Companies across the Arab world have been quick to adopt corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes, as the practice has rapidly grown in popularity in the past five years.
Last year the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development (ADCED) carried out a CSR study of 20 private companies in Abu Dhabi, with the aim of exploring what CSR activities are taking place in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. The project also provided a series of recommendations on the best way of promoting CSR.
The results of the study, which canvassed companies from a range of sectors including banking, hotels, real estate developers and IT services providers, have offered an understanding of how widespread CSR is in the region.
The study showed that all 20 companies are involved in different types of CSR programmes including sport, education, environmental and corporate governance activities. Involvement in education is the most popular CSR activity, followed by environmental and social activities.
Despite the companies all having a CSR programme, two-thirds of companies mentioned financial constraints as a barrier to expanding their CSR activities. Some said they find it difficult to quantify the direct benefits of CSR to their business, while others said the company’s senior management lacks awareness about the benefits of CSR.
With many companies facing the same challenges to their CSR programmes, all the respondents to the survey said they would be interested in attending a workshop to share best-practice ideas and further develop the practice of CSR in the emirate. Business leaders in Abu Dhabi are keen to benchmark their practices against successful programmes in other parts of the world. For example in Singapore, the Singapore Compact, a network of private companies and government departments, has been established to recognise the role and contributions of CSR in Singaporean society and to coordinate CSR strategies and implementation.
Within the UAE, good examples of CSR already exist that can be built upon. The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Group (ADSG), an Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi initiative made up of 15 of the leading government, private and not- for-profit organisations in Abu Dhabi, has created a CSR index of initiatives across the emirate. The National Bank of Abu Dhabi, a member of the ADSG, produces an annual CSR report that sets a benchmark for other large companies in the emirate. With groups such as the ADSG raising awareness of the efforts local companies are making to improve their CSR programmes, the message is clear that Abu Dhabi is taking sustainability and CSR seriously.