Middle East companies must show leadership on CSR

20 May 2013

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20 May 2013 | Paul Snell

Private sector companies in the Middle East must take ownership of corporate social responsibility issues, rather than just waiting for government rules and regulations.

Speaking on a panel discussion at the CIPS Middle East Conference 2013 in Dubai yesterday, Habiba Al Marashi, president of the Arabia CSR Network, told delegates businesses would not prosper if sustainability was not tackled.

“I would like to see the private sector take the lead on and ownership of its responsibilities, and not just wait for rules and regulations. When you are only enforcing and complying with regulations, that's just compliance. Today we want more than that [we want] leadership and companies to take ownership."

She added CSR was embedded in Islamic religion and culture, with a focus on corporate philanthropy, but now it needs to be “elevated to another level” and incorporated into every area of a business.

For those firms looking for advice on how to tackle CSR problems, Saeed Al Ameri, vice president of materials and IT at Abu Dhabi Ship Building, said buyers could turn to government for guidance. “A lot of companies need a lot of help,” he said. “Do not be shy to approach the agencies the government has put in place.”

He added many CSR issues were the result of the same problems – abuse of manpower and not caring where products come from. He said companies had to care and be vigilant about their sources. Al Almeri added buyers could use tactics such as boycotting particular suppliers – like consumers do with brands – to force them to get their act together.

Asked to give a piece of advice attendees could take away to implement sustainable procurement, CIPS' customer relations director Duncan Brock urged purchasing professionals to be clear about their own requirements, so suppliers understood the action they need to take. Jason Brown, head of group procurement at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi recommended purchasers educate suppliers, so the practices would flow down the tiers of the supply chain. Al Ameri had some simple advice for gaining internal support for initiatives: “Know how to link savings to CSR and show it to the CFO, and I think you will get good support,” he advised.

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