Big business has launched an initiative committing to curbing corruption in its own ranks, as well as growing and transforming the economy and creating jobs.

The initiative, which Business Leadership SA (BLSA) launched at a ceremony in Alexandra on Wednesday, is an effort to assert business as a positive force in the life of SA, committed to SA’s future. BLSA’s new CEO Bonang Mohale said business needed to make the point to fight back against the “legacy of the ugly and deceitful ‘white monopoly capital’ campaign which sought to blame business for many of the problems that beset the country”.

As part of the “business believes” initiative, BLSA’s members have committed to a contract with SA, also announced on Wednesday, in terms of which they will create jobs by growing the economy; empower and encourage senior black leadership; invest in South Africans and communities; support small businesses; and condemn and root out corruption.

The launch also saw Mohale and JSE CEO, Nicky Newton-King, sign an integrity pledge in which BLSA’s members promised to have zero tolerance for corruption in their midst, not to act anti-competitively, and to protect whistle-blowers.

BLSA’s members include SA’s 80 largest companies. Its anti-corruption pledge comes after leaders of SA’s broader business representative body, Business Unity SA, recently wrote in an article published by Moneyweb that “business and the public sector must nail their colours to the mast and take decisive action to root out corruption in all its forms”, and called on businesses and public sector entities to uphold the highest ethical standards and prosecute — and name and shame the culprits.

At the launch, which was attended by the CEOs of several large listed companies as well as labour, non-governmental organisations and other civil society leaders, Mohale said: “SA’s future and our future as businesses are inseparable. We want the transformation so many in this country need so desperately.”

He said addressing poverty and inequality couldn’t be done without business. “The government needs to come up with laws that make it easy for the private sector to thrive,” he said. “Business needs regulatory and policy certainty to create jobs. Business is the answer not the enemy.”

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