MENA industries leave no stone unturned to keep virus at bay

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People follow all the preventive measures to keep away COVID-19.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

The heavy toll of the SARS-CoV2 has heightened the awareness of industries across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and leading among the 263 C-suite manager-respondents are in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The conclusion was derived from the “Leading By Example-MENA CSR Report 2021” of second time CSR research partners Cicero & Bernay (C&B) Communication Consultancy and 3Gem Research & Insights which conducted their first regional CSR documentation in 2019 published in 2020.

The 2021 report covered the industries of automotive (27), aviation (18), banking & finance (93), construction (28), healthcare & pharmaceutical (48), oil & gas (17), transport (4) and real estate & property services (28) with total number of employees ranging from 10 to over 500. In the ranks of chief executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer, chief operating officer and chief information officer, the respondents were from the UAE (57), Saudi Arabia (90), Egypt (89), Kuwait (16), Oman (6), Bahrain (1), Jordan (3), and Lebanon (1).

Meanwhile, as CSR became an international buzzword in the 1990s with trans-national corporations leading the way to community outreach programs generally styled as charity projects, the September 25, 2019-dated “A Brief History of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)” in the Thomas Insights website outlines this communal activity to have begun in the 19th century Industrial Revolution and particularly in the USA, when the roughshod treatment of factory workers, particularly of women and children “were brought to light. Consensus among reformers was that current employment practices were contributing to social problems including poverty and labour unrest. However, industrial betterment and welfare movements at the time were viewed as a combination of humanitarianism and business acumen. Also making an appearance in the late 1800s was the rise of philanthropy. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who made most of his fortune in the steel industry, was known for donating large portions of his wealth to causes related to education and scientific research. Following in the footsteps of Carnegie, oil industry business magnate John D. Rockefeller also donated more than half a billion dollars to religious, educational, and scientific causes.”

On the 2022 survey, 90 per cent (237) of the 263 respondents know that CSR has a positive effect on their respective businesses with “almost all the managers (having the understanding that this relates) to employing good moral values, being more involved in social issues or charities, or meeting domestic/international standards for CSR certification.”

It shows that 81 per cent (46) of the 57 respondents in the UAE and 95 per cent (86) of the 90 in Saudi Arabia consider CSR as ingrained within their respective companies. “Those in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are the most likely to already have a CSR program in place with at least two-thirds (98 of 147) of them having one. Conversely, just under half (56 of 112) of the companies in Egypt and the GCC currently have a CSR program in place. The most likely reason behind not having a CSR program is a feeling that their companies already benefit society by giving to charity.” Moreover, they have demonstrated through their answers in the structured Arabic/English questionnaire that among the 263, they are on top of the consciousness level regarding CSR and its proper implementation that not only embeds loyalty but also encourages both employees and clients to promote the concerned businesses and CSR activities.

On the effects of COVID-19, “the most optimistic perceptions about COVID-19 are in the UAE and Saudi Arabia where two-thirds (98 of 147) of managers feel positive about its effects on their CSR practices and only half (45 of 89) in Egypt and a third (eight of 23) in the GCC feel the same way. In fact, over half (12 of 23) in the GCC feel negative about COVID19’s effects on CSR, compared to a third (30 of 89) in Egypt, a quarter (23 of 90) in Saudi Arabia and only an eighth (seven of 57) of UAE managers.”

On the 2022 CSR plans, more than half of the 263 companies surveyed shall engage in charity and “socially, environmentally conscious movements.” Second of interest are corporate directives and strategies relative to climate change. Third are on “diversity, equity and inclusion” as well as “community and virtual volunteering. Fourth is on the reduction of carbon footprint.

C&B founder/CEO Ahmad Itani said: “It is important for all organizations, big or small, to start embedding CSR into their corporate culture and make all possible efforts to deepen their relationship with their stakeholders.”

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