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Corporate Social Responsibility in the UAE

With the economy of United Arab Emirates galloping at an impressive pace, many corporations are turning their attention towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. This is a significant departure from the ideology that businesses should focus on profit maximization. Instead, today's CSR is an opportunity for companies to become socially responsible and contribute positively towards the society in which they operate.

Corporations based in the UAE have also joined the bandwagon of CSR initiatives to build community relations and undertake corporate social marketing projects. Managers in the Emirates demonstrate a high level of social responsibility awareness and expect the organizations to behave in a responsible manner to protect the interests of communities. A company's involvement in such initiatives is viewed as an investment rather than a cost to preserve the environment, promote fair treatment of employees and show concern for the customer.

Companies in the Emirates are now using the social responsibility consideration to make investment decisions and win new business. These initiatives are used as a way to develop and strengthen relationships with customers, suppliers and networks. This is leading to increased customer retention and differentiation from competitors. Companies are increasingly realizing that CSR projects not only help win customer loyalty, but also assist in attracting and retaining workers. Therefore, these activities may help generate positive publicity and improve a business's reputation in the marketplace.

However, many organizations in the UAE demonstrate a low level of CSR practice as they fail to adopt such policies and practices. As a result, they have been unable to establish CSR-related objectives and targets, and audit, monitor and report CSR activities. Thus, while social responsibility is considered important for an organization, it is not yet central to its business strategy. This indicates a gap in the understanding of corporate responsibility and the readiness to put these initiatives into practice.

Some key areas in which organizations make a contribution towards the community include supporting people with special needs, international aid and development, and environment conservation programs. Only a limited number of organizations invest in initiatives related to education, local arts and culture, and donating products and services to local communities. Further, many UAE-based organizations engage in marketplace focused CSR activities, which measure customer satisfaction and deal with their health and safety issues.

The growing importance of social responsibility in Emirates has also encouraged the emergence of training and consultancy services in this field. One such company, One4All CSR, provides training and consultancy primarily focused on corporate social responsibility. It strives to educate businesses and individuals about the development of CSR in promoting higher business standards, and reducing costs and harmful emissions. One4All CSR has partnered with some of the world's leading organizations, such as Exxon and RBS, to highlight the value of conducting business in a sustainable way.

A special two-day course by One4All CSR, called the CSR Masterclass, seeks to train present and future business leaders in the concepts of CSR, promote CSR best practices and sustainable development throughout the organization, and managing risks in a volatile environment. The primary objective of such courses is to integrate social and organizational values, and demonstrate the application of CSR initiatives in real world.

Organizations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi lead these initiatives in the Gulf and UAE region. These organizations show a higher level of CSR awareness, top management commitment and promotion of marketplace activities. Events such as Kuwait's first Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Awards recognize private firms for their corporate social responsibility achievements. Similarly, the government sponsored Corporate Social Responsibility Conference in Qatar also highlights the need for CSR projects. A significant number of organizations in the UAE engage in traditional charitable and philanthropic giving, which highlights the culture of generosity in the society. However, there is a need to promote long-term partnership with other organizations and stakeholders.

Nevertheless, a greater focus on social responsibility by organizations in the UAE reflects a sea of change. These organizations are no longer driven by the profit motive, but instead seek to make a positive social contribution by framing CSR policies and strategies.

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Comment by Marwa E. Tourky on February 16, 2012 at 4:33pm

Hi Sean,


Very interesting post, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am concerned with the mechanism through which organizations can implement CSR as part of their strategies, not as a separate activity.


My idea, is that organizations could use 'corporate identity' as a mechanism to integrate CSR as part of their strategy and day to day activities. I mean by corporate identity, not just the visual identity (logo, slogan, etc.), but a mix of attributes and characteristics that mainfest the organization to all stakeholders.


This includes Visual, all sorts of communications (external, internal, and uncontrolled word-of-mouth), behaviour (which incorporates employee, management and corporate behaviour towards social issues), corporate culture (mix of values), mission statement, organizational founder, history, organizational (brand) startegy and structure (centralized versus decentralized).


Effectively managing these elements allows the organization to develop a unique identity which defferentiates the company in the competitive market, and also allows the company to behave ethically and socially responsible.


I am working in my PhD on transfering this idea into a model in which organizations can use. 




Comment by Sean Flynn on January 23, 2012 at 9:32am

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