Gulf firms join UN-backed CSR initiative



A United Nations-backed scheme to promote good corporate practice on the environment, labour rights and anti-corruption was launched yesterday in Dubai.

The UN’s Global Compact is working with non-governmental organisation Emirates Environment Group (EEG) on a programme to ensure greater corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the region. Seventeen Gulf-based companies have already signed up.

The launch was held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council. Georg Kell, executive director of UN Global Compact, was also present at the event.

“Global Compact asks companies to voluntarily embrace, support and enact – within their sphere of influence – a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labour standards, the environment and anti-corruption,” said Habiba Al Marashi, EEG’s Chairman and UN Global Compact board member.

Membership of the programme involves committing to 10 core principles of good CSR practice, ranging from the abolition of child labour, to encouraging environmentally-friendly technologies. Companies must submit an annual report detailing progress made in at least one of these 10 areas.
Companies can choose which of the 10 principles to report on annually. This means that they do not necessarily have to give feedback to the Global Compact on issues such as human rights and labour conditions.

While members of the steering committee are confident that signatory companies will adhere to the spirit of the programme, they do acknowledge that progress may be difficult in this region.
“There is a challenge,” said committee member Sulaiman Al Mazrouei, who is also chief manager of Group Affairs at Emirates NBD Bank. “We’re serious about complying with the international standards and initiatives, but in the Middle East it’s an upward struggle. We have to do things gradually and increase awareness. You’re not going to see the results tomorrow.”
The steering committee for the GCC network also includes Metito from the UAE, Al Faisaliah Group of Saudi Arabia and Oryx from Qatar, alongside EEG’s chairperson Habiba Al Marashi.

The GCC network is the first of its kind in the region, although other networks will be launched gradually.