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Kingdom keen to back business community in CSR activities

An overwhelming majority of people (90 percent) who responded to a recent survey in Saudi Arabia believe that the government is willing to support the business community in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.

The study also revealed that limited financial resources, lack of experience and know-how are the main reasons why some government organizations in Saudi Arabia are not involved in CSR.

The National Commercial Bank (NCB), as a regional CSR leader, commissioned the survey to gauge government awareness and perceptions of CSR activities within governmental organizations as well as assess their views on collaboration with the private sector in delivering CSR.

Study findings indicate a high level of government awareness of CSR initiatives currently being implemented across the Kingdom.

Job creation was identified as a key priority for present and future CSR activities (73 percent) while the preservation of environment and training for the physically challenged followed shortly behind (both 60 percent).

Three public sector organizations are recognized as the most pro-active in corporate social responsibility with 94 percent of respondents citing Abdul Latif Jameel, 54 percent Saudi Aramco and 52 percent recognizing National Commercial Bank’s efforts.

A list of businesses that the government would like to partner with included NCB at the top of the list, followed by Abdul Latif Jameel and Saudi Aramco.

Conclusions derived include the requirement of collaborative partnerships for the delivery of salient and sustainable programs and increased private sector leadership and participation, NCB CEO Abdul Kareem Al-Naser says in his introduction to the survey report.

“Considering budgetary limitation, agency priorities as well as existing responsibility to improve social welfare, the government’s current and future participation within CSR requires collaboration with the private sector, primarily the capacity of the program identification, support and facilitation,” the CEO says.

He points out that the private sector will need to consider the leverage this kind of support and ultimately lead the drive of CSR across the Kingdom.

“Through a strategic approach to CSR delivery and collaboration with other stakeholders, government can facilitate effective, diverse and sustainable outcomes for social progress and enhance its value to those it serves,” the CEO says.

The study was designed in collaboration with specialists in the field of CSR and conducted by YouGovSiraj on behalf of the National Commercial Bank. Data was collected in 2010 from respondents across the Kingdom.

The methodology applied was a dual qualitative study with 26 government organizations, according to the bank.

This included:

• 53 face-to-face interviews through a structured questionnaire with a combination of middle and senior level government employees

• 12 in-depth face-to-face interviews with senior government officials involved in CSR activities for their organizations.

• Maximum of two interviews per organization

The organizations were: Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Ministry of Water and Electricity, Ministry of Culture and Information, Ministry of Haj, Ministry of Economy and Planning, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Dawa and Guidance, Riyadh Municipality, Jeddah Municipality, Eastern Region Municipality, Presidency of Meteorolgy and Environment, King Saud University, King Abdulaziz University, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Riyadh Chamber of Commerce, Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, Saudi Electricity Co., National Water Co., Saudi Post and Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities.

Key findings

Governments have assumed a more relevant role as drivers of CSR, both in terms of delivery of CSR programs as well as taking a leadership position in strengthening CSR delivery from other private sector and civil society actors.

By championing CSR initiatives and facilitating through the business arena, the delivery of sustainable programs that contribute to long-term socio-economic development of the region, government potential for positive impact is great. Private sector encouragement remains a key requirement despite the social and business benefits that serve as products of involvement.

• The government views CSR initiatives as critical to the socio-economic development of a society and to ensure its stability and progression

• Despite budgetary restraints, senior officials believe their organizations are actively involved in CSR activities and most respondents are satisfied with the level of awareness and involvement from their respective organizations.

• Most respondents feel that CSR should be approached jointly and in a complementary fashion by both government and private sector, and that the private sector needs to increase its participation in social welfare delivery.

• More than half of the respondents indicate that their organizations are already in private sector partnerships for CSR delivery (56 percent), while an additional third of respondents are interested in such cooperation.

• The delivery of effective CSR programs is currently limited to a few major corporate players, whereas in other markets most corporations embrace CSR in some capacity.

• Youth is seen as a high priority segment; education, vocational skill building and health awareness initiatives are the most important activities, critical in supporting overall wellbeing and employability. Respondents also repeatedly highlighted the creation of employment opportunities as a priority focus area.

• Despite the knowledge of CSR and largely proactive involvement, some respondents indicate no involvement in CSR citing limited financial resources, lack of experience and know-how, as well as low priority as the main reasons.

Awareness

An understanding exists among government circles in the Kingdom. There is improved awareness of the shift from a primarily charitable-giving activity to an approach focusing on societal development and welfare that is both targeted and sustainable.

The increasing profile and nature of government action in relation to CSR is consistent with other markets where CSR is considered to be more effectively implemented if business-led rather than regulated. Led by a partnership approach with the private sector, government involvement focuses on building awareness of CSR and societal priorities, capacity building, stakeholder engagement and facilitating the delivery of programs.

Role of government and social partnership

• 71 percent of respondents believe that involvement in CSR is equally important for both public and private sectors. Nineteen percent feel that the private sector has a greater role to play, while 10 percent feel it is a government responsibility.

• The majority of government organizations interviewed (83 percent) are currently involved in CSR activities focusing primarily on environmental protection (19 percent), youth training (14 percent), charitable support (14 percent) and cultural programs (12 percent).

• 90 percent of respondents feel that the government is willing to support the business community in CSR activities.

• Areas that could receive government support include: identifying geographies that need help, highlighting priorities, supplying research, packaging projects and programs with developed plans, associated costs and requirements, facilitating government approvals and supporting with program marketing

Understanding

• To support and develop society (23 percent) and to provide a better service for society (13 percent) are the main ideas attributed to government understanding of CSR

• 10 percent of respondents state that CSR is a vital service that should be performed by performed by both public and private sectors

• The top 3 reasons given to explain an organization should be accountable for its activities are that it has an effective role in serving society (17 percent), a role in developing society (13 percent) as well as duty toward community (13 percent)

It is believed that CSR can deliver very clear benefits to private firms including improved reputation, sustained profits and growth through the enhanced loyalty of both employees and customers.

Priorities

• Providing job opportunities to reduce unemployment was identified as a key priority for present and future CSR activities (73 percent) while the preservation of the environment and training for the physically challenged followed shortly behind (both 60 percent).

• From the list provided, government selected marriage counseling (13 percent), anti-obesity campaign 19 percent, rehabilitation of divorced women 19 percent, computer literacy and education drives 19 percent and campaigns against family violence 19 percent as the least important initiatives.

• When asked about initiatives not included on the list, the top two areas identified that require focus are enlightening society (10 percent) and helping young people get married (6 percent)

• When asked about other endeavors that could be championed by the private sector that would be appreciated by the government, respondents highlighted entrepreneurship (micro-finance and handicraft training), tourism promotion, state beautification and health care enhancement.

Initiatives under way

• Study findings indicate a high level of government awareness of CSR initiatives currently being implemented across the country. From a list of key program areas, respondents identified the main focus of programs they are aware to be connected to unemployment reduction efforts (69 percent) environmental preservation (63 percent) and anti-smoking campaigns

• More than half of respondents mentioned other initiatives directed to training and job opportunities for the physically challenged (56 percent), charity support (52 percent) and emergency relief (54 percent)

• The lowest awareness levels are connected to marriage counseling (12 percent), youth counseling (23 percent) and anti-obesity campaigns (25 percent)

Commitment

An organization’s commitment to CSR and its values have a profound impact, not only on the beneficiaries of its programs, but also to the employees who take pride in the efforts their employer is making toward the development of the society in which they all live.

The research also shows that there are commonalities between awareness of CSR initiatives currently underway; those issues that take position of priority today and moving forward, those that have been identified as key focus areas for private sector involvement and those that government feels a direct responsibility toward. This overlap demonstrates that the government does not distinguish its role from the private sector in the context of CSR. Social needs are evident and both public private sectors need to work, independently or collaboratively, in efforts to remedy and lay a sustainable foundation for coming generations.

• 96 percent of respondents feel that their employer acts responsibly in the way it addresses the economic, social and environmental impacts of its operations.

• Limited financial resources, lack of experience and know-how are the main reasons why some government organizations are not involved in CSR. Of this group, 25 percent does not identify CSR as priority and 13 percent state that they have never been approached in this regard

• Most respondents are satisfied with their employer’s level of CSR awareness and involvement 48 percent rated excellent, 37 percent rated good, six percent rated fair and 10 percent rated poor.

• 100 percent of interviewees stated they would be more proud to work for an organization that continuously strives for the betterment of society.

• Private sector accountability to society (11 percent), helping society (11 percent) and national duty (nine percent) were reasons given to explain why government would partner with the business community.

• More than half of respondents want their organizations to focus on the preservation of environment (52 percent), provide training and job opportunities for physically challenged (52 percent) and tackle unemployment (52 percent).

• Sources of pride when working for an organization active in CSR include the fact that it plays an effective role in society (17 percent), it is a duty toward the community (13 percent) and that there is active participation in the development of society (13 percent).

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