Through the Zenises Group’s work as a global tyre distributor, we have helped to turn the slogan “made in China” from an outdated slur, to an assurance of quality. With a number of large, internationally recognised brands under our care, the company has grown exponentially since its launch in 2014 and now has a presence in 20 countries. However, Zenises is fundamentally different to other multinationals. With a deeply ingrained ethos of ‘doing what is right’, at Zenises we have become well-known for our successful philanthropic enterprises.
Over the years, witnessing numerous countries achieve industry transformations, I have become more determined that this economic growth should not bypass the local people. Africa and the Indian subcontinent are just two examples of continents which have experienced tremendous recent growth but where great financial disparity remains. In expanding The Zenises Foundation, we sought to create educational opportunities and improve the quality of life for the multiple impoverished communities that are in urgent need of investment.
The Zenises Foundation charitable organisation was created before the Zenises Group manufacturing company even came into existence; it is the core philosophy and fundamental axis of the business. Zenises emphasises the importance of sustainable long term relationships rather than concentrating solely on profits. Money should really be treated as a vehicle; the true value of a company is in the benefit that it brings to those who really need it. Many businesses need to re-prioritise and recognise the difference between “need” and “want”, ensuring their ambitions and goals for the business are beneficial to the wider community.
The Zenises Foundation’s primary focus is to work with the local communities where Zenises Group operations are based, and potentially plant the seeds for community development across these countries as a whole. The Zenises Foundation aims to ensure children have a better future by providing access to a solid education to support their aspirations. Z Aspire, a branch of the Zenises Foundation based in the Indian sub-continent, works with underprivileged children of all ages – from primary school to university – ensuring that they receive not only an education but mentors to help them make the most of their opportunities. These mentors help students to realise their true potential and develop their skills, thus boosting their confidence in the process. The Zenises Foundation runs programmes through India and Europe supporting children and young adults to help them reach their maximum potential.
While many businesses are investing heavily in charitable causes, I would urge them to re-examine the effectiveness of their activities and to avoid taking a simplistic approach to their work with impoverished communities and developing nations; a starving man’s needs are not met by one meal and writing a cheque does not always guarantee an impact. Our counterparts must instead offer support to help individuals escape from the poverty trap by providing tailored and circumstantially tailored opportunities.
All too often, the specific situations of individuals are not considered. While paying tuition fees, for example, is a generous gesture, it is one which will have a limited impact if further support is not forthcoming. Circumstances often occur which prevent recipients from taking full advantage of any schemes which are put in place for them. A key example of this can be seen in the work we have been doing within Z Aspire. Meeting with a number of our mentees to catch up on the progress they were making, in conversation it emerged that one student was struggling due to a lack of light at home whilst others were having difficulties with entrance exams. By having this one-to-one conversation we could better understand the real issues that our mentees faced and also take immediate action to provide these students with the resources they needed. I have also arranged to receive regular WhatsApp messages regarding the progress of Z Aspire students; monitoring their marks and academic development enables me to spot changes and flag up any problems which our students may be having. Providing extra tuition, installing working lights and keeping an eye on marks are small gestures, but are integral to the success of our mentees.
By adapting our approach to the needs of the individuals and communities with whom we are working, the Zenises Foundation are able to deal with issues hands on, immediately making improvements and ultimately maximising the project’s impact.
Seen by many companies as nothing more than a marketing strategy, corporate social responsibility runs the risk of simply becoming another business buzzword. Corporate responsibility is the ethos of leading by example. The responsible CEO aims to expand business not by seeing corporate social responsibility simply as an obligations or another box to tick, but by embracing a sustainable approach to business; by taking into account not only the environmental impact of their activities, but the true societal impact upon local communities.
The work of the Zenises foundation is fundamentally about helping improve lives. By taking a proactive interest in all of our projects across the Z Aspire, T OutReach and Westlake Wishes initiatives, we are able to avoid a “one-size fits all” approach. I would call upon other companies to do likewise by looking beyond the obvious and try to truly understand the communities they seek to help.