CSR more important than ever for businesses: Dubai Chamber

Abdul Basit
Filed on June 18, 2011

DUBAI - With consumer choice increasingly shaped by a company’s reputation and impact on the environment, the need to adopt sustainable business practices is more important than ever.

The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Sustainability Network aims to advance corporate social responsibility, or CSR, across the UAE by bringing together top business executives to network, share experience and demonstrate CSR leadership.

The vast majority of CEOs now recognise that expectations with respect to sustainability are increasing. Pressure to act is mounting. It is coming from stakeholders, employees, customers, governments, investors, the media, and society in general.

“At Dubai Chamber, we are integrating sustainability across all our operations and are closely looking at our practices affecting the workplace, the market place, the environment and the community,” Dubai Chamber Director-General Hamad Buamim told Khaleej Times.

One example, he said, is the green retrofit of the Dubai Chamber building, which has helped the Dubai Chamber create a healthier workplace for its staff, while also helping to make significant water and energy savings.

“Meanwhile, our supply chain practices, employee wellbeing and community engagement are all part of our overall sustainability plan. However, our biggest contribution to creating and developing sustainability in Dubai, and one which significantly benefits the market place, is the creation of our Centre for Responsible Business.” he said.

Established in 2004, the Centre aims to promote the awareness, understanding and practice of CSR among Dubai’s business community. It does this through training courses, advisory services, seminars to raise awareness and various CSR programmes which are designed to increase a company’s capacity to implement broad CSR programmes.

Four other key members shared their role and how sustainability is shaping their business success with Khaleej Times:

Huw Gilbert, Senior Director for Corporate Affairs of PepsiCo Asia, Middle East and Africa

As a global company do you feel pressure to lead CSR in the UAE?

PepsiCo focuses on improving sustainability in every part of our company, and as part of this focus, our CSR activities are incorporated into our overall business strategy. We are very proud to consider Dubai and the UAE home to our headquarters for Asia, the Middle East and Africa — one of only four operating sectors within PepsiCo worldwide. As a global food and beverage company, with brands like Quaker Oats, Aquafina, Gatorade, Frito-Lay and Pepsi-Cola, to name a few, we continue to find innovative ways to reduce the use of energy, water and packaging and provide a great workplace for our associates. We consider ourselves active corporate citizens based on our company values and the way we conduct business day by day. We believe our values are one reason PepsiCo was recently named one of the top places to work in the UAE.

What is the most important thing for you to achieve from your CSR schemes?

We’re committed to a vision we call “Performance with Purpose,” which is achieving financial success while leaving a positive imprint on society. Therefore, our aim is to deliver the best outcome for the community and for our business. The areas we aim to always develop are: human sustainability, which is encouraging people to live healthier and more active lifestyles; environmental sustainability, by protecting the Earth’s natural resources through innovation and more efficient use of land, energy, water and packaging in our operations; talent sustainability, where we invest in our associates to help them succeed and develop the skills needed to drive the company’s growth, while creating employment opportunities in the communities we serve. By doing so, we trust that we will achieve success at all levels, because a healthier future for all people and our planet means a more successful future for PepsiCo.

What are you hoping to achieve through your membership of the Sustainability Network?

PepsiCo has a responsibility to continually improve all aspects of the world in which we operate — environment, social, economic — creating a better tomorrow than today. This can only be achieved through working in partnership with others who share a common vision in relation to CSR with a strong commitment to sustainability. We are pleased to be a member of the Sustainability Network as we view CSR as a strategic management tool for sustained growth. Sustainability and CSR are engrained in PepsiCo’s values and in our business strategy and we are pleased to be part of a network where we can exchange best practices, collaborate and dialogue with other companies who share a common vision.

Abdullah Mohammed Al Naboodah, Chairman of Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group

How important is it to work with like-minded firms to develop CSR?

As part of our business goals we aim to focus upon environmental issues and social issues. We believe that everyone within the Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group has a role to play with CSR initiatives. Naturally we would like to work with companies who hold similar values.

What is your main CSR target this year?

Considerable focus has been given to raising awareness of CSR within the group. The top management fully embrace the concept, but in order to ensure our CSR work is a success we need far more involvement from all employees in every company. Over time I expect our CSR work to expand. The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group has for many years held very strong values that link in with CSR — unwavering commitment to customer service, the welfare of our employees and respect for our community.

Rohit Walia, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of Sarasin Alpen Bank

As a global company, how do you see your role in increasing CSR awareness in the UAE?

CSR is a very important part of our organisation’s philosophy. Our tag line — Sustainable Swiss private banking since 1841 — is our core philosophy and is reflected in our interaction with our clients, employees and stakeholders. Since the start of our operations more than seven years ago, we have been part of several CSR initiatives and have a long standing partnership with Dubai Cares. Some of our other CSR initiatives include mobilising the Dubai International Financial Centre community to come together to support children’s education in Haiti through the DIFC Charity Walk as well as increasing awareness of sustainability issues through our various research publications on renewable energy and solar power. It is very important to highlight the fact that you don’t need to be a very large organisation to implement CSR initiatives and drive community development and we have successfully done this in the last seven years despite our small size in the region. We hope that through our various initiatives we make an impact and our activities play an important role in increasing CSR awareness in the UAE.

How effective do you think the Sustainability Network will be in driving CSR awareness and implementation in the UAE?

The Sustainability Network is an excellent initiative by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The network will bring together organisations who are keen to know more about CSR initiatives and best practices and provide a platform to organisations to showcase their activities and share successful endeavours with all. We are happy to be part of the Sustainability Network and look forward to contributing to its best practices.

Hussein Hachem, CEO of Aramex

What is Aramex’s commitment to CSR?

Applying a sustainability lens to our view of the world has helped us illuminate tremendous business opportunities, as well as expanded responsibilities. Our role as a global company is to look deeply and responsibly at the impact of our business on our stakeholders and the world at large. In keeping with our responsibilities as active corporate citizens throughout the year, we continued investing in our main areas of focus — education and youth empowerment, entrepreneurship, community development, sports, emergency relief and the environment. Moreover our sustainability initiatives are impacting a greater number of people, as we further expanded our activities in countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon.

What are you doing to reduce your impact on the environment?

Our efforts in this area continue to bear fruit. As a result of our environmental initiatives we decreased our per-shipment fuel consumption by three per cent in 2010. We continue to explore the use of alternative energy technologies to further reduce our carbon footprint and we are committed to complying with the highest environmental management systems. And recently, our Dubai operations successfully passed the ISO environmental certification audit.

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