaign a better delight.

Small Business Toolkits

If you’re not a big fan of reading articles or joining webinars, Sage has curated a few toolkits that are consumable and practical for founders in their first year, to creatives who are struggling with the jargon of the business and finance world. My top 3 would have to be:

Elevating after 6 Months

We have a special project coming in the next few months that will engage the tough economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through digital transformation, financial strategy and business innovation. I cannot wait to share this with you.


What have been some of your favourite moments and resources from the #SageForSmallBiz conversation? Let me know in the comments section, I’d love to hear from you and the value derived for your business or idea. Keep following the hashtag and for more information and updates.

“Such valuable information! 

Thank you for breaking it down, BUT not dumbing it down. We’re learning as we go and grow #SageForSmallBiz.” - Phumeza Langa, Host of #SistaHoodHour


Published in Inno trep tech

In my privilege during this pandemic, I’ve found some solace in being able connect with friends and loved one from anywhere in the world, finding an opportunity to create and communicate impact while earning an income and be a sponge to new information. However, I’ll admit that it hasn’t been easy to have my home be am accommodation, restaurant, office and shopping mall one-stop shop, without it taking a considerable amount of effort to adapt the diet and exercise of my mind and how to embrace this new normal caused by COVID-19. I am no wellness instructor to yoga master, but I will share five old and new habits that have been helping me adapt, and resources to experts whom you can engage.

In the business of COVID-19, it’s not only industries that are being disrupted and forced to either pivot or shut down, but its employees and anyone who is currently in the capacity, as an independent consult or full time content creator being impacted. At present, I’m consulting on a number of projects, in the process of creating my Design Thinking Social Impact course and working with brands via my social media platforms, so the work has to get done, one way or another, and these are the list of five habits that have been helping me.

Deep Work

I learnt of this term through my former manager, Max Pichulik, in one of our conversations on “What podcasts are you listening to this week?” where he discussed how he collided with it. A term coined by Cal Newport in his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World; deep work is explained as “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive abilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate”. Blocking 2-5 hours of at least three times of the five days of the week, has done wonders for me in my work and cultivating my discipline. Behaviours that have aided in ensuring this happens efficiently include blocking the time in my calendar, switching off my internet (and ensuring that should the work I do require the use of it, I collate the information before hand) and schedule it either in the morning or evening, where I know I’m more productive. Here’s an excerpt from the book to get you familiar with the concept.

Sleep, Nap and Sleep

As Pastor Sarah Jakes Roberts says, “Sleeping is my ministry”, and I am an obedient congregant of that church. I love sleep and can talk about it until I grab the attention of a non-believer. I’m also insomniac, which means that my sleeping patterns don’t allow me to nap but either operate on 2-3 hours of sleep or a full 12+ hours at a time and be efficient. The most important take-away from this paragraph besides my paradoxical love for sleep and being an insomniac, is that sleep is a form of self-care and is a sign of your body communicating that you’re tired – listen to it. Yesterday, I slept at 05h23 and woke up at 07h10 and over the weekend, I’ll most likely sleep at 22h30 and wake up between 13h00 and 14h00, so I know which days of the week, and times of day I’m able to be functional and productive. Figure out what works for you and take it from there.

Cut off time

It can be so tempting to want to overly commit to your work, and in the process lose the boundaries that you have set to have the peace of mind and withdraw from work. I’ve made it a mission to complete my consulting work by 17h00 and 18h00 the latest (and only for a call that can’t be translated into a meeting), and the other hours before and after this time, is dedicated to creating work into my other income streams. A tool that helps with this is the built-in screen time manager with anything digitally that could distract me, and unapologetically revert the next morning.


The idea of working from home does not mean working from your bed. Yes, I’m talking to you (and past me). I have ;created a routine which unashamedly starts with snoozing my alarm with 3-4 times, prayer and meditation, making up my bed and getting ready for the day away from the comfort of my bed. This could be the lounge, kitchen, or the desk office in the bedroom – but separate your work station from you bed. A Fast Company article details some reasons as to why a routine is scientifically backed to be a good thing to develop a habit of, even conducting business during a pandemic. I also ensure that, even if I wear sweatpants or jeans, that I always wear a smart casual top and jacket or coat for those Zoom meetings and Google hangouts. A routine sets the tone of your day, make sure that you honour you day with the audacity of showing up in your full self.

Room Orientation

I’m currently in the process of renovating my bedroom to ensure that I get the right space that will facilitate the inspiration to adapting a diet for my psychology that will work for it. I didn’t really pay much attention to it because I spent most of my time in hotels or Airbnbs, and now that I’m on lockdown, I’ve realised that maybe painting my room purple and getting colourful curtains was not the best interior design choice I’ve made. Back to the point, and that is, whatever room I’m working in, facing or having my side to the light is important to me, and thanks to one of my favourite interior designers and architects, this is a great video of how lighting affects your mood (and to end, the productivity).

More Resources


I truly hope that sharing how I have adapted and continuously do so, has helped you shed some light on what you can do to make the most of how to take care of your wellbeing and administer this progress through a system that is tailored for you.

How are you adapting a healthier diet for your mind while you continue through the business of COVID-19? Let me know in the comments section, I’d love to engage and learn from you.




Published in Life Style

A few days ago, I did an Instagram Live session with Annette Oppong, a Senior Associate at KPMG, podcaster for Diaspora Talks and Partnerships for Foundervine, an inclusive startup community supporting and building businesses. The session engaged the impact of the pandemic in South Africa on business, technology and the relationship with xenophobia; and inspired this article. In observing some of other conversations and articles that have been happening around the topic of the healthcare crisis, I wanted to introduce a five series of articles that will provide thought leadership into, what I call, The Business of COVID-19.  Every month, I’ll focus on an aspect of business that has had to react or be proactive to how we do business, this May, we focus on the theme of Pivoting.

Whether you’re in Italy, Singapore, Canada or South Africa like me, you’ve experienced or seen from large to small businesses having to pivot their businesses and doing so through different models. We will unpack THREE ways to model, how this adaptation will influence your business decisions and the current and (potentially) long term impact of your enterprise?                               

“Adapt – make something suitable for a new use or purpose, modify; become adjusted to new conditions.”

Per this Oxford dictionary explanation, to adapt is employed in business studies to explain how a business’ product, market, or the way it operates can be modified to a new use or purpose, per the economic conditions. But Vuyo, you may ask, is this not pivoting? Or rather, what’s the difference between these two terms? Let’s dig in.

Pivoting addresses the HOW of adapting. When a business pivots, they are taking an informed business decision to do so based on the measured evidence because the market has changed, and in this case, the market has been affected by the pandemic of SARS COV-19.

“Pivot – to pivot is to turn or rotate, like a hinge. When you’re not talking about a type of swivelling movement, you can use pivot to mean the one central thing that something is depending on.”

The Business of COVID-19 has meant that enterprises have had to pivot to adapt. To pivot, means to change the core of the product when it is not meeting the needs of the market. This Cambridge Dictionary definition stood out for me because it speaks on centricity and dependency. The mechanism of pivot innovation and its dependency of the affected market is what can make or break the business.

With that said, let’s have a look at THREE types of what I’d like to address through what I’ll call for now Pivot Product Innovation (PPI):

New Product PPI

Before this pandemic infected now, over 5 million people, and impacted millions more, the saying used to be “How the mighty have fallen”, but now, it’s “How the redundant have fallen” and you could fill in many other adjectives with this term too. Aside from the hospitality and travel industry which has been affected because of global travel bans, many other industries have been affected because of the product’s reliance of people moving from the comfort of their own home. This has enforced companies to develop new products completely out of what they’re usually capable of doing to stay open. In Canada, INKSmith, which is an edtech startup specialising in making design thinking and technology tools for kids, has now had to move to manufacturing face shields and has, as a result, ended up hiring up to 100 new employees to meet demand.

In a study by the Erwing Marion Kauffman Foundation, two of the findings expressed that “over half of the companies on the 2009 Fortune 500 list, and just under half of the 2008 Inc. list, began during a recession or bear market.”; and  “Job creation from startups is much less volatile and sensitive to downturns than job creation in the entire economy”. Companies like Airbnb, Microsoft and General Electric were created during an economic downtown, such as the one we’re currently living through. Will yours be one of them?

Incremental PPI 

Innovation is not limited to new product development, it’s about finding new processes to improve a company’s efficiency and effectiveness, as well as gain momentum on its competitive advantage. Startups have been pivoting incrementally through either product expansion or new products via their core models. A prime example of what has been happening across delivery services businesses like Netflorist which moved from only delivering gifts to now exclusively groceries or Exclusive Books who is now delivering its books on UberEats. Bottles, an alcohol delivery service, also adapted to this, and are now grocery providers.

Digitized PPI

This century presents the age of the weaponizaton of data through its licensing, yet COVID-19 has given us an ultimatum to either digitize or go home, stay at home and not be an economic participant. Due to the advisory of physical distancing, this has meant that some PPI has had to be digitized to adapt to the new market. Online classes have become (sometimes to a parent’s nightmare) the norm for schooling, gyms and fitness instructors are moving their classes to zoom rooms and more conferences and summits are being moved online. Keeping with this trajectory, products that were already online like Zoom has seen a surge in daily users to 300 million, and influencers have had a much more captive and larger audience than ever before and securing more deals.


So, what does this Pivot Product Innovation (PPI) mean for your business going forward? 

The long-term stain that COVID-19 has imprinted is Pivot Product Innovation (PPI), the mechanisation of market capitalisation and continued democratisation of economic participation. Millions of new challenges have emerged, and old ones worsened, and millions of opportunities are inserting themselves through new and incremental product development as well as digitization. You have been disrupted; with what PPI will you respond with for your business? Make your move!


Published in Inno trep tech

A few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast which invited Luis Ballesteros, an Assistant Professor at The George Washington University to speak to research on a book that he contributed to, authored by Howard Kunreuther and Michael Useem entitled Mastering Catastrophic Risk: How Companies are Coping with Disruption. The professor echoed the intelligence of the role that not only government, but most audibly, the private sector in aiding the relief of pandemics in their respective economies such as the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). Another point of conversation that was lightly touched on was what the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in their “Global Humanitarian Overview 2020” report , estimated to be 168 million, the most vulnerable people in the world, prone to the recent pandemic and what could be done for them. This is what we’ll unpack in the next few paragraphs, but first, let’s lay a foundation for what Covid-19 is before we dive into how we as society, together with other respective stakeholders can enable preparedness from a gendered impact perspective economically and socio-economically.

First detected in China in December 2019, COVID-19 has since spread to 169 regions or countries and more than 329 000 cases globally, with Italy leading with 5 476 deaths as on 23 March 2020 according to the John Hopkins University and Medicine Coronavirus Resource Centre. The numbers of the cases are expected to rise exponentially over the next coming weeks and months, and cases in developing nations too are rising, with the vulnerable susceptible to the exposure in different parts of the world. 

For this particular article, we’ll focus on the gendered implications of COVID-19 in affecting the vulnerable, exploring the measurable impact that this pandemic will have on women, and how past data proves that women and young girls are going to become the most affected economically and socio-economically, and present ideas on how to futureproof this risk for the public sector, private sector and civilians.

One of the consequences of poverty is gendered discrimination, which means that women are disproportionally burdened when the assault of catastrophic events such as COVID-19 take place. In the past, episodes like the 2010 Haitian cholera outbreak, the 2014–16 West Africa Ebola virus disease (EVD) event and the 2016 Zika boutade, with research supported by the Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) shows how this burden of caregiving is entrusted with the consequences of the risk of infection, being responsible of running of the household and the prevention and rescue tactics with being exposed to mental and physical harm and the economic role of sustenance provision by seeking financial assistance. With COVID-19, although men (and older people) are much more prone to mortality rates and being infected, it’s the caregivers who are engaging with the risk, and women compose of larger parts of the health workforce

In realising the data and intelligence of both the past and present, here are some measures of what can be done in creating six (6) inclusive response measures:

  · Misinformation spreads fear faster than COVID-19 itself and leads to practices that resist the acceleration of the healing of the exposed and infected. It’s important to be proactive in sharing information,    as it is in creating responses that are intersectional in how they’re being consumed and analysed. Languages, gender, nationality, disabilities, economic status are important utilities in creating the information and sharing it to ensure no discrimination. Instilling behavioural change should also mean to allow for this information to be accessible and affordable for civilians by zero-rating certain websites and using traditional media which the greater population has access to and can afford.

  · The rise of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation cases in times of outbreaks affects women and other marginalised groups, and investing in organisations that are already on the ground and with access to mobile services that can reach urban, peri-urban and rural areas where the women will be affected is important. 

  ·  A notable effort from the public and private sectors is the relief financing for not only employees, but for small business owners who will be heavily impacted by COVID-19, and these include holidays and funds set up by economic development ministries globally like the Federal Coronavirus Small Business Assistance in the US and the Debt Relief Fund in South Africa.

  ·  COVID-19 calls upon social distancing, or as the World Health Organisation (WHO) encourages, “physical distancing”, and this is as a phenom that is supporting of trying to limit the spread of the virus as it is classist. In developing markets, the informal sector makes a large contribution to the GDP of a nation, as well as the majority of the (low) income earners of the population and the trading is offline. What happens when physical distancing discriminates against those unable to do so as it affects their means of creating income? Provision for a fund towards the lower-income earning women and informal traders that pays out the average income earned or minimum wage (of a nation) and trainings to upskill.

  ·  The previous proposal above links much to this next one: (greater) Investment in research and development that will inform gendered solutions during catastrophic events. According to “A Gendered Human Rights Analysis Of Ebola And Zika: Locating Gender In Global Health Emergencies” study, less than 1% of published research papers on previous health pandemics were on the gendered implications and dynamics of such outbreaks. We cannot be prepared for an emergency like COVID-19 and deploy resources without the informed resources of how and who to deploy the unique resources to.

  ·  In order to create and implement policies that are focused on addressing a population that will be impacted the most, representation matters. Now is the time to continuously raise the profile of women in global health and ensure thought leadership is not only bound to the stages of conferences, but authoring research papers and sitting in boardrooms influencing policies that are nuanced to the unique solutions needed. 

There’s no cure for COVID-19 at present, and countries like China and the US are racing to find a vaccine to ensure that the accelerated effort of the virus to kill and infect minimizes. In the meantime, as global citizens, it is out duty and responsibility to keep each other accountable for physical distancing, being self-quarantined or isolated, people’s lives depend on it. Out of this pandemic, is the hope for more research into the gendered implications of such events and the opportunities for economies, the greater society and the private sector to invest in inclusive measures that are focused on enriching the economic prowess of women, and their participation in global health.




Published in Inno trep tech

Vuyolwethu Dubese is a multiple award-nominated professional in impact and inclusive development, and innovation strategy. Over the past five years, she's served as a Startup Partnerships Lead for Africa for global intelligence firm, Thomson Reuters and as an Impact Acceleration Associate at investment and advisory firm, Impact Amplifier and served on boards. During this period, she has also worked with organisations like Foundervine, World Bank Group, Standard Bank, UCT Graduate School of Business, UNDP Africa and Accenture, Seedstars World, Redbull and Global Startup Awards to mention a few through her expertise. As a moderator, she's graced the stage at multiple high-level engagements in and outside of South Africa including the USAID Global Entrepreneurship Week, and the Timeless Women's Conference and Gala Dinner in Rwanda to mention a few.


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