RCL FOODS’ purpose is “We Grow What Matters” – and what matters to us are the communities in which we operate. Caeser Kenny, Corporate Affairs Director, RCL FOODS, is acutely aware of the role the business plays in the lives of its communities. “In areas like Nkomazi, for example, if our sugar mills weren’t there, there probably wouldn’t be a town,” he says.

Caeser refers to photographs of the area that show how RCL FOODS’ operations have stimulated the development of nearby agricultural businesses, the establishment of municipalities and the growth of entire communities.

“We have about 40 locations across South Africa, most of which are in rural or peri-urban areas, where communities literally live around our facilities. In the more remote areas – like our Tzaneen or Bushbuckridge bakeries, our Molteno Ouma Rusk facility and our sugar mills – we’re by far the biggest employer.

At the same time, youth unemployment in some of those areas is above 50%, which means we have an opportunity and a responsibility to help meet community needs.

“Our social licence to operate comes from making a positive impact in our communities,” says Caeser. That includes localising supply chains as far as possible.

“In terms of procurement regulations, ‘local’ means sourcing from South African suppliers, but when you deal with communities, local means local in the truest sense of the word. That’s why we engage with farmers and other businesses in the immediate area.”

RCL FOODS’ approach to community engagement is built on three pillars: local employment, localised supply chains and engaging with a broad range of community stakeholders.

“We’re intentional about this,” Caeser says. “In order to do this, we want to develop relationships with credible community partners. I say ‘credible’ because we need to ensure that genuine community needs are always at the forefront and are not hijacked for personal interests. Criminal elements who try to pressure RCL FOODS to include them in its operations don’t have the interests of the community at heart. That’s not the kind of relationship we want to foster.”

In 2023
our Nkomazi small-scale
cane growers earned
R431 million
in revenue from cane sales.

And RCL FOODS invested
R10.9 million
in community social

Of that,
R8.5 million
was invested through our
Do More Foundation.

The Foundation also assisted
90 small enterprises
in earning livelihoods.

Caeser and the RCL FOODS leadership team put a lot of thought into the “How?” of community stakeholder engagement. And they make use of various opportunities and touchpoints – from corporate social responsibility (CSI) initiatives to site-based projects. What’s even more important, though, is the impact.

How much impact do those engagement efforts have on our communities? How much difference is the business making in the lives of its stakeholders?

“Measurement is very important, and we’ve developed a system that helps us with that,” he says.

He also accepts that there are things that can’t be measured. “What we’re hoping to change and build are knowledge, attitudes and behaviours based on a mutually beneficial relationship with RCL FOODS. These are the most difficult to measure, but they’re often where you have the biggest impact. How do our suppliers feel about doing business with us? What do our employees’ families think of us as an employer? That’s where we want to move the needle, and we do that by building meaningful relationships.”