The government has started taking steps, including the institution of an award recognising leading corporate social responsibility initiatives, to encourage more private businesses to take up CSR.
Authorities are preparing a set of benchmarks to measure how businesses give back to the community so that by 2009 the government can issue an globally recognised certificate to reward those who do – and inspire others who are lagging behind.
The award, known as the 26000 Certificate, will be overseen by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology and the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), said Abdullah Rashid Al Suwaidi, undersecretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs.
A committee, which includes representatives of the private sector, has been formed to finalise the benchmarks and the UAE hopes to become a regional leader in the CSR field, he said.
“We are looking to encourage more firms to take up their responsibility towards the society and ensure sustainable development,” he said, adding that the move came in response to recommendations made by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, when he announced the UAE Government Strategy in April.
The 26000 Certificate will be similar to international standards already recognised for quality and transparency. Among the criteria that will be taken into consideration will be ethics in the workplace, commitment to employees, financial contributions, grants and donations.
Overall, CSR initiatives should give back to the communities where the businesses work and help to round off development, he said.
A firm’s reputation would no longer be based on its assets and profits. Rather the government and society would measure how each private business empowers communities and equips them with the skills to cope with rapid development, said Al Suwaidi.
“Firms should be aware that the UAE is monitoring such initiatives and is working to encourage their introduction in the country for the benefit of the society and these companies alike.”
An example of a CSR initiative already in place is Microsoft's move to provide all e-learning equipment to the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (pictured above).