The King Committee on Corporate Governance has criticised the South African corporate community for having an inadequate understanding of the economic impact of AIDS.
In a statement on Monday, the committee called on company directors to move beyond putting HIV/AIDS policies in place, towards monitoring performance indicators and reporting to stakeholders on a regular basis.
The committee was formed in 1992 under the auspices of the Institute of Directors, to put the increasing global interest in corporate governance in the South African context.
The report's recommendations will become the Code of Corporate Practice and Conduct as from January next year.
The growing practical impact of AIDS on SA businesses is potentially huge. Some current indications show that over 20 percent of our country's economically active population will be directly affected by HIV/AIDS within the next five years, the committee said.
Tobe Hope, managing director of Group Solutions and Capital Alliance (CA), said directors needed to be aware of the full extent to which AIDS impacted on their business, while keeping HIV-infected employees healthy for as long as possible.
SA companies need to operate in a global environment and need to compete with companies that are located in countries where HIV prevalence and associated costs are lower, Hope said.
He said few employers made provision for the expected cost of HIV in their financial statements, mostly because the incidence of the disease amongst employees and the associated cost was unknown.
This insurance is designed to protect claimant confidentiality and to prevent possible discrimination in the workplace. Only aggregate claims data will be provided to employers, assisting them in adhering to some of the King Report's recommendations, said Hope.
He said it showed that the business sector could do more in addressing the HIV/AIDS scourge in the country.
CA's move has been met with the approval of members of the AIDS Consortium, Oxfam and all six leading trade unions.
CA will provide five percent of the profit from LifeAid to the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society to train additional doctors via an internationally accredited course on the epidemic.
Source: SAPA, 17 September 2001