by Nadia Gamieldien

Miles for smiles

Braam Malherbe believes it is better to give than to receive

Ensuring a sustainable future
Braam Malherbe

Most businesses do not appreciate the importance of a succesful corporate social investment (CSI) initiative. CSI should not be lip service – it should form part of your business.

I thought I was succesful at one stage in my life. There is a big difference in being successful financially and successful as an individual. Even though I was financially successful, I did not feel as though I was significant. It is a different thing to be financially 'well off' and leading a purpose-driven life. So for me, I was in a space where I was just chasing money. I had a small ad agency and in 1984 I lost it and I was declared insolvent.

I lost absolutely everything in my life at that stage. My father, who had been living with me, died that same year after he suffered a second stroke. I really felt empty. For me, it is that word again – 'significance'. Was I significant? Was I an asset to the planet? The reality of the situation was that I wasn't. That is where the shift took place for me. That was my eureka moment. That was when I asked myself, "What can I do differently?"

Companies sell products and derive a profit. When a company is genuinely green and not simply greenwashing – as many companies tend to do – you can show the real increase in profit during a 36- to 48-month model. Companies should realise that they can be authentic by going green, perhaps by spending a bit of capital initially, but that will come back.

CSI has a strong tax advantage: the more you give back, the more your profits grow. When you look at Woolworths, as an example, it is pushing responsible and ethical production. It is committed to recycling and 50% reduction within the next year. As a result, people feel ethical about shopping at a place like that. Consumers, the general public, have become more and more aware of companies that take responsibility and also those which disregard their environments. 

I am an ardent philanthropist and choose to give back. The greatest gift any human being has, is the gift of giving. It is a fundamental law of nature, regardless of your religion or spiritual convictions. The more you give, the more you get. I feel I am living proof of that. I don't see myself as having a job; in my opinion, JOB stands for Just Over Broke. Instead, I say I have a passion. If you are driven by your passion in life, the money will soon follow.

Anyone can make a difference.

I am an ordinary guy. When I deal with youth development, and I speak to young children, I speak about the power of dreams. Dreaming big can change your life. You are either a victim, or you are not. We need to stop blaming. Yes, we know the government has to be accountable; yes, we have to root out corruption. But ask yourself, aside of all of that: what can YOU do?

I have just launched the DOT campaign. Our planet is a dot in the universe and we are just dots on the planet. But if each of us can Do One Thing (DOT), collectively we can reshape the future. This empowers people and they feel they can do something to make a difference. For example, put a brick in your toilet cistern and, every time you flush, you save a litre of water. Imagine if 52 million people did that.

To empower future generations, you have to start believing in yourself. You are unique, and nothing is impossible. Take the word 'impossible' and separate the first two letters: it now reads 'I M possible'.


Look out for the full interview with Braam Malherbe in the next edition of Ubuntu.

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