BEE in the know

10 years of BEE Verification

BEE in the KNOW chats to Ian Helliwell, CEO: Baywear Clothing

Established in 1952 by George Helliwell, Baywear Clothing is a textile manufacturing company that specialises in knitted underwear for infants, children & adults. The company is based in Port Elizabeth.

As one of Grant Thornton Verification Services’ very first clients, BEE in the KNOW spoke to Ian Helliwell, CEO and grandson to founder George Helliwell, to find out his insights on B-BBEE challenges in his industry.

“Long-term clients are vital to the longevity and success of Grant Thornton Verification Services’ practice and partnerships such as Baywear Clothing’s, forms the backbone of the B-BBEE business,” says Jenni Lawrence, managing director of the Verification Services’ business.  “Working together for more than a decade means we understand the challenges for Baywear and how amended codes can impact Ian Helliwell’s business.”

You were one of our very first clients in 2007. The codes of good practice were gazetted in Feb of that year and you were verified in July that year. What made you decide to become an early adopter of BEE?

We wanted to familiarise ourselves with the BEE codes as early as possible. We were already fulfilling many of the B-BBEE code requirements and we knew that properly verifying our business under the codes gave us a true “feather in our cap” with our customers and supply base.

You have seen many changes in the codes, growing from a QSE under the “old” codes, to a generic under the amended codes. What do you consider to have been the biggest challenge to overcome in this time?

It is very challenging getting to grips with the requirements of the new Codes overall.  It has been particularly difficult to fully understand what is required for a “generic entity”, but we are definitely up to the task and are well on our way to meeting the requirements outlined in the amended codes.

Are any of your BEE decisions influenced by your staff?

Yes, in fact our employment equity (EE) committee comprises management and staff members from various departments and this workgroup formulates Baywear’s workplace skills plan which is ultimately signed off by the directors. The EE committee holds quarterly meetings to discuss our goals and to track our progress which is all aligned to Baywear’s workplace skills plan for the respective financial year in question.

How do your employees perceive your BEE journey?

Our staff perceive our BEE journey very positively. We primarily aim to promote employees internally which is a fantastic incentive for Baywear’s staff. Knowing that there is scope to advance their careers within the company gives our ambitious employees enormous motivation.

Which are you best and least favourite elements of the codes and why?

Most Favourite Element of the Codes

It is very rewarding to see how much of a positive difference we can make in our business, to those less fortunate within the community.

Least Favourite Element of the Codes

It can be extremely challenging to continuously adapt to the codes when revisions are announced because the goal posts are shifted and targets need to be reassessed.

What advice can you give to other companies about to embark on this BEE journey?

It may seem daunting at first but it is important to remember that every journey starts with a first step. Remain calm when things seem complicated and daunting.  And remember, your verification service partner (in our case Grant Thornton) is there to help you along the way.

To discuss your BEE certification requirements according to the amended codes of good practice, or for further information, please contact our BEE verifications team.