Will the ‘Year of Giving’ be the catalyser for CSR strategies in the UAE?

By Stephanie Delaey, CSR consultant at SD consulting

2017 will be marked in the UAE history as the ‘The Year of Giving’; an initiative launched by the UAE government and based around three pillars: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), volunteering and serving the nation.

The private sector is encouraged to play a crucial role in promoting corporate social responsibility through strategic partnerships aiming to embed the values of giving, charity and volunteering in the UAE. Therefore, the private sector is invited to work together with government institutions to support philanthropic initiatives.

But shouldn’t a strategic CSR plan within an organisation exceed much more than philanthropic initiatives? Theoretically, CSR includes four types of responsibilities: economic, legal, ethical, and discretionary.

  • Economic responsibilities, consisting of the obligations for businesses to strive for economic wealth and profit, but simultaneously meeting consumption needs.
  • Legal responsibilities, meaning that businesses must accomplish their economic mission within the legal requirements framework.
  • Ethical responsibilities which require businesses to stand by the moral rules defining proper behaviours in society.
  • Philanthropic responsibilities reflecting public desire to see corporations get concerned in the betterment of society

CSR originates out of a desire to do well in the sense of philanthropic and ethical responsibilities (called ‘the normative case’), today CSR moved rather to a so called ‘enlightened self-interest’ or ‘the business case’ embracing all four above responsibilities at the same time. Companies should strive for win-win cases meaning that they might turn social responsibilities into business opportunities ultimately resulting in ‘win’ for the company and a ‘win’ for the society.

Many interesting examples of win-win cases where presented at recently organised Ta’atheer event taking place in May, where CSR and social impact in the MENA region were discussed amongst corporations, NGO’s and academics. To illustrate one initiative that goes beyond the philanthropic idea, was the ‘she-means-business’ concept presented by Facebook aiming at helping more women get their start-up ideas off the ground. As part of this initiative female entrepreneurs in the Middle East are encouraged to develop their own businesses relying on advice and practical support provided by Facebook. In return, the win for Facebook will come from more visitors and social media activity on this platform.

Shifting to win-win strategic CSR programs is, in my opinion, the way to go in the future. Philanthropic and charity activities should not end at giving only but ultimately lead to social progress within the community.

Therefore, in order to create value for society, it is recommended to set up a real strategic CSR planning, to be embedded in the company’s business model starting with at stakeholder engagement mapping and a defined plan on how to interact with each stakeholder group in a sustainable way.

‘The Year of Giving’ is a great initiative to encourage businesses in the UAE to think about their overall CSR activities, and could hopefully be the start of ‘Decades of Strategic Giving’ where long term investing in society will create economic value for businesses.

About the author

Stephanie Delaey has 15 years of experience in creating and implementing communications and marketing strategies for innovation driven companies within the EMEA region. She specialises in setting up ‘integrated communications’ strategies (corporate and marketing comms, social media, digital strategy and CSR) for multinational companies.

Most recently she founded her own company, SD consulting, bringing a wealth of experience in marketing and communications to the MEA region, with a focus on tailoring corporate marketing strategy and messaging to local markets. She helps any company big or small that needs help with the creation, structure and execution of their local marketing and communications plan. The aim is to help and advise Western companies/subsidiaries to reach and penetrate local markets, whilst keeping the corporate goals and messaging in mind.

Stephanie is a Belgian national and lives in Dubai since 2015 with her husband and two children. She recently obtained an Executive MBA, with focus Communication & Leadership, at Quadriga University Berlin.