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While more companies in the Middle East are taking part in CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities, the region is still lagging compared to other parts of the world, according to speakers at the Arabia CSR Forum and Awards Ceremony 2013 on Thursday.
The event was held under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman and CEO of Emirates airline and Group and chairman of Dubai Airports.
“We are well behind in the Middle East and are not doing enough to serve our societies,” Abdul Rahman Jawahery, president of Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (GPIC), told Gulf News on the sidelines of the conference.
According to Jawahery, one factor behind this is a lack of education in the region about taking part in voluntary work.
“Islam encourages contribution to society, but our education system in the Middle East over the past two and three decades has not been improved to the level of educating our kids to embark on voluntary work,” he said.
He added that the organisations that are responsible for executing the visions of political leaders “need to have a different frame of mind in order to know their responsibility is to engage with the society and to help, especially during the early age of the kids.”
According to him, governments should promote those companies that support society to encourage a culture of voluntary work.
Regional companies, meanwhile, face challenges in implementing their CSR initiatives, according to Stuart Mee, head of sustainability for Carillion in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena).
Among these is identifying key issues to tackle, which depends on the type of the business, and training and engaging with employees, Mee said.
However, some businesses are already identifying issues and creating clear strategies for their CSR initiatives, he said.
Meanwhile, on the topic of areas of government intervention, Nasser Saidi, president of Nasser Saidi and Associates, an economic advisory and consulting company, said that governments should intervene in issues related to climate change and water scarcity.
“We need to re-price our water; we need to make major investments in water management systems, and we need to incorporate much more on water usage,” he said.
Jawahery said that CSR activities, which can help improve a company’s reputation, can lead to higher profitability. He explained that employees who feel that they work for a reputable business will perform better, thereby leading to higher productivity and better profitability.
In addition, Mee said that a business that reduces the use of resources will see lower costs and higher profit.
Also, CSR activities can help boost the confidence of shareholders who believe that they can get a good return on investments in the long-term, Jawahery said.