South Africa‘s education system is in dire straits with few people having access to tertiary education. This has resulted in a skills shortage across all industries. Private companies as well as public companies are experiencing problems due to this skills shortage. This paper investigated whether private companies feel they have a duty to assist in resolving this problem, considering Milton Friedman‘s assertion that the sole purpose of a company is to make money for the shareholders compared with the notion of conscious capitalism.
A literature review was followed by a qualitative study where CEOs of private companies were interviewed. These companies included unlisted companies, partnerships and sole proprietors. During the interview process, they were asked whether in their opinion they have a duty to be involved in solving the problem of lack of access to tertiary education, whether they are currently involved and the reasons why they are involved or not. The question was asked whether in their opinion the theory of Friedman or conscious capitalism is more applicable to their environment through investment in education.
It was found that the small business owner does experience a sense of duty and responsibility towards solving problems in tertiary education. In some cases, this was due to legislation promulgated by government. This sense of duty is limited to their immediate environment. It was shown how legislation has interfered with the theory of conscious capitalism in terms of the four constructs on which it is built and how various other factors need to be taken into account when considering whether conscious capitalism is relevant in the business environment.