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To know CSR, you must speak to an elder businessman or woman from the region and you will realize, it is part of our heritage, our culture, our way of life.
Wikipedia defines CSR as “a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders, communities and other stakeholders, as well as the environment.”
To date, most efforts I encounter in the UAE fall either in the marketing and PR domain or corporate philanthropy. Few are well planned or take into account more than one member of the stakeholder community. Most, understand it as charity contributions to worthy social causes.
Unfortunately, multinationals that have well developed CSR programs in their home countries and other developed markets, fail to implement even their base-line CSR practices in the UAE. This is evident across industry; hotel groups that pride themselves internationally on their environmentally friendly practices, fail to have a simple recycling program locally; FMCG companies sell products and services in this market that are deemed socially and environmentally irresponsible in other markets, and other examples are plenty.
To know CSR, read about commerce in the region in the past 50, 100 years, even thousand years, dating back to the prophet’s time. Speak to our parent’s generation of tradesman. They treated employees as family members, mentoring the young, taking wisdom from the old, visiting the ill and celebrating momentous family occasions with all. They cared for the environment and understood the balance with nature. They blessed their crops and gave portions of their inventory to the needy to keep the baraka (blessing). They understood that for their business to flourish in a community, they must keep their neighbors happy, respecting their privacy, the cleanliness of their streets and gave them right of way through their land for safe passage. Often tradesmen collaborated to fund community initiatives, from building schools and mosques to paying for the surgery of a less fortunate member of the community. Tradesmen served as advisors to their local government and hosted government official gatherings in their homes.
The Qu’ran has several references to private property and the social and environmental responsibility of private property owners. “It should neither be used wastefully nor in a way that will deprive others of their justly acquired property (2:188). When one holds the property of others in trust, for example for orphans, one should not divert it to one’s personal benefit (2:2; 4:10), but one should not turn over one’s own property to those incapable of managing it (2:5). When orphans mature they should be given control of their own property (2:6). Property rights of women are as sacred as those of men in other cases as well (4:24, 4:32)”1
To understand corporate social responsibility, look within, look to our culture, our heritage, our faith.
1 Dr. Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad – minaret.org