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The National Business Initiative (NBI) is a voluntary coalition of companies, working for the past 25 years towards a resilient and inclusive economy, building trust to enable implementation and enhancing the capacity of their stakeholders to participate in economic and social transformation.

The NBI’s membership includes a significant proportion of the country’s leading listed companies, a number of the major state-owned enterprises and a variety of medium-sized firms. Since our inception in 1995, the NBI has made a distinct impact in the spheres of climate change, water, energy efficiency, local economic development, public sector capacity building, further education and training, public private partnerships and more recently in the social transformation sphere.

In March 2020, the NBI celebrated its 25th Anniversary. As part of the journey, we revisited the NBI’s achievements, accomplishments and milestones over the years.


1995 – 1999


The NBI was formed

  • The NBI was formed at the request of former president Nelson Mandela to mobilise business collective action to support the new democracy.
  • The NBI set up and launched Business Against Crime.
  • The NBI helped to conceptualise the approach of Whole School Development, through which the Education Quality Improvement Partnership (EQUIP) programme was launched.
  • The Business Trust was launched shortly thereafter as a trust building partnership between business and Government.

The NBI launched the Business Against Crime organisation:

  • Introduced the anti-hijack Gauteng Highway Patrol through the donation of 100 BMW vehicles.
  • Introduced city centre closed circuit cameras.
  • Supported the government in re-engineering the criminal justice system.
  • Business Against Crime currently runs as an organisation that is independent from the NBI. It is now housed within Business Leadership South Africa.

The NBI helps conceptualise the Education Quality Improvement Partnerships (EQUIP):

  • Goal: Strengthen quality of teaching and learning in schools through whole school development and a focus on management, leadership and governance.
  • Partnered with school leaders and teachers from 450 disadvantaged schools to focus on whole school development and on professional development in English, Maths, Science and Technology to the benefit of over 2.5 million learners.

The NBI launched The Business Trust:

  • Goal: Strengthen job creation and human capacity development.
  • Supported the growth of tourism, tourism-focused enterprises (Tourism Enterprise Programme), the TVET sector through the Colleges Collaboration Fund and the improvement of schooling quality.
  • Strengthened relations between former President Thabo Mbeki’s government and big business through the Big Business Working Group.

2000 – 2009


The NBI introduced the concept of “sustainable development”

  • The NBI introduced the concept of “sustainable development” as it practically relates to business.
  • The NBI becomes the regional partner for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
  • The NBI launched JIPSA, a high-level programme that elevated the skills shortage debate to catalyse solutions.
  • The NBI partnered with Incite Sustainability to bring the Carbon Disclosure Project to South Africa.

The Sustainable Futures Programme

  • The NBI introduces the concept of the role of business in sustainable development in South Africa.
  • Strategic refocus is adopted to promote good corporate citizenship and responsible business practice, opening trust channels between business and government.
  • The Programme diversified the NBI work streams, adding Environmental Sustainability to an already strong social and economic focus.
  • As a result, the NBI become a global network partner of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, a relationship that it continues to hold to this day.

The Travel and Tourism Programme

  • Goal: To develop relevant travel and tourism curriculum, with input from business, for grades 10 –12.
  • When the Programme was handed over in 2009, over 2000 schools were teaching Travel & Tourism as a subject to over 300,000 learners in grades 10 –12.
  • Over 1000 teachers and subject advisors across the country were trained.
  • To this day, the NBI continues to receive royalties from curriculum development which are used to fund the NBI Lecturer Work Placement Programme whose goal it is to maximise curriculum fit between TVET colleges and the Travel and Tourism sector.

The College Industries Partnership (CIP)

  • Goal: To develop a modern, high-quality and responsive public FET system designed to accelerate and expand skills development and delivery
  • The work that was achieved from the Partnership now forms part of the formal National Skills Accord targets.
  • The Accord was a precursor to the NBI’s suite of Social Transformation Programmes that focus specifically on Skills Development, Youth Employability and the strengthening of the TVET system.

South African focal point for the United Nations Global Compact

  • Goal: To promote responsible business practice, as launched in 2000 by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
  • The NBI became the South African focal point for the Compact, until it was released to run independently in 2018.

The Energy Efficiency Accord

  • Goal: To facilitate interaction between government and business to engage on energy efficiency, energy strategy and policy implementation.
  • The NBI facilitated the signing of the country’s progressive Energy Efficiency Accord between the Department of Minerals and Energy and 20 leading companies.
  • The successes of the Accord led to its formalisation under the banner of The Energy Efficiency Leadership Network (EELN) as signed and agreed upon at COP17.

The Energy Efficiency Leadership Network (EELN)

  • The EELN was conceptualised and refined by the NBI to facilitate open engagement between government and business about energy efficiency, strategy and policy.
  • The Network was designed to upskill network members through shared energy efficiency experiences and energy efficiency technology best practices.
  • At least 50 organisations were part of the EELN

The EnterPrizeBusiness Plan competition

  • True to its historical role as an incubator of innovative programmes for business, the NBI launched the EnterPrizeBusiness Plan competition long before such initiatives became the norm in corporate structures.
  • The competition was conceived to promote the creation of sustainable small-and medium-sized businesses, to create sustainable jobs, to develop business skills and to access finance effectively and efficiently.
  • The competition paired innovative entrepreneurs with business leaders, allowing them time and resources to create strategies for growth with the support of experts in business.

The Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA)

  • Goal: To identify priority skills for South Africa and to resolve blockages to the development of these skills.
  • JIPSA was conceptualised by the NBI and adopted by the Office of the Presidency as a presidential project under the leadership of Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ncuka.
  • The Parliament of South Africa appointed the NBI as secretariat to JIPSA.
  • JIPSA presently runs as an independent initiative, renamed the Human Resource Development Council of South Africa (HRDSA).

2010 – 2020

The Economic Linkages Initiative

  • Goal: To facilitate access by black enterprises to the supply chain of large corporations.
  • A partnership with Corporate Council on Africa and ECI Africa was secured which resulted in four-year funding from USAID.
  • Output from the Initiative was used to form the South African Supplier Diversity Council (SASDC), which became independent of the NBI in 2011.

The Learning Partnerships

  • Goal: To demonstrate the case for collective and collaborative action by companies to change the schooling system in South Africa.
  • The Partnership was launched and implemented with R1m in seed funding.
  • Learnings from the project were shared with members, and the project closed in 2011.

CDP Climate and Water

  • Goal: To showcase the role of business in the climate change agenda.
  • As an implementation partner of the CDP, the NBI motivates member companies to disclose their environmental impacts specifically in relation to climate change and water.
  • The NBI continues to provide sense-making capabilities and practical capacity-building to NBI members who are CDP signatories.
  • The NBI also uses data and insights obtained from members to highlight risks and opportunities presented by climate-and water-related issues.
  • The NBI partnership and work with the CDP continues

We Mean Business (WMB)

  • Goal: to galvanise the world’s most influential businesses and investors globally to recognise that the transition to a low carbon economy is the only way to secure sustainable economic growth and prosperity for all.
  • The NBI has been the local implementation partner to WMB since the dawn of 2015.
  • The NBI uses knowledge and experience of South African and regional businesses and policy-making to contribute a local perspective to WMB’s international work around climate change and its role in modern business.