South Africa’s largest fishing group, Oceana, is number one in this year’s Mail & Guardian Most Empowered Companies ranking. The participants in the Mail & Guardian/Empowerdex Empowered Companies Survey (ECS) include all the companies listed in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) other than those on venture capital and development boards. The survey is aimed at raising awareness of Broad- Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE).

From ranking 70th in 2004 to 17th on the empowerment list in 2011, to 2nd place in 2013, Oceana has overtaken its competitors across all industries to lead with a total B-BBEE score of 95.17 points. This is an improvement from 93.98 points in 2012. Oceana also came 1st in the Food and Beverage sector.

“We view transformation as the right thing to do for the socio-economic stability of our country and the long-term success and sustainability of our business,” said Francois Kuttel, CEO of the Oceana Group.

Oceana’s performance comes as a result of the company focusing on improving areas in which they did not previously achieve maximum points – namely management control, employment equity, skills development and preferential procurement.

During the year under review, Oceana increased its Black representation at board and executive level from 54.6% in 2012 to 63.6%. The company also increased its expenditure with B-BBEE suppliers from R1.1 billion to R1.4 billion pushing its preferential procurement score to 19.68, and also invested R17.5 million in training its black employees, upping its skills development weighting to 14.51.

Oceana introduced an “Africanisation” programme, to assist in attracting black African talent to increase Black representation at all management levels. “It is important for Oceana’s long term success that we meet the Department of Labour’s targets.

“Maintaining our status as black owned and controlled fishing company and ensuring that we retain our highly credible empowerment credentials should ensure retention of our commercial fishing rights, thereby contributing towards Oceana’s overall long term sustainability,” he said.

This humbling journey began in 2004 when Oceana participated in the survey for the first time and was ranked 70th. Oceana has strived to improve its ranking throughout the years as depicted in the graph below.

The gazetting of codes in 2007 led to a slight dip. Oceana had to align its BEE strategy with the codes and focussed on improving our ranking. This was achieved through ensuring credible and sustainable transformation credentials for the group’s success and through continuous improvement across all areas of focus.