Gary Lubner, 52, is chief executive of Belron International, the world’s leading windscreen repair and replacement company (including Autoglass in the UK and Safelite in the US). Along with 1,000 staff, he’ll be swimming, cycling and running the London Triathlon on July 30 to support the Aids charity Afrika Tikkun (www.afrikatikkun.org).
What is the first charity you remember supporting?
Growing up in South Africa, one grandmother helped at an orphanage and the other at schools in townships. My earliest memories are going with them to give away old clothes, toys and books.
Which do you feel most passionately about now?
Afrika Tikkun, a South African charity which my family co-founded to help kids who have HIV or whose parents have died of Aids. We have pre-school crèches, schooling, after-school clubs, computer clubs and other facilities. Apartheid’s shocking legacy of impoverishment was exacerbated by the Aids epidemic in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Afrika Tikkun is a way for me to help end that and give back to the country I love.
Is charity a necessary companion to capitalism?
Capitalism doesn’t answer all society’s needs, so business will always have an obligation to give back.
What’s your primary reason for doing triathlons?
Not enjoyment! This is my 10th at Olympic distance [1.5km swim, 40km bike ride, 10km run]. They get harder every year. When we started doing it as a company 10 years ago, there were 12 of us. This year 1,000 of 25,000 employees are taking part. So now I do it not to let them or the charity down.
What do you get out of your giving?
A lot. I like to get involved, rather than just writing a cheque. It reminds me how lucky I am, keeps me connected to a bigger picture, and shows that my small problems are nothing.
Should employers encourage employees to donate to charity?
Employers have the opportunity – and responsibility – to create a culture in which employees can give back, through time, money, sponsored challenges and so on. Whether employees then give or not is completely up to them.
Must sponsorship activities be challenging?
People are really getting sick of me asking for money! I think you’ve got to put a bit of a stretch on yourself when you ask for sponsorship. Doing my 10th triathlon is a stretch and we’ve got people learning to swim so they can do their first.
What’s your favourite example of charity in action?
Every two years I take about 200 Belron leaders from all around the world to South Africa. Part of that has been helping out on Afrika Tikkun’s projects. For many that’s been a life-changing experience. One American guy saw a paralysed 18-year-old stab victim living in a shack. He took him to the US and found him a job and a place to live.