On the sixth day of my South African trip and escorted by the local police, we visited a Children’s Village in the million strong Orange Farm township. We went there to paint their new dormitories, but arriving with our buffet bellies and branded tshirts, we wondered if it didn’t cost more to bring us here as part of a corporate volunteering initiative.

Wouldn’t it have been better to employ local employees to paint and use their skills to develop their own trade?

Should the orphans be lodged in an orphanage so isolated from the local community or should they live with the extended family where they can create networks of trust and build social capital — where they would have the opportunity to find a job in the future?

We then visited a Coca Cola factory. Maybe aware that the majority of youth and student leaders sat around their boardroom were more interested in workers’ rights than profit margins, they started off by telling us about freedom of association and collective bargaining. 71% of their associates are union members, they have a recognition agreement with the main union, they have full-time shop stewards and they hold annual wage negotiations. All permanent associates are entitled to transport allowance and study assistance to further their education which is covered by the company. As well as their company wellbeing program, their HIV/AIDS service provision benefits the “associate” plus one partner and up to 3 children under the age of 21.

So what we found is that the staff benefits were fairly good, but this didn’t cover neither agency nor temporary workers…sounds familiar?

Many of you will be aware of the scandal involving Coca Cola in Colombia. The company itself argued that it was working with the International Labour Organisation on child labour and had developed a guide and principles for suppliers to ensure the supply chain was ethical — something Compass has been campaigning on when lobbying on the Companies Act.

How do we engage constructively with corporate social responsibility projects by companies who we want to hold to account? Do we accept their “goodwill”? Do we refuse contact?

Do we need to engage young people more on corporate social responsibility and how they can play a role in this debate?

Head of Policy & Research @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese