If you will go through any company’s annual report, you will surely stumble upon the phrase ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’. So what is CSR? In simple words, it’s a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations. James W. Owens, an American economist and former CEO of Caterpillar said, “In the next decade, the most successful companies will be those that integrate sustainability into their core businesses.” And it just seems the decade has arrived in the Middle East. Topics such as environmental sustainability, alternative energy, employee and social welfare hold significance for the FM industry leaders in the region. CSR is a well developed concept and is practiced widely in the developed countries. In the gulf, CSR is in a nascent stage and the focus has begun to shift from ‘just profits’ to ‘profits and responsibilities’
Many companies have realized the urge to inculcate the CSR policies with their business plans considering sustainability as a crucial matter of concern. We spoke to few leading FM players in the region to share their views on the concept of CSR in the Middle East and their plan of action in this regard.
Integration of CSR with business plans
CSR policy distinguishes one company from the other, it actually reflects the company’s attitude towards the environment and society, hence improving the company’s reputation and enhancing its overall image. But the real question is have these CSR and sustainability concerns made their way from boardroom discussions to the company’s core business strategies? They’re known as the fire protection specialist in the region, Naffco is the winner of the Dubai Chamber CSR award 2013 and the MRM award 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2013. Ahmed Khalid Al- Khatib, Managing Director, Naffco says, “ “There is undoubtedly an increasing awareness of corporate social responsibility in the Middle East, the concept is being integrated gradually into the core corporate values of the companies over here.
The government sector, and multinationals in particular, have made a significant contribution in this regard and are helping to increase awareness of the benefits of CSR. The concept is gaining importance among the corporate sector because of increasing awareness and presence about the role of businesses and their impact on the environment and sustainability. This is intensifying the pressure on the corporates to operate in a responsible and sustainable manner,”
In fact, according to the region’s online job portal, Bayt.com survey, 95% of MENA employees want to engage in more community service work, with almost 90% considering CSR to be a moral responsibility for corporations. Terry John-Baptise, Divisional Manager from UAE’s leading service provider Khansaheb says, “CSR is fast becoming an integral part of boardroom activity, company strategy and policy in the region. Businesses are trying to promote CSR policies and activities because of the many important benefits, particularly those related to employee retention and morale in what is becoming recognised as a rapidly rising market. Recent studies have shown that employees might even be prepared to take a pay cut to work for a company committed to CSR, as they want a sense of pride and fulfillment from their work, a purpose and importantly a company whose values match their own. Senior managers are increasingly aware of these benefits in addition to the corporate philanthropy and healthy publicity that CSR brings.”
Activities at large
CSR activities have to be rolled to reflect the responsible behavior of the companies, For instance, last year, Naffco’s contribution to CSR was seen everywhere: blood donation drive, fire training for employees and community , walk for Autism at( Pink walk tone)for breast cancer awareness , desert safari to boost employee morale and belongingness along with promoting UAE culture, go green initiative to promote environment sustainability to using innovative methods and seminar for Pilipino Society of Mechanical Engineers to help other communities develop talent in safety and security. “We conduct staff survey to collect the combined brainpower and ideas of the workforce which cannot be accessed otherwise. In addition to this we also carry out team building activities frequently to maintain a healthy working environment and to spread From group outings to charity, there are so many ways to boost the morale of employees and do something for the society. “We firmly believe that we have a responsibility to the communities in which we work across the UAE and from those that we recruit so our CSR initiatives reflect this. Our initiatives include: organising community and sports events for employees, providing training and development to disadvantaged groups, contributing to disaster appeals, supporting important cultural organisations such as the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, and assisting with UAE or Dubai events such as the recent marathon and National Day celebrations. Our philanthropic donations include contributions to charitable to organisations such as the Al Jalila Foundation and the Autism Trust amongst others,” shares Terry from Khansaheb.
There’s a new dictionary for FM companies, where ‘S’ stands for sustainability. Easily the most widely used words in the company’s agenda and topics of conversation. For FM company Farnek, sustainability is well integrated in their corporate values, and for them it’s a way of life. Markus Oberlin, CEO, Farnek says, “Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability is the key to ensuring that we have and will continue to have, the water and other natural resources to protect human health and our environment. Water and energy consumption for example, should be preserved as much as possible.
Farnek has developed an internet-based software programme called Optimizer, which can actually monitor the water and power consumption of a building. We can reduce water usage by placing aerators on taps, identifying ways to reuse grey water for irrigation, avoiding evaporation on swimming pools and so on. We also launched the first carbon neutral bus in the region to transport its staff.”
Markus also suggests that we can reduce consumption in many ways like by using low energy light bulbs, applying film to windows to reduce sunlight to keep interior temperatures lower, place solar panels on roofs to heat water and administer exterior reflective coatings/paint to keep buildings cooler. Another option is that of carbon offsetting. Farnek is myclimate’s (not for profit international carbon management company) partner in the Middle East. The aim is to raise awareness about carbon emissions and how business can offset their CO2 emissions to become carbon neutral.
The environmental responsibility of companies should cover the full life cycle of its products, from design and manufacturing to maintenance, modernization, and end-of-life treatment. Glenn Katte, Director of Service Business in KONE Middle East throws some light on this issue, “Services are produced and delivered to ensure that they create as little environmental impact as possible, particularly with regards to operational carbon footprint as well as energy, material, and water efficiency. In 2013, KONE was commended for being a distinguished sustainable supplier for the Dubai Municipality, giving recognition for the efforts, and demonstrating the increasing importance of sustainability in the region. The greatest environmental impact stems from the energy consumed by the products during their operational lifetime. Energy efficiency is achieved by various innovations such as the efficient and lightweight EcoDisc hoisting machine, regenerative drive, standby solutions, and LED lights. KONE offers the best A-class (rating defined by VDI 4707) energy efficiency in its entire volume elevator range.”
CSR is not something that everyone has soaked in completely; people have to be educated in many ways. Be it the energy and environmental concerns, waste management or even water conservation, the community has to be taught to join together for a common goal of sustainability. For Farnek the awareness regarding CSR is equally important. “We believe in educating tomorrow’s eco warriors. Farnek regularly joins the EEG to encourage the local community to consider their carbon emissions and ways in which they could reduce them. Measures taken by local schools included, recycling and making their own paper, by using a filtration system to dispense water, cutting out the need to order plastic bottles and operate refrigeration units. Other simple but highly effective measures included refilling and recycling toner cartridges for printers, using potato peelings to make compost for the school gardens and utilising special chemicals that require minimal water to clean the floors and furniture,” explains Oberlin.