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USD 26M CSR fund set up to back small enterprises and productive families

The Saudi Corporate Social Responsibility Forum concluded Wednesday after a number of businessmen signed an agreement to set up a SR100-million Endowment (Waqf) fund to support small enterprises and assist productive families finance their projects. It also decided to rehabilitate about 3,000 buildings in various cities and towns of Makkah region to be easily accessible to the disabled.

Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal opened Tuesday the two-day forum at the Jeddah Hyatt Park Hotel by saying the establishment of the fund was aimed to achieve sustainable development.

“Owners of companies and businessmen who have donated to the fund have shown a great sense of social responsibility toward society, which is now beaming from every Saudi citizen,” he said.

Prince Al-Faisal  said the feeling of social responsibility would further deepen solidarity among members of the Saudi society. He also said the Saudi man was qualified to prove the values of Islam, that social responsibility was suitable for every time and place.

“This is a unique and unprecedented moment in the history of the Kingdom replete with the spirit of giving and resilience to make the Kingdom a leading country in the world,” he said.

He added that the atmosphere was conducive for such initiatives which are always encouraged by the leadership, the security which the Kingdom enjoys, the economic stability and the abundance of liquid cash.

The governor described social responsibility as the basic element in each development project and said the keenness about it is a sign of the civilization which the Saudi man is building.

Chairman of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Saleh Kamel said some businessmen donated SR20 million each for the fund while others donated SR10 million and SR5 million.

Kamel said the resources of the fund were collected in a record time of two months.

“We aim to provide for the weak elements of our society ensuring them with a better life,” he added.

Faysal Alaquil, director of business development and administrative affairs at the Construction products Holding Company (CBC), which is organizing the forum, said the concept of social responsibility was gaining rapid ground in the Kingdom but warned against confusing it with charity work.

“Social responsibility should be built on the base of sustainable development in the society,” he said.

Alaquil said the challenges impeding the application of the concept of social responsibility were not only limited to the misunderstanding of its meaning and its confusion with charity work but also include the lack of studies and data, insufficient number of qualified cadres and the lack of the culture of social responsibility in the private sector.

The forum held four sessions during which businessmen, researchers and academicians participated talking about their experiences in the domain of social responsibility.

Recommendations were made after each session. They also included:

• Establishment of a specialized center in Makkah to teach social responsibility and award degrees on the subject.

• Private companies should set aside about 3 percent of their profits for social responsibility projects and activities.

• Social responsibility programs should be made and agreed upon.

• Cooperation in this field should be augmented between the public and private sectors.

Attorney Khalid Alnowaiser presented a working paper entitled “Regulatory Aspects and their Importance in Activating Corporate Social Responsibility,” in which he explained that the importance of corporate social responsibility relies on effective results from companies and society. The evaluation of companies no longer relies on their profitability or financial standing, but upon the extent that they promote social responsibility programs and support society in general.

The major principles addressed in the World Charter on Social Responsibility include corporations’ nonviolation of human rights locally and internationally, in addition to their promotion of fair work standards based on the freedom of association, the establishment of equality, environmental protection, the development of technology that is friendly to the environment, and anti-corruption policies.

Given that current Saudi law does not have an independent statute or regulation on corporate social responsibility or any means of imposing a civil or criminal penalty for violations, such social responsibility must arise from the Islamic Shariah and basic human rights principles.

Alnowaiser recommended that the government promptly enact rules of corporate social responsibility, but in the meantime, amend any existing regulations and statutes to add the goal of social responsibility. He called for the establishment of a governmental commission to evaluate the performance of companies and their obligations resulting from social responsibility and the formation of a social responsibility fund in every company.

He further encouraged companies to develop legal departments to organize and establish ways of activating the principles of social responsibility according to the needs of every company. Finally, he called on the media to spread the culture of corporate and individual social responsibility in a way that serves Saudi companies, their employees, and the national economy.

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