Ever more people rank the quality of their life as a top priority. Businesses play a crucial role in this process since the outcome of their actions reflects on the whole society. For this reason, for some years, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) represents an expanding phenomenon as corporations increasingly feel the duty to cooperate through their work and footprint to deliver a sustainable and inclusive future. This necessity has also been highlighted and boosted by the UN with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that invite economic operators to apply their capabilities and knowledge to help coping with the challenges connected to sustainable development. The essence of CSR lies in enhancing growth and productivity while protecting human and labour rights, the environment, and human health according to internationally agreed standards and conventions, particularly those elaborated by the International Labour Organization (ILO), but not only.
Throughout the last decade, many governments have started to regulate this new discipline to make sure that wealth is more equally distributed and prosperity can be as shared as possible. Furthermore, it is noteworthy to notice that, if on the one side, progress in this realm is unevenly distributed amongst countries and regions worldwide, on the other one, some of them stand out.
Contrary to expectations, the MENA region has been proceeding quite quickly in this regard and developments are quite positive. Companies across the region are progressively getting aware of their responsibility to contribute to society’s needs and are more willing to undertake such a duty. As disclosed by the first report on CSR conducted in the MENA region by an Emirati communication agency, Cicero & Bernay Public Relations (C&B), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) tops regional neighbours for CSR awareness and adoption. Abu Dhabi is then followed by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The report takes into account 219 top-rank businessmen, mainly CEOs, working in different sectors such as energy, aviation, finance, automotive, construction, healthcare, and many others.
According to the report, 82% of the people interviewed designated the UAE as the most careful and proactive country when it comes to CSR. 62% declared to be quite well prepared about CSR while 60% professed unwilling to work for (or cooperate with) an enterprise not complying with CSR principles. Moreover, the report found that, under some conditions, businesses valuing CSR are more attractive amongst the unemployed. Despite this, much remains to be done, as one out of every three businesses in the region lacks a CSR protocol.
There are many reasons why the UAE became a regional leader in CSR. The country has been the first to establish a CSR Fund with the scope of increasing public awareness around this topic, engaging in public-private partnerships to boost sustainable development, building social responsibilities schemes, rewarding virtuous businesses, and channelling resources toward sustainable projects in accordance with the country’s main focuses and the UN’s SDGs.
The Emirati government also created a CSR Index to assess projects, their efficacy, and innovation degree, but also detecting hurdles, limitations, and gaps vis-à-vis the rest of the world to fix mistakes through effective governance. Not least, a CSR Label has been created to stimulate companies and organizations to validate and prove their internal procedures. The assessment is carried out by the government taking into account the impact on the environment, the society, and the economy.
When it comes to speaking about the future prospects, the CSR is foreseen to spread ever more across the region, also considering that the COVID-19 crisis has contributed to changing the way of doing business and to renewing the attention around CSR with sustainable development becoming an increasing priority for people. Companies are asked to play their part and a mounting number of executives are persuaded that CSR is not a “nice-to-have” but a “must-have” for their activities.
When properly applied, CSR has proved able to produce multiple benefits, in terms of attractiveness and competitive advantage not only for single entities but for entire cities and countries, profiting both the private and the public sector. In conclusion, to be truly effective, CSR has to translate into a long-term strategy as it is the only way it can contribute to business sustainability and longevity, shaping business models and making them more competitive and successful.
It’s written responsibility, it’s read sustainability. It’s written sustainability, it’s read future. See what’s coming.
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