Air Products South Africa fully supports the principles of BEE (Black Economic Empowerment), now in the form of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Act 53 of 2003, and its amendments.
By driving B-BBEE, Air Products is enabling more previously disadvantaged individuals (PDI) to participate in the South African economy. In turn, skills development, employment equity, preferential procurement, and socio-economic development create a platform for PDI’s to actively take part in the economy and in so doing significantly reduce poverty and produce greater economic equality for all South African citizens.
Air Products has had active programs to benefit the advancement of previously disadvantaged groups in our country, and to develop and support the communities in which we operate for many years. With the advent of the Codes of Good Practice, published under the Act and initially gazetted in February 2007, Air Products formalised its programs to align with this policy. After receiving a Level 5 rating in our first assessment, we then improved to Level 3, and held that rating for many years.
With the revised Codes of Good Practice gazetted in 2013, the scoring system and targets were substantially restructured. In the first assessment under the new codes, Air Products, like many other firms, saw its rating drop from prior levels, in our case to a Level 8 in 2017.
It is our intent to continue our journey to be a leader in developing people and in choosing to do business with companies that share our values in promoting the economic participation of previously disadvantaged groups. This highlights Air Products’ commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen and our willingness to join hands with other organisations in creating a thriving South African economy.
Air Products is a Joint Venture between Remgro Ltd and Air Products and Chemicals Inc., with each owning a 50% share. As such we receive flow-through ownership from our local shareholder. We also receive ownership recognition for the sale of our LPG business to a black owned entity in 2009.
Since the introduction of the Employment Equity Act 55, Air Products has aggressively addressed this element and now we have half of our executive management posts occupied by black people. In addition, almost two-thirds of all of our employees are black people, with 13% being females and approximately 2% being people with disabilities.
Air Products believes that the key to success lies in highly capable, empowered and motivated employees who, as stakeholders, help shape our company’s sustainable future. As we strive towards a high-performance culture, our key objectives are to value and build diversity and to empower all employees to reach their full potential through skills development initiatives.
While proud of our achievements, we are not resting and continue to identify and develop the right talent to improve our black representation throughout our organisation. We believe that employment equity is not merely about meeting targets, and all employees need to understand and support its underlying goals.
Over 90% of the overall funds spent in this element are allocated to historically disadvantaged people, mainly in academic and skills upgrades. Air Products promotes a culture of life-long learning within its business, which has resulted in many black people improving their future prospects through gaining recognised qualifications. We also invest heavily in bringing in unemployed people and providing training which will enable them to be employed either within Air Products itself, or in other related businesses. Air Products embraces opportunities to create a diverse talent pool, internally for its own business purposes, and externally for the benefit of a broad range of industries. Skills development, therefore, remains one of our key priorities.
We continually identify qualifying beneficiaries that meet the supplier and enterprise development qualification criteria set out in the B-BBEE codes of good practice.
Due to the highly technical and complex nature of much of the capital equipment utilised in our national operations, it is not always possible to obtain these locally, but wherever possible, local manufacturers will be used on an ongoing basis. Where local manufacturers and service providers do not immediately qualify to meet our technical specification, we set out clear objectives and concise supplier and enterprise development implementation plans with clearly articulated milestones to enable these entities to get onto our approved supplier list.
By sourcing our goods and services from black-owned suppliers and by investing in the development of small black-owned enterprises, Air Products is able to make a meaningful contribution to the future sustainability of other South African businesses while also building a strong network to procure the best and most-competitively priced goods and services.
South Africa’s social development needs are vast, and Air Products South Africa has a vested interest in seeing the country grow and prosper. Our socio-economic development programmes leverage well-considered partnerships to stretch deep into the communities, thus ensuring that poor, underprivileged and historically-disadvantaged people receive the assistance they so desperately need.
Every year, a percentage of our Net Profit after Tax (NPAT) is spent on socio-economic development programmes, with the youth and education as the core focus area of our strategy. The funds are allocated to schools, clinics, non-government organisations (NGOs), non–profit organisations (NPOs) and rural development initiatives in the communities in which we operate. These projects are largely identified and supported by Air Products employees at our facilities nationally, and more often than not, directly involve employees in the actual implementation.
At Air Products, we support a number of corporate social investment (CSI) projects and they are all structured according to a specific framework. The allocations are done at various levels and for different periods of time. The donations are done in one of three ways:
The long-term beneficiaries supported by Air Products focuses on the youth and education across different disciplines, including technology, agriculture, and social services, to name a few.
Air Products has launched special CSI projects in the past which formed part of big upgrade projects at a specific facility. An example of such a project was the Corporate Philanthropy Project in Vanderbijlpark. This fund, also known as the ‘G-Plant CSI Fund’, was created when we launched the ‘G-Plant’ at our facility in Vanderbijlpark in 2014 – the aim of this specific project was to utilize the funds for upliftment projects at schools in the area. Suppliers who worked with us on the ‘G-Plant’ project were invited to make a donation towards this fund.
Besides the categories mentioned above, Air Products launched a national ‘WitnessHappiness’ project which focuses on Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres in July 2016.
This project, which focuses on the youth and education, is strategically aligned to the company’s CSI strategy. Each of the participating facilities had the opportunity to identify an ECD in their community of operation to become the recipient of allocated funds and donations over a specific period. A key objective of the project is to form long-term relationships with the educators and learners and to make a visible difference at the centres, as well as in the wider communities.
Through WitnessHappiness, various projects such as focusing on the upliftment of the educators, learners, and the centres’ facilities are rolled out and as safety is extremely important to Air Products, there has been a drive to improve health and safety aspects at the centres.
Since the launch of the project there have been infrastructure projects at the majority of the centres. An audit was done at each of the centres to identify the most pressing needs, and funds were allocated accordingly. Besides the infrastructure projects, Air Products’ corporate social investment (CSI) Committee decided on pre-determined special days on which employees can visit the centres. The special days celebrated at the centres includes Mandela Day, Literacy Day, World Maths Day and a Year-end party every year.
At Air Products, it is all about making a difference.