One tree does not make a forest. To be successful, you need an ecosystem and you need to nurture that ecosystem. If you take it for granted, it will eventually disappear. This is why transformation in South Africa is important. If the country as a whole isn’t prosperous, then soon there will be no prosperity at all.

We should also not lose sight of our humanity. Altruism is important and we should aspire to do good without always looking for a return. But a business can do both: give to society because it truly believes in it, and also strengthen the ecosystem on which it depends to keep growing.

This is what the MTO Group practices, reinforced by our CEO, Lawrence Polkinghorne:

“Transformation in modern forestry is an exciting journey. It speaks to the overarching theme of transforming holistically, it touches us everywhere, socially, economically, culturally and digitally, so we are completely subscribed to this dynamic. We love the change, becoming current and global. It fits with our culture of being inclusive, flexible, adaptable, urgent and energetic.”

Since 2016, MTO has been driving programmes aimed at Black-Owned companies within its supply chain. These programmes, managed by an exclusive office and staff, are designed to elevate those businesses across all metrics. Entrepreneurial development and business literacy are the main goals, shaped into a three step approach.

The first is expanding business capacity and development support through structured formal education. Topics cover the gamut of essentials, from administration, finances and regulations to people management skills. Second, we explore and establish funding options for companies towards asset finance. Finally, we help the companies identify opportunities in their value chain. This includes contracts with other upstream forestry companies. At MTO we don’t see the benefit of fencing our contractors in. Transformation should be multilateral or it will not succeed.

Currently the programme is embarked on an incubator programme, identifying and attracting the first group of contractors. We have also piloted several training and mentoring sessions with excellent results. One key aspect to the MTO approach is a focus on generational businesses, where the children of the business owners are poised to or have taken over the enterprise. These contractors have forestry in their blood and are the future leaders of the sector.

Our efforts will shine even brighter in 2018 as we continue to build a transformation model that we hope will appeal to the entire industry. At the the MTO Group, prosperity, transformation and success are all connected. They strengthen the forest we all rely on and without which, we’d never grow stronger.