Responding to COVID-19 Responsibly
At the start of 2020, nobody could have predicted that the South African, or the global, economy was going to be so savagely devastated by COVID-19. With our official pre-pandemic lockdown unemployment rate well above 30% for the first quarter ending 31 March, even the more generous of estimates expect that more than 50% of our job-seeking population will be unemployed post-lockdown (currently at 42.6% as at 31 March 2021). This means that those of us fortunate to have jobs, even those of us self-creating our own employment, have a responsibility to act for the greater good wherever we can.
At IRAS, ours is not a business model structured around pursuits of personal wealth, but rather the concept of 'Shared Value'.
From the outset, back in 2009, the principle aim of the company was to act as a means to a more important socioeconomic ends: to generate income that would allow us to invest no less than 10% of our Total Revenue into projects that benefit those less fortunate than ourselves. Never has this been more important than now.
With SO many people out of work, and very few opportunities available for persons even of the highest skill levels, IRAS committed itself to the following COVID-19 responses:
Our charge-out rates were cut by a minimum of 35% to shoulder some of the recovery burden companies face as we all emerge from our national lockdown. Those new rates were in place until the end of 2020, updated to a continued minimum 20% discount for 2021.
Provide ALL of the JSE-listed companies with research and thought leadership articles that may assist with understanding the rapid increase in demand for ESG information post-COVID-19.
At an estimated cost of no less than 25% of our total revenue, we recruited two recent varsity graduates (both from the WITS Environmental Management programme) to offer work experience and income assistance, as well as 'Creating Your Own Job' mentorship, guidance and support.
We provided income guarantees of no less than R500 per team member per month to ladies within our Siyathuthuka Khalokazi Zulu Baskets project (deep rural KZN). Between September 2020 and September 2021, IRAS has worked with the ladies to produce a 1000 m2 'Food Security Garden' that has already resulted in a harvest that was shared by the ladies, a local primary school, and a local church (to assist others in their community).
When dining out, as IRAS does to informally engage our team on no less than a bi-weekly basis, tips at restaurants was no less than 20% throughout 2020 (to assist wait staff who were among the least compensated of workers during the lockdown). This has continued in 2021..