This story captures how love, compassion, and forgiveness can combine in a successful business model. Raymond Ackerman, with the support of his wife Wendy, ignored the laws of Apartheid to grow an ethical business. While many families fled South Africa under Apartheid, the Ackermans stayed to leverage their own powers for good. They pioneered breakthrough marketing—insuring that food prices would come down to affordable levels. Raymond and his wife built their company based on merit, not the color of one’s skin. They grew the Pick N Pay from four to 1,200 stores, in six countries with 60,000 employees, 400 franchisees of color and $6 Billion in sales.
Now, Suzanne Ackerman, who is the Director of Transformation, oversees a business incubator that supports entrepreneurs. The Pick N Pay has 100 empowerment projects put in place to stop the cycle of poverty. All the entrepreneurs are fully supported and encouraged to created products that can be sold through the chain of stores. The whole philosophy is based on “doing good is good business.” For once, business is seen in a positive light as an agent of change and an inspiration for us all.
Rob Schermbrucker (Director/Producer – Slingshot Media)
In 2009, we were facing a global financial crisis and a general economic downturn … it seemed dark and gloomy… depressing even. What we needed was some good news, some inspiration, and my wife and I were desperate to find it, capture it and share it with the nation. At that time, Pick n Pay (South Africa’s leading food chain store, founded by Raymond Ackerman) used the strapline “Inspired by You”. This seemed like a good place to start.
Without a clear directive as to what it actually meant, it left me to interpret through my own filters what it held for me. I am part of a nation of individuals, united only by the fact that we all live together on the piece of dirt at the southern most tip of Africa (conveniently called South Africa) almost 20 years since Nelson Madiba Mandela stepped into his office as president; at the helm of this new democratic country, navigating toward freedom, health and collective happiness- all the while leaving the shores of separation, segregation, anger, hatred, apartheid and ignorance… So at a subconscious level, I guess, that formed part of the meaning for me. I was inspired by the people of this nation and their ability to rise above the historical injustice and present-day circumstance to strive forward and embrace an unknown future clutching the promise of change, reconciliation and freedom.
These ordinary people are the instrumental sample of what is good about our nation, and I believed if I could just tell their stories to the country, the entire nation would be inspired, and it would give them the courage to keep pressing on in the face of adversity. We began our journey looking through the lives touched by the Pick n Pay family- ordinary people who were now doing the seemingly extraordinary. Not only were our eyes opened to the extent of the transformational endeavors being directed by Pick n Pay, but we also saw a glimpse of why it was so important to the Ackerman family. They had been fighting for their consumer for years. They had been fighting forms of injustice for years. They genuinely seemed to care for this nation. Yes, Doing good is good business but “social responsibility” seemed to be in their DNA!
We interviewed person after person who had received an “empowering intervention” of some kind from the Pick n Pay family, and had taken that opportunity and converted it into something that would impact, not only their own lives, but that of their entire community. They all seemed to have this sort of “responsibility DNA” that formed part of their business ideology- using business as a tool to transform their community at some level. We left the project very inspired and extremely intrigued by this “responsibility DNA”. What is it and where does it come from? What motivates these business people to want to change their nation?
What fuels their enthusiasm and wills them to succeed as they transform communities? We started to hear words like love… forgiveness… compassion and began to wonder what they had to do with business?
In this short documentary film we explore what these words and concepts mean for the people who have been significantly shaping their communities and this nation. We will begin to understand that not everything that counts can be counted. Not everything that can be measured, matters. That “doing good is good business” There may be a new, ‘intangible’ triple bottom line to business in this country… and it is possibly, best expressed with words like Love, Forgiveness and Compassion.