Stakeholder relations

Blue Label Telecoms is part of a greater socio-economic ecosystem and our stakeholders are a core element of that system and of our business.


As a business embedded in emerging markets and embracing a growing ecosystem, the impact of our operations extends beyond our commercial partners, customers and employees. Providers of capital, communities, the media, government and non-governmental organisations, as well as other stakeholder groupings may each have differing viewpoints and expectations of our business. We recognise that we depend on robust relationships with all our stakeholders in order to grow our business and provide value to individuals, families, businesses and society.

We recognise that engagement and co-operation with stakeholders, including understanding their needs and concerns, as well as acknowledging that Blue Label is reliant on them is paramount, especially when navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. The intensity and quality of engagement with employees was ramped up in preparation for COVID-19 and has continued as the majority of employees work from home and will continue into the future given the very positive feedback received from staff. In preparing for lockdown level 5 that came into force on 27 March 2020, employees were provided with detailed guidelines on remaining safe and provided with training in order to install PCs and laptops in their homes. The Group provided employees with data and routers where required. Employees were invited to frequent webinars from leading medical experts and we continue to provide weekly communication from our joint CEOs and “hang-out” sessions with comedians and motivational speakers.

Digital innovation is the lifeblood of Blue Label and came to the forefront during lockdown. We created new products that allow indigent customers to access their free basic electricity grants via USSD and WhatsApp without leaving their homes, we developed specific products that combine a number products into single vouchers to help customers limit their need to venture out and we developed a streaming platform called COVID Zero. This platform helps Ticketpro, whose business has been severely impacted by the lockdown, to maintain relevance and provide artists and fans a platform to share and enjoy their content safely. COVID Zero empowers entertainers and raises funds for charities to provide less fortunate South Africans with face masks, hand sanitisers and food parcels. Importantly, Blue Label was able to set up a fully functioning remote Customer Interaction Centre to deal with any and all problems face by customers. The lockdown has not dented Blue Label’s ability to provide to provide airtime, data, electricity, bill payment and other financial services products seamlessly and 24/7. Our multi-channel approach provided customers with alternative outlets to access our products when retail stores were close and petroleum forecourts not utilised as much. The continuing move to digital buying patterns has seen banks and online applications increase in importance.

We have been pleased to note an uptick in productivity from our employees and management team. Working remotely has saved significant time in not having to commute. We believe that the requirement to engage online with all our stakeholders has worked well and saved all involved both time and money.

Blue Label’s stakeholder engagement policy, a requirement of King IV, outlines our approach to communicating and working with our stakeholders. Engagement is an integral part of developing an understanding of our stakeholders’ needs, interests and expectations and assists Blue Label with strategic, sustainable decision-making. Collaboration and regular interaction with all stakeholder groups is essential to the business’s long-term resilience and to the effectiveness of our integrated sustainability approach. Stakeholder engagement is undertaken with a far broader aim than merely communicating “to” various stakeholder groups. Rather, Blue Label considers its various stakeholders as key partners in its endeavours.

While the Blue Label’s Board has ultimate responsibility for our Group’s stakeholder engagement efforts, the process of engaging with stakeholders is decentralised to form part of the operations of our various subsidiaries in different geographic locations. Each business area is required to report regularly to Executive Management and the Board on its stakeholder engagements. This is to ensure the Group’s various business units maintain and commit to playing a role in nurturing impactful relationships that deliver mutual benefits.

Stakeholder identification

At Blue Label we identify our stakeholders and monitor our relationships through a multitude of communication channels including regular dialogue.

Key stakeholders are identified by recognising their interests, areas of expertise and levels of influence. Other factors may also be taken into consideration, such as stakeholders’ integrity, willingness to engage, stated expectations from engagement, dependence on the Group, and the value to be derived for the Group in engaging with stakeholders.

Identification also assists in allocating resources appropriately and efficiently. As stakeholders can change, stakeholder mapping may need to be conducted to ensure groupings are not omitted or do not overlap.

Stakeholders are prioritised according to the level of influence they have on Blue Label and the level of influence Blue Label has on them. Our primary key stakeholders are our employees, customers, shareholders, regulators, government, media, business partners and suppliers. These groups are discussed in detail in the stakeholder matrix table included at the end of this report.

Methods of engagement

Our methods of engagement include various channels and means of communications reliant on each specific stakeholder group. These methods are meticulously outlined in the stakeholder matrix.

Some of the initiatives and methods used in the process of engaging with stakeholders comprise: face-to-face formal or informal, individual or Group meetings (including the AGM), media and securities exchange news announcements, presentations, speeches, roadshows, telephone and conference calls, the Blue Label website (www.bluelabeltelecoms.co.za), trade visits, phone hotlines, e-mail feedback forms, focus groups and workshops. Our processes are designed to both be proactive in terms of engagement and responsive to any attempt by stakeholders to engage with us. We actively use the data provided by our billions of transactions that we process annually to provide intelligent analysis of who we should actively engage with and how best to respond to any stakeholder needs.

We rely on the results of perception studies, independent research, reputation audits, whistleblowing facilities and formal grievance mechanisms as well as questions pertaining to our financial and integrated reports. In addition, we initiate publications such as newsletters, circulars and e-mail updates; regular customer, business partner and supplier meetings; below-the-line advertising, marketing and social media campaigns; formal consultations and audit processes; and host management and sales conferences. Dialogue, review and feedback are encouraged wherever possible, which in turn are presented to Exco for consideration.


Blue Label’s stakeholder engagement programme supports our efforts to be a successful, stable and ethical Company contributing to the economic growth of the communities in which we operate.
In identifying and prioritising stakeholders, the Board considers the following criteria:

Exco assesses the completeness thereof, with reference to the ecosystem in which the business as a whole operates. This approach to stakeholder identification and engagement is cascaded to all subsidiaries across the regions, although each is responsible for managing its own stakeholder relationships. Any key concerns at subsidiary level are escalated, either to line management or via the Internal Risk and Compliance Committee.

All subsidiaries or departments dealing with both external and internal stakeholders are directly responsible for receiving and dealing with complaints received. It is their duty to adequately resolve the complaints received to the satisfaction of both parties. Most complaints are directed to the client’s direct point of contact with Blue Label, including the multiple call centres. Each subsidiary is also responsible for generating proactive leads to engage with new potential stakeholders.

Stakeholder identification and prioritisation is an ongoing process and is evolving as the Group expands.

The Board’s approach to stakeholders also embraces:

The management of stakeholder risks and opportunities is done through the completion of a risk assessment which forms part of the overall enterprise risk management process. This enables management to effectively deal with uncertainty, associated risks and opportunities, thereby allowing us to strengthen our stakeholder engagement. Our future engagement activities will expand on current initiatives and improve the accuracy and speed of communication efforts.

Major engagement activities in FY20

Apart from continuing daily engagement with all our staff, customers and suppliers, the major concern during the FY20 has been Blue Label’s urgent response to the COVID-19 pandemic as detailed on COVID-19 impacts, providing guidance to investors regarding the progress of the Cell C recapitalisation and keeping stakeholders apprised of our “back-to-basics” strategic approach to operating the business. The success of our back-to-basics approach is evident in our financial results to the year ended 31 May 2020. Our approach to investors is to provide them with continuous access to Executive Management at both Cell C and Blue Label via conference calls, face-to-face meetings and more recently via Microsoft Teams and Zoom. We provide updates to investors regarding our progress, over and above out regulatory obligations, as often as we are able to and whenever directly asked for information. Continuous engagement is necessary to remain up to date with the prevailing ideas and concerns of our stakeholders.

Our formal engagements through results presentations and roadshows also provide opportunities for investors to have all queries regarding our strategic and operational direction answered.

Our new operating structure has increased our ability to rapidly meet our customers’ needs, improve our service levels and speed to market. We have conducted extensive customer engagement activities to understand their needs and have designed products and solutions that meet their needs and cater for future requirements. Surveys regarding the performance of our Customer Interaction Centre have demonstrated that our customers are pleased with the increased speed of our turnaround times.

Stakeholder engagement matrix

To provide employees with strategic direction and keep them informed about Group activities. To ensure that we remain an employer of choice that provides a safe, positive and inspiring working environment. To understand and respond to the needs and concerns of our employees.
To provide us with feedback and input that can help us improve their working environment experience as well as the performance of our business. Our employees needed extremely frequent engagement, direction and encouragement to help deal with the COVID-19 crisis. All our communication lines are open, and we pride ourselves on responsiveness to their concerns and the continual encouragement and advice we provide. We have also made particular efforts to engage with our employees on the strategic direction of the Company. Ongoing and daily engagement at all levels as required by employees,supported by a Group employee and engagement plan. Regular, direct communication between managers, teams and individuals. There is also a robust combination of face-to-face, written, digital and broadcast communications, culture and engagement surveys, Blue Label results presentations, leadership seminars, EE workshops and committee meetings. We also use e-mails, intranet communications as well as employee functions and community events. Blue Label Telecoms employees completed an engagement survey. The survey found that our employees had a weighted average engagement score of 8.09/10.
To understand them, their aspirations, businesses and communications needs better. To provide appropriate products and value-adding services. To ensure that we maintain the high-service levels they expect and deserve. To inform product development and prioritisation. To develop products that service our clients evolving technology needs.
To access world-class innovative solutions and services. To obtain access to mobile transactional services that are secure, simple, convenient and efficient. To understand how Blue Label can better service their needs and to proactively promote products and services that are beneficial to customers. We have maintained open lines of communication to address any concerns related to changes in operational procedure brought about by the COVID-19 lockdown. We are using our rich data lakes to provide customers with intelligent advice with respect to servicing their needs. Despite tough economic conditions and the COVID-19 lockdown, Blue Label has managed to grow gross revenue and improve gross margins. Ongoing. Dependent on customer needs and identified sales, service or guidance opportunities. A dedicated, national helpdesk operating daily from 07:00 to 21:00, with a team of customer relationship and technical support consultants. Face-to-face formal and informal meetings, online meetings as well as formal consultation. The Group has a customer relationship management (CRM) system, self-help facilities and dedicated sales and technical consultants to enhance its customer engagement service. Customer satisfaction surveys are carried out across all customer segments on a regular basis.
To provide current and future shareholders with relevant and timeous information, ensuring Blue Label shares are appropriately valued. To manage shareholder expectations and reputational risk. To maintain strong relationships, keep abreast of market developments and inform our shareholder targeting strategy. To ensure good governance and deepen the trust placed in us and our brand. To get feedback that informs our strategy, business operations and how we govern our business.
To receive relevant timeous information on our prospects and financial and non-financial performance so that they can value and assign appropriate ratings. To understand our financial performance. To gain insight into our strategy and management. Blue Label benefits from shareholder insights and applies them to consideration of our strategic direction. Shareholders have been very encouraged by the success of our back-to-basic strategy evident in declining debt levels and strong cash generation. Shareholders are encouraged by Cell C's strategic approach in roaming on MTN's radio access network and look forward to a successful conclusion of the Cell C recapitalisation transaction. On a formal basis, three times a year to coincide with the release of year-end results, half-year results and the AGM. On a continual basis and as requested by the financial media, investment analysts and investors during open periods. We also participate in various broker-hosted investor events, conference calls and Blue Label-initiated roadshows and investor days. Annual and interim results announcements and roadshows. Analysts and investors have access to daily e-mails, telecons and meetings with Blue Label's investor relations together with meeting executive and Senior Management. Following the presentation of Blue Label's annual results, the share price has staged somewhat of a recovery from a historically low level. Investor interaction has increased thanks to virtual meetings now being the norm. We expect this method of engagement to grow and replace many face-to-face meetings.
To maintain open, honest and transparent relationships and ensure compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements. To retain our various operating licences and minimise our operational risk.
To ensure regulatory compliance. To promote the soundness and stability of Blue Label itself and the legal environments in which we operate. As required. Various industry and regulatory forums, meetings between regulators, and our Board and management. This includes one-on-one discussions with various executive officials.
To cement our social licence to operate, with government being one of the key stakeholders. To build and strengthen relationships with government, both as a partner in the development of the country and as a customer. To provide input into legislative development processes that will affect the economy, our activities and operations. To reaffirm our commitment to public sector business development. To participate visibly in, and be a partner to, the transformation of South Africa and the communications sector. To partner in increasing economic growth and reducing inequality and unemployment.
Blue Label is a key role player in the economic, social and environmental transformation of the country through the provision of virtual communications, payments, value-added and ticketing services to largely lower living standards measure (LSM) communities. Blue Label's goal is to improve the levels of financial inclusion in the mass market. Blue Label has engaged with National Treasury, National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA), Eskom and various municipalities in order to fully understand how we can assist local government to trace and recover lost or stolen electricity revenue. Good progress is being made. As deemed necessary by either party. Participation on various platforms with government. Ad hoc engagements with national and provincial departments about economic and business matters that affect Blue Label as a business and ways in which we can be of assistance to individuals and the economy of South Africa.
To leverage the reach and influence of media channels; to share our business and investment story with stakeholders. To communicate with relevant stakeholders and the broader public with a view to having a positive influence on behaviour that will lead to desired business results. To protect and manage our reputation.
To educate and inform their audiences on developments in the communications sector and Blue Label specifically. To be informed about our contribution to the South Africa economy and our products and services. To empower their audiences to make informed financial decisions. To advise on product and service developments. Blue Label has proactively engaged with the media on the launch of new products during COVID-19 and the launch of our streaming platform to raise money for charity and provide entertainers and audiences a platform through which they can safely enjoy content in their own homes. Daily interactions in response to business-related media enquiries. Regular interactions to share information and respond to media requests for commentary about our business. Ad hoc engagements in response to our various business and sustainability initiatives. Proactive, scheduled engagements to build vibrant, mutually beneficial media relationships. Ad hoc meetings with executive and Senior Management, launches of various Blue Label products and services, interviews with key business media on relevant financial reporting dates. Daily telephone and e-mail interaction regarding media enquiries.
  business partners and suppliers
To obtain products or services required for conducting our business. To maintain an ideal and timeous supply of goods and services for our operations. To encourage responsible practices across our supply chain, broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE), local procurement, supplier conduct and environmental considerations. To include critical suppliers in cross-functional teams so as to contribute expertise and advice before specifications are developed for products or services.
To provide products and services. To negotiate pricing and contracts. To promote new products and service offerings. To respond to tenders. To seek input and guidance on their sustainability journeys. To be provided with guidance and methodology or continuing business during the COVID-19 lockdown. The provision of our core products of airtime, data, electricity and financial services has remained uninterrupted during the COVID-19 lockdown. We attribute this to our good relationships and open lines of communication with our business partners and suppliers. Ongoing, as required. Ongoing interaction with business partners and suppliers for procurement purposes. Supplier education workshops, indabas and fairs. One-on-one negotiations and meetings. Changes to the B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice. Changes to trading arrangements in terms of our procurement systems and ERP.