By Maya Makanjee, Chief Officer of Corporate Affairs, Vodacom
Vodacom is committed to the highest standards of business integrity, ethics and professionalism and this commitment is the golden thread that runs through our operations. We are honoured to be the recipient of the Ethical Boardroom Best Corporate Governance Award for the Telecoms sector.
Who we are
Vodacom was founded in 1994 and today is a leading African unified communications provider, offering a wide range of services, including mobile voice, messaging, data and converged services to more than 65 million customers.
From our roots in South Africa, we’ve established mobile network operations in Tanzania, the DRC, Mozambique and Lesotho. We also offer managed services to enterprises in more than 40 countries across Africa. Vodacom is majority-owned by Vodafone, one of the world’s largest mobile communications companies by revenue. We’re listed on the JSE and our head office is in Midrand, South Africa.
This award is an important recognition that reflects our board’s role in exercising leadership and sound judgement in directing Vodacom to achieve sustainable growth and acting in the best interests of all our stakeholders. Moreover, it reflects the progress we have made in embedding sound governance in the way we manage our business.
Governance at Vodacom
Our board recognises the need to conduct the business in accordance with the principles of the King Code of Corporate Practices and Conduct (King III). These principles include discipline, independence, responsibility, fairness, social responsibility, transparency and the accountability of directors to all stakeholders. A number of these principles are entrenched in the group’s internal controls, policies and procedures governing our Code of Corporate Conduct that is underpinned by a commitment to, among other things:
■ Complying with all relevant laws, standards and principles in all our operating markets
■ Basing business decisions on economic, social and environmental criteria and maintaining financial integrity
■ Voicing our opinions on industry issues while taking an apolitical stance
■ Communicating openly with stakeholders while maintaining commercial confidentiality
■ Valuing our customers’ trust and safeguarding their personal information
■ Basing employee relationships on respect for individuals and their human rights
■ Protecting the environment and
improving the environmental and social benefits of products and services
Corporate governance set-up
Our governance structure, comprising the board, related committees and the executive committee, plays an integral role in supporting our business operations and realising our purpose, vision and strategies.
Our board takes overall responsibility for Vodacom’s success. Its role is to exercise leadership and sound judgement in directing Vodacom to achieve sustainable growth and act in the best interests of shareholders. In line with best practice, the roles of chairman and chief executive officer are separate. The chairman is responsible for leading the board and the chief executive officer for the operational management of the group.
Key components of our governance structure include legal, regulatory and policy compliance, risk management, ethics and stakeholder engagement:
■ Legal, regulatory and policy compliance is critical given the company’s geographic spread and need to adhere to its various legal, legislative and licence requirements.We have a dedicated legal, regulatory and compliance team that monitors, develops and provides awareness training on policies and procedures to ensure compliance with laws, regulations, codes and various standards applicable to the group’s operating companies.
■ Risk management is a non-negotiable aspect of how we do business. As a company, we are continuously managing material business risks and enhancing our control procedures to improve risk identification, assessment and monitoring. The board considers business risks when setting strategies, approving budgets and monitoring progress against budgets. Our risk division assists in identifying, assessing and recording the strategic risks facing the group and, where appropriate, monitors mitigating actions.
■ We are an ethical company that believes in and adheres to a set of values and principles that ensures that our business activities have a positive impact on the economies, societies and environments in which we operate. Vodacom has an ethics programme that includes conducting periodic company risk assessments, formulating appropriate risk management strategies, publishing and championing our values and ethical codes of conduct, providing awareness training and advisory services to employees, maintaining registers for gifts and entertainment and declarations of interests and ultimately enforcing these policies and processes.
■ Stakeholder engagement is an important part of our business and we are committed to managing relationships with our stakeholders in a proactive and constructive manner. We have an approved stakeholder management policy in place and report on all engagements to the group board’s social and ethics committee. Our approach is to have frank conversations on issues that matter to them and those that are material to our business. Our reporting to the board committee lists the key issues that concern our stakeholders and how we are responding to these. Select issues include how we are contributing to access to communications, reducing the cost of services, supporting the sustainability of small, medium and micro enterprises and contributing to social development of the communities within which we operate.
“Key components of our governance structure include legal, regulatory and policy compliance, risk management, ethics and stakeholder engagement”
Over the years, integrated thinking has become intrinsic in how we manage our business. Our strategy has five priorities, and we have set clear three-year goals and related targets for each of these. In combination, these priorities ensure that we manage the needs and expectations of our key stakeholders and the trade-offs between them, to create long-term value for our shareholders.
Key metrics applied in managing our business include net promoter score, a measure of customer satisfaction across all of our operations on a monthly basis; our people survey; and our reputation survey, which are usually conducted annually. Besides these formal measures, we also have well-developed engagement processes in place that regulate the relationships with our key stakeholders. Their feedback is made available to leadership through well-developed reporting processes to ensure that stakeholder views and concerns inform strategic decision-making.
To complement our thinking, we have been reporting in an integrated format for the last few years. This integrated reporting has helped us think more holistically about strategy and plans, manage key risks and earn the confidence of all stakeholders. At the core of this is embracing our responsibility as a corporate citizen to balance good business performance and associated rewards with an obligation to contribute to the sustainability of the countries within which we operate.
Our brand promise is ‘to empower everyone to be confidently connected’. We’re focussing on making our vision of being the best network, best value and best service real through our brand promise and everything that goes into keeping our promise.
Our governance structures with its components, integrated thinking and proactive stakeholder engagement will remain key aspects of how we conduct ourselves and contribute to the socioeconomic development of the countries within which we operate.
About the Author:
Maya was the former CEO of FinMark Trust, and prior to that, Corporate Affairs director at SABMiller and Nestle. Maya is also a non-executive director of Tiger Brands Limited and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). She has held various senior executive positions in the financial services, management consulting, telecommunications and fast moving consumer goods industries. Maya joined Vodacom on 1 June 2012