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CSR In The Middle-East: Not Entirely A Sustainability Black-Hole Perhaps?

The Dubai Chamber of Commerce recently has launched its newest CSR initiative to increase the profile of responsible businesses. The CSR Label will recognize good business practices among Dubai-based businesses.

The idea behind the Label is to allow the companies to grow internally and to take their CSR practices to the next level through self evaluation and then as the next step, to provide evidence and receive third party verification.The Dubai Chamber CSR Label is open to all companies, both large and small operating in any economic sector of Dubai. The applicant has access to the framework for which they can self assess their companies' level of management in the four impact areas of CSR.

In Qatar, the second conference of CSR will be sponsored by ExxonMobil. The conference this year is dedicated to laying the bases needed to apply the principles of CSR. It aims to be a comprehensive platform for businesses, policy-makers and the community to exchange ideas.

"ExxonMobil is committed to helping meet the world's energy needs while addressing the challenge of sustainability - balancing economic growth, social development, and environmental protection - so that future generations are not compromised by the actions taken today," said Alexander Dodds, president and general manager of ExxonMobil Qatar Inc.

The growing interest of CSR in the Middle-East has created many job opportunities in the field. Among the most steps taken by the government was the establishment of Estidama, a sustainability program of Abu Dhabi. The establishment of Masdar, a company advancing the development of renewable energy solutions and clean technologies also falls in line with the growing market for sustainability. Macdonald & Company, the leading property recruiter, has announced the launch of its Environmental & Energy Division, with specialist recruiters sourcing talent across the globe.

According to a study on regional perceptions of CSR within the UAE, awareness and understanding of the business practice is lowest amongst Arabs. However many organizations are becoming more aware about CSR as a way towards sustainable business. According to Habiba Al Marashi,president of the Arabia CSR,"organisations in the Arab world are becoming increasingly exposed to the effects of globalisation and find themselves dealing with challenging issues such as increasing water scarcity, higher costs of crude materials and the effects of climate change."

This slowly growing interest and recognition of CSR was seen recently whenDoha Bank one of the progressive banks in Qatar has won this year's prestigious Golden Peacock Global Award for Sustainability.Al Islami Foods, leading producer of real halal food in the Middle East, recently signed an agreement with the Abu Dhabi Wildlife Centre to donate meat to carnivores that are being taken care at the centre. During Kuwait's first CSR Awards event, The Kuwait Project Company (Kipco) won an award for its public awareness campaign on dyslexia.

UAE's biggest electronic supplier has recently launched a recycling initiative. According to Ashish Panjabi, CEO,"being 'Green' is not a CSR activity or a PR exercise but a responsibility we shoulder as a part of the community. As an electronic retailer, we would like to ensure that electronic products are disposed properly without any harmful effects to our environment."

As opposed to being a sustainability black-hole which is most of the world's perspective of the Middle-East; there are a few companies making an effort to kick-start the trend of CSR which is likely to catch on in this part of the world that severely requires it.

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