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Thirty international, regional and local experts will gather for a two-day networking event in Lebanon to highlight the importance of corporate social responsibility in addressing the challenges businesses face today.

The role of corporations in promoting environmental sustainability and responsible business practices – particularly when it comes to investment in conflict-affected areas – is among the topics that will top the agenda of the event.

Though Lebanon is slowly integrating CSR into its corporate culture, the country still lags behind many of its MENA peers, particularly in regard to transparent reporting and government efforts to raise awareness.

The third CSR Lebanon forum, entitled “Corporate Social Responsibility in Times of Uncertainty,” comes at a time when the country is facing a deteriorating political and security situation.

The event will be held Monday at the Phoenicia InterContinental Hotel in Beirut under the sponsorship of President Michel Sleiman and in collaboration with the United Nations Global Compact.

“The aim behind the launch of the Global Compact Local Network in Lebanon is to attract new participants through our planned awareness activities despite difficulties times,” Khaled Kassar, CEO and founder of CSR Lebanon, told The Daily Star.

Kassar, who was recently appointed as the UNGC focal point-of-contact in Lebanon, added that CSR Lebanon seeks through its partnership with the UNGC to establish a robust governance structure for the initiative by the end of 2014.

CSR Lebanon, which is an independent consulting firm aimed at promoting CSR, sustainable business strategies and reporting, was officially appointed by the UNGC as the focal point-of-contact in Lebanon to launch the Global Compact Local Network in Lebanon by 2014.

“I hope the initiative will motivate participating companies to develop partnership projects to contribute to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, among other activities,” Kassar said.

The event will feature a series of high-level panels and roundtable discussions on the emerging role of governments in the conduct of CSR on the one hand and the role of social entrepreneurship in bridging the gap between the public and private sectors on the other.

“How businesses behave, what responsibilities they take for the social, environmental and economic impacts they have, is now a very real and present challenge for businesspeople around the world. In today’s global, connected society, businesses need to manage these impacts effectively,” said Professor David Grayson, head of the Doughty Center for Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield University.

“Forward-looking companies don’t just mitigate risks, but look for business opportunities too. This is why this third CSR Lebanon forum is so important and timely,” Grayson, who is one of the speakers at the forum, added.

A professional workshop on CSR strategies and reporting will take place on the second day of the forum. The forum is supported by Business in the Community and CR Academy in the U.K., the Doughty Center for Corporate Responsibility, and the UNGC.

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