Healthy and prosperous communities

Acting as a force for good in the networks that surround our business

1. Deepen the social impact of our products and services.

  • Scale our businesses to achieve greater impact.

2. Ensure our people management strategies address broader social concerns.

  • Enhance systems that support diversity, equity and inclusivity.

3. Leverage our capacity to support resilient ecosystems.

  • Support national objectives to enhance market sustainability.

4. Active corporate citizenship that aligns to our values.

  • Leverage models, capabilities and skilled employees to support social innovation.

Supporting South Africa’s transformation 

Being a powerful force for social good finds expression through our Shared-Value business model in the products and services we provide globally. But it also situates Discovery locally, in each community and network where we operate. The sustainability of our business requires real engagement with the challenges that face South Africa.

Transformation of the financial services sector remains a focal point for government, labour and civil society, with the private sector as the fourth stakeholder. Given our continued growth in South Africa and globally, Discovery’s progress in transformation and contribution to employment growth has real impact. We remain committed to being a partner in addressing the pressing issues affecting our nation. We are driven by our purpose, by extending the scale and impact of our Shared-Value business model, and through our participation in initiatives that are making a real difference.

Core to our history, values and success to date has been pride in our country and a commitment to playing a nation-building role. Central to this optimism is embracing transformation at all levels, which is vital to the country’s progress, and to creating an economically inclusive future for all. We see transformation as an ongoing journey – and it remains a critical and relentless focus for us. 

Adrian Gore, Discovery Group CEO

Given the structural and socio-economic imbalances that continue to characterise South African society, progress on transformation remains a moral imperative for Discovery. We have met our strategic intent to achieve a level 2* as measured against the broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) scorecard.

A road map being is developed to achieve this ambitious target, overseen by the Group Head of Organisational Development
and Transformation.

We remain deeply committed to enabling and supporting transformation in our organisation, and employment equity targets are included as a 15% weighting on the performance scorecards for all executives and managers. We have completed an enterprise-wide talent review to ensure a pipeline of employment equity talent and are launching programmes to attract scarce skills, particularly among employment equity candidates.

Discovery’s socio-economic development contribution (as part of the B-BBEE scorecard) amounted to over R40 million for the 2019 financial year.

*Note: The difference of the B-BBEE level on the 2019 Integrated Annual Report (IAR), is due to the B-BBEE certificate being re-issued as a B-BBEEE level 2 post the IAR being published.

Building and broadening our supply chain

Discovery provides financial support, in the form of loans and grants, and non-financial support, in the form of training and mentorship opportunities, to selected enterprise and supplier development (ESD) beneficiaries. Grants to the value of R12 million were provided in the 2019 financial year, our current ESD loan book is sitting at just over R115 million, and the programme has supported 23 independent entrepreneurs in this financial year.

We work with enterprises where we see the potential for them to become successful businesses with a sustainable market, with business development support provided beyond funding where required. Funding is based on a thorough due diligence process conducted by the Finance team on the initial proposal, and additional development support is provided in areas where further development of the proposal is required. Robust governance practices are in place to manage the awarding of funding, with all decisions interrogated and monitored by the ESD Investment Committee, which comprises of key executive directors within the Discovery Group.

We are constantly searching for qualifying beneficiaries and it can be challenging to find companies that meet our criteria. We coordinate closely with the procurement team to identify and ensure that we are supporting suppliers that are strategic to Discovery's business.

The ESD programme’s key objectives are as follows, all of which contribute to the ambition of being a force for social good:

 Addressing youth unemployment

 Creating jobs

 Providing access to, and lowering the cost of, healthcare

 Developing our supply chain

 Supporting innovative ideas for new products or services.

Discovery achieved its target for enterprise and supplier development, as set by the Financial Sector Code.

According to the World Bank, SMEs in emerging economies contribute up to 60% of total employment and up to 40% of national income, but access to finance is a key constraint to their growth. However, the reality in South Africa is far different. According to a study by the Small Business Institute in October 2018, “while formal SMEs contribute nearly 98.5% of the number of formal firms in the economy, they only account for 28% of the jobs”. This highlights the need for targeted support for high-growth SMEs that drive job creation and economic growth - typically medium-sized businesses.

Discovery is a proud shareholder of the SA SME Fund, a private sector led initiative born out of the CEO Initiative, a partnership between the SA Government and the CEOs of a number of companies to stimulate the economy and create jobs. The R1.4 billion Fund focuses on building entrepreneurs and SMEs.

The SA SME Fund launched the CEO Circle in March 2019 as an initiative that aims to accelerate the growth of high-growth black businesses within the SA SME shareholders’ supply chains. In August, seven companies were selected as CEO Circle Entrepreneurs 2019 (from an initial list of 140 nominations). They will get access to personalised support including access to capital, senior mentors and corporate decision makers. Importantly, all these companies have more than R50 million in revenue per year, high year-on-year growth, and are founded and led by black entrepreneurs.

Mid-sized companies are an important engine of economic growth. We will leverage the enormous power of our shareholders (being the top 50 corporates) and fund managers to help grow these businesses into significant players in the South African economy.

Adrian Gore, Discovery Group CEO and Chairman of the SA SME Fund

The SA SME Fund also has a key focus on investing in and growing the venture capital industry in South Africa.
This support is critical for stimulating the dynamism and innovation of our economy.
Discovery committed an initial investment to the SA SME Fund of R20 million.

Driving preferential procurement
to support emerging businesses

To support the Group’s ambition to maintain a B-BBEE contributor level 2 by 2023, the procurement team has taken a strategic decision to increase procurement spend with designated groups, with a focus on black youth-owned businesses. Support includes identifying suitable companies and facilitating access within Discovery’s federated model in order to give them greater exposure and broaden their networks across the organisation.

To overcome the risk of working with companies that may not have the track record required, we pair them up with existing suppliers who are willing and able to mentor and support promising new businesses. While these development and partnership opportunities can be difficult to find and require willingness from more established suppliers, we are continually leveraging our position and buying power to achieve positive impact in supporting promising young businesses.

We also engage closely with existing suppliers to improve their B-BBEE ratings. While our primary objective is to optimise value for money, we maintain minimum requirements for awarding contracts. In instances where a supplier with a sub-optimal B-BBEE level is awarded a contract on the basis of a value proposition, we often agree predefined milestones with the supplier that must be achieved over the term of the contract.

One notable success has been our supplier for the staff restaurants at 1 Discovery Place, which has improved from level 4 in 2017 to level 1 in January 2019. Beyond meeting the contracted terms with Discovery, their B-BBEE performance has improved their profile and broader opportunities.

A key objective for procurement is to maintain fairness and integrity in the process of awarding and managing contracts. We work closely with internal teams to ensure clarity in defining the scope of work and transparency in the criteria we use in evaluating bidder proposals.

Discovery is a strategic partner in establishing Mohau Equity Partners, a strategic long-term investor and 100% black women-owned business supported by funding from Discovery. Our objective is for Mohau to identify entrenched and strategic suppliers within Discovery that require support in improving their B-BBEE profile. Mohau has already made a number of strategic investments to support the transformation of our supply chain, including a key supplier of consumables and devices used in Discovery wellness days.

Amendments to the B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice in 2018 have had an adverse impact on the levels of some of our suppliers. Our partnership with Mohau aims to support willing suppliers to improve their transformation performance.

Our objective to support black youth-owned business is about much more than the B-BBEE scorecard; it is about nation building and leveraging our success to improve the ecosystems where we have influence. We find that what they may lack in experience, they make up in agility and nimbleness, which matches Discovery’s entrepreneurial culture.

We will continue to identify promising youth-owned black businesses and link them to opportunities in Discovery. One example is Isazi, which has developed an industry-leading document workflow solution using artificial and human intelligence to benefit its clients and unemployed youth.

More detail can be found in ‘Our stories’ through the link at the end of this page.

In the 2019 financial year, we spent over R1.37 billion as part of our procurement on black-owned businesses, equating to 24.3% of our total procurement spend of over R5.63 billion. Over
R535 million was spent on black women-owned enterprises.

Supporting and developing
community networks

Community health and wellbeing are of primary importance to us. In refining our approach to corporate social investment (CSI), we are working to achieve greater scale and thus greater impact by replicating working models and introducing social impact accelerators where necessary. We will retain our focus on healthcare, along with specific programmes in human resources for health, maternal and child health, and community development.

Our CSI philosophy is embedded in the overall business philosophy of being a pioneering and leading global business that implicitly transforms financial services. We are focused on ensuring that the social development models used in our initiatives and by our partners are measurable, replicable, scalable and inclusive.

Scaling our impact is key and we’re shifting CSI functions to focus less on philanthropy and more on social development. It's about more than just the Rands and cents, it's about leveraging the models and the way Discovery thinks about the world, the way we think about business. We are not only working in social development spaces but connecting that back to commercial and economic viability to ensure programme sustainability. That is real shared value. 

Ruth Lewin, Discovery’s Head of Sustainability

Supporting our employees in their quest
to volunteer for good

Discovery ForGood, our employee volunteer programme, demonstrates that Discovery’s purpose lives in the actions of its people. Having met and exceeded our target to engage 60% of our staff in volunteer activities between 2014 and 2018, we have set a 70% engagement target for 2019 to 2023. As a cumulative target, we are already showing good progress, with 27% achieved up to the end of June 2019.

The objective of the volunteer programme is to leverage the capabilities of our staff in building healthier communities. Given the wide range of skills across Discovery, we work with communities to understand their real needs and match these to the skills and resources volunteered by Discovery’s people.

For example, in our flagship Orange Farm partnership, our leadership development team provide a leadership programme for school principals. Importantly, these are interventions that were identified and requested by the relevant stakeholders in these communities.

We are also broadening the scope of activities for employees to volunteer their time and energy, to ensure that we provide an opportunity for employees to share their passion for being a force for good beyond their day-to-day work-related skills set. A good example is in providing mentorships to individuals or teams to ensure the success of ongoing programmes.

The Discovery|COJ Business Centre is an incubator programme that continues to provide business support, training and mentorship to entrepreneurs from the area.

We continue to strengthen the relationships with our development partners, the municipality and community stakeholders to ensure the sustainability of the model beyond the intervention of Discovery. We are in process of signing a Master Framework Agreement with City of Johannesburg (CoJ) to ensure that lines of accountability and commitment to the project are clear and maintained.

Also in Orange Farm, the Discovery CoJ Technical Skills Centre continues to provide technical training, and where possible, internships or job placements for young people. In partnership with PACT/USAID, Discovery implemented the YOLO (You Only Live Once) and ZAZI programmes. These focus on social and behaviour change communication for adolescents and youth of both sexes (in responding to the social and behavioural drivers of HIV), and positive decision making, negotiating relationships and addressing gender-based violence for young women aged 15 to 24 years old, respectively.

Key indicators for the Discovery CoJ Technical Skills Centre for 2019

 47 technicians trained

 39 technicians placed in learnerships or jobs

 7 youth placed in internships

 549 youth attending behaviour change workshops

2 969 employees volunteered over 19 339.30 hours of
their time, worth over R3 million in 2019.

Harnessing the power of an emerging network
of leaders as a force for social good

The Discovery Foundation disburses grants to address the shortage of healthcare resources through training medical specialists, developing academic medicine and research centres, and increasing the number of sub-specialists to adequately meet the country’s healthcare needs.

A number of interventions are in place to achieve the Foundation’s mandate of ensuring 75% of financial support reaches black people. This includes our focus on targeting historically disadvantaged institutions, and underserved and rural areas. We also engaged with the Deans of specific medical schools and CEOs of associated academic hospitals to raise awareness about the Foundation’s funding programmes and the potential for collaboration in training, services and research across various academic health platforms.

In the 2019 financial year, 92% of academic and sub-specialist awardees in terms of award value,  met the B-BBEE criteria set by the Discovery Foundation. In terms of headcount, 86% of awardees met the B-BBEE criteria. We enjoy high levels of collaboration and support from Foundation alumni, who participate in the screening committee processes and help host the annual Discovery Foundation conference with parallel sessions on topics that add value to the strategic direction of the Foundation.

In the 2019 financial year, the Foundation committed in excess of R19 million (2018: over R21 million) on the awards programme, with R13 million (2018: R16.3 million)  spent directly to provide 43 (2018:52) doctors with specialist training and clinical research opportunities. Approximately R11.1 million (2018: R7.7 million) was awarded to a total of 14 institutions (2018: 11 institutions).

Funding programmes to improve the lives
of vulnerable communities

The Discovery Fund strengthens and improves health systems by developing human capital and skills, as well as primary healthcare service delivery. It also provides support to health policy, advocacy and infrastructure programmes. Focus areas include maternal and child health, HIV and AIDS, and tuberculosis. 

The Discovery Fund is funding and actively involved in key programmes, including:

Safe Travel to School

Discovery Insure's Safe Travel to School programme is implemented by the Discovery Fund and our partner Childsafe. It currently transports approximately 18 000 children to school every day (a dramatic increase from 10 356 last year) and we have 863 drivers on the programme. A steering committee comprising representatives from Discovery Insure, Fund Trustees, CSI and Marketing are working to guide and support the excellent work being done.


Hlokomela started as an innovative HIV and Aids educational and treatment programme. It now supports farmworker communities across almost 100 farms in Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Discovery has funded a research project through HE2R0 (the health economics and epidemiology research unit at the University of the Witwatersrand) to investigate funding and partnership models to extend Hlokomela’s services into primary healthcare and extend this model to other farms. A steering committee will be developing an implementation strategy for the proposed model, and includes representation from the Discovery CSI and Marketing teams, Hlokomela, Agri SA, Tshikululu and HE2RO. We are also in discussion with Agri SA on improving healthcare provision to farm workers, with a business case in development and aligned to other social programmes provided by Agri SA.

Umthombo Youth Development Foundation

We support the Umthombo Youth Development Foundation, which identifies, trains and supports rural youth to become qualified health care professionals to address the human resource shortages at rural hospitals. The success of the model has been driven by ongoing mentoring for those young people to support their progress during their university studies, with a 92% pass rate since Umthombo started. Originally working to capacitate the Mosvold Hospital, it has grown into an NGO that is providing healthcare professionals to district hospitals in the broader area up to the Mozambique border. Given their success, Umthombo is scaling and diversifying its model to include education by attracting skilled science and maths teachers to underserved rural areas. Replicating these models will help scale the impact in social programmes that are driving sustainable impact to communities in need.

Discovery Fund is also funding important initiatives in attracting skills and training in healthcare, including:

Africa Health Placements

Africa Health Placements, which recruits local and international doctors to work in South Africa’s understaffed rural hospitals

Breast Health Foundation

Breast Health Foundation’s training platform, Phakamisa, provides online training to healthcare professionals on breast care in private and public hospitals.

We are applying the Social Impact Accelerator Programme to provide a high-engagement mechanism to better support the Fund’s high-impact, long-term and flagship programme partners to scale the impact of their interventions.

36 projects received support worth
R20 million from the Discovery Fund in 2019.

Supporting improved healthcare delivery in South Africa

Being a force for social good means recognising and actively contributing to the health of South Africans. Discovery supports efforts to improve healthcare delivery by focusing on access, equity, efficiency, quality and sustainability. Given our data-led approach to driving improvements in health, Discovery shares its expertise and insights to support evidence-based decision making that benefits the healthcare system.

Discovery has stated its commitment to work with government to support the implementation of National Health Insurance (NHI) to achieve universal health coverage. We believe that cooperation across all sectors in the public and private healthcare sphere are needed to confront the immense challenges facing South Africa, and indeed the world at large, in supporting health. As a result, we have consistently expressed our support and made our capabilities available for its development, including by being active stakeholders in providing submissions on legislation and engaging with regulators to ensure the sustainability of our business, the industry and the broader healthcare ecosystem.

Our position on NHI is unequivocal: we are supportive of an NHI that assists in strengthening and improving the healthcare system for all South Africans – little is more important. We are committed to assisting where we can in building it, and making it workable and sustainable.

- Adrian Gore, Discovery Group CEO

There were a number of major regulatory and policy developments in 2018, including the Medical Schemes Amendment Bill, NHI Bill and the provisional report of the Competition Commission’s Health Market Inquiry. Discovery has made comprehensive submissions in response to policy developments and regulations, addressing key matters impacting healthcare and healthcare cover, including:

  • Escalating cost of healthcare cover and profitability in the private sector – with submissions made to the HMI on issues including:
    • Cost drivers and innovations in product design to manage these costs
    • Effective competition in private healthcare
    • The role of base benefit options and supplementary cover
    • The implications of underwriting restrictions
    • The need for amendments to the Health Professionals Council of South Africa rules to facilitate value-based contracting
  • Accessibility of cover – ongoing engagement with regulators on policy constraints
  • Ongoing compliance with regulations through transparent engagement with the Council for Medical Schemes and through compliance monitoring.

For more details on Discovery’s assessment on developments in key healthcare regulations, see:

Within our value-based care division, we are applying our expertise, data and extensive partnerships with healthcare specialists, medical societies and providers to support the delivery of quality cost-effective healthcare. We are supporting the South African Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and their members (see ‘Our stories’ below), as well as specific initiatives focused on areas like arthroplasty and bundled fee arrangements for specific procedures to ensure cost-effective care. These programmes are supported by data and analysis that helps our partners and other healthcare stakeholders understand current challenges and measure progress. Sharing our understanding, research and insights are a critical contribution to improve healthcare access and delivery.

Through the Discovery Foundation, we have supported training for 321 healthcare specialists to the value of R230 million since inception in 2006, with 42 new recipients supported in the 2018 financial year to the value of R27 million” to read “with 43 new recipients supported in the 2018 financial year to the value of R13 million.

Discovery has supported the Public Health Enhancement Fund (PHEF) since its inception in 2012. As a forum for the private health sector to engage with and strategically support the Minister of Health, the PHEF aims to address challenges facing the health sector for the collective benefit of all South Africans. In increasing the number of healthcare professionals, the PHEF has supported the training of 75 doctoral and medical science research scholars in health over the past six years at various universities.

Discovery has contributed R34.9 million to the PHEF since 2013, which includes a contribution of R5 million in the 2019 financial year.

More details are available on the Public Health Enhancement Fund website

In the 2019 financial year Discovery has contributed over R40 million as part of our corporate social investment into public health through the Discovery Fund and Discovery Foundation.

Curbing fraud, waste and abuse in the healthcare system

In 2019, Discovery Health’s efforts to curb fraud, waste and abuse in the healthcare system resulted in a substantial R529 million recovered on behalf of client schemes. These efforts also prevent additional fraud, waste and abuse, which is key in reducing costs in healthcare delivery.

Discovery has a specialised team of over 100 analysts and professional investigators that uses forensic software systems to identify unusual claim patterns. Also, more than half of investigations result from valuable tip-offs from whistle blowers who help to identify fraud, waste and abuse. 

Our fraud investigation processes are objective, impartial and fact-based. They comply fully with applicable legislation and have been tested and approved in courts of law. The entire forensic investigation process was also audited and tested by an independent legal firm in 2018 to ensure full compliance.

“We have a contractual and ethical duty to ensure that members’ funds are disbursed to pay for valid claims only. Without this rigorous approach, fraud, waste and abuse depletes the available pool of funds needed for healthcare treatment for members and drives up premiums.”

Dr Jonathan Broomberg, CEO of Discovery Health

As part of an industry-wide collaboration to combat fraud, waste and abuse, Discovery is actively supporting the Council for Medical Schemes and working with all stakeholders to guard against the corrosive effects of corruption in the healthcare system. If you would like to report any suspicious behaviour relating to fraud, waste or abuse you can call 0800 00 45 11 (toll free phone number) or email

2018 commitments and progress

2018 commitment

  • We'll help build a more resilient healthcare system.

  • We'll contribute to a more inclusive health ecosystem.

  • We'll improve health and safety for target communities.

Our progress in 2019

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