In the 1990s, the esteemed Harvard Business Review published a think piece about honesty in business. “Through extensive interviews, we hoped to find data that would support the theories of economists, ethicists, and business sages that honesty is the best policy. To the writers’ surprise, the theories failed to stand up. “Treachery, we found, can pay. There is no compelling economic reason to tell the truth or keep one’s word—punishment for the treacherous in the real world is neither swift nor sure.”

The business landscape has changed dramatically in the 30 years since the HBR report, and while data and info have become easier to track, the onslaught of dishonesty in the form of fraud, graft and government failures has placed increased pressure on employers. “The employers that are members of our organisation experience some of the most severe economic and labour hardships on the globe,” says Regional Manager for Gauteng, Erenst du Toit. “Toss in a generous helping of commercial dishonesty, workplace fraud and government duplicity, and it’s easy to understand why South African business owners have begun to lose faith in the brand of honest business as envisaged in the King IV Report on Corporate Governance.”

Honesty has always been a central feature of Erenst’s philosophy and approach to business and his personal life. “My parents are very hardworking, resolute, and loyal people. Their attitude and approach to life have contributed greatly toward my character development, and they taught me the importance of trust and respect for others. If someone loses their trust in you, it is impossible to regain it again. So always be honest. Always respect others, no matter their age, position, and social status.” Erenst grew up in Rustenburg, North West Province, before the family moved to Roodepoort, where he completed High School. His father helped him to choose his career in law. He still clearly recalls attending the University Open Day with his parents. “We trekked across the whole campus, from table to table, laboriously considering my options – and law was the career that stood out for me. I never looked back, and I am grateful for the opportunities I have received since obtaining my degree.”

Erenst joined CEO in 2015. At that stage, the organisation was going through a process of growth and transformation. “We took hands and worked around the clock to get everything in place so that we can provide our members with the supportive and professional service they deserve. I enjoy collaborating with a professional team that has the same vision.” Erenst explains that CEO is the voice for the employers and aims to make a difference in the labour market. “As a professional and expert-driven organisation, we represent members in CCMA and Bargaining Council matters, ensuring that our members’ interests are heard and considered during negotiations within the collective bargaining sphere. What makes CEO different from other employer organisations is our ability to adapt to changing times to be more relevant to our members and the stakeholders in the labour market. Not only that, but our members can trust that we are never swayed by political ideologies, union interests or dishonest dealings. They deserve a principled relationship.”

Unsurprisingly, Erenst’s friends and colleagues describe him as an honest and amiable person – someone who respect others, not for their status but for them as a person. “I would also describe myself as a Christian that loves God, and that will use the opportunity to speak about God when the opportunity presents itself,” he adds. “My amazing wife and I are enjoying the process of raising two wonderful children. I love seeing the children happy while they’re developing their respective personalities and applying the morals that we teach them daily. To me, there is no greater joy than hearing a child pray.”

The sporty, coffee-loving Erenst quips that his life is still a “work in progress” – though, if we’re being honest, and judging by various CEO members’ comments about Erenst, he’s clearly following a successful and trustworthy masterplan that’s paying off!