Johannesburg Stock Exchange Considers Proposal to Require Firms to Report AIDS Rate Among Employees
The Johannesburg Stock Exchange is considering a proposal that would require all member firms to report the HIV/AIDS rates among their employees and what steps the companies have taken to fight the disease, the Financial Times reports. Russell Loubser, the stock exchange president, said on Wednesday that the group is working with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants to determine "whether an accounting policy is appropriate and what form it should take" (Lamont, Financial Times, 8/15). South Africa has the continent's strongest economy and is home to several of the world's largest mining operations, as well as "world-class" manufacturing, service and financial institutions, Reuters reports. "AIDS is the single biggest factor affecting South African business and will remain so for the next decade," Andrew Sykes, CEO of NMG-Levy consultants, said, adding, "Foreign investors know very well the size of the problem and don't believe it one bit when we say AIDS is leveling off. They want to be convinced that our business is viable" (Reuters, 8/14). Such disclosures would become part of standard business reporting practices.
A 'Time Bomb'
Although Jeff Chowdary, joint head of emerging markets for F&C Management, said that the idea of an AIDS audit was "a bit far fetched," he did acknowledge that the potential number of HIV-positive workers was disheartening. "About one third of the mining workforce is HIV-positive, which clearly is to some extent the backbone of the economy," Chowdary said, adding, "When we're making strategic allocations to the stock market we have to take into account that this is a time bomb" (BBC News, 8/15). Sykes said that reporting AIDS cases could serve as a "baseline from a relatively sophisticated, industrialized economy" and as a "frame of reference for later in the decade when Western investment in China could be affected by AIDS in East Asia" (Reuters, 8/14). Only 1% of South African companies have investigated the impact HIV/AIDS is having on their workforces, despite the fact that 90% of firms will be affected by the disease, Sykes said (BBC News, 8/15).