Something new and fresh is a foot in Qatar’s business world. Corporate social responsibility is evolving beyond philanthropy, becoming more strategic and organisationally embedded.
Unlike many imported business practices, the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was embraced without resistance in the GCC as it aligned neatly with the Islamic tenant of Zakat, or charitable giving. So hitherto companies here have been perfectly content with CSR activities primarily focus on corporate philanthropy. This is an “easy” form of CSR engagement; it requires little managerial effort beyond the signing and posting of a cheque but these donations to local charities and interest groups have served to satisfy the interests of a broader group of stakeholders.
Despite the deep cultural and religious underpinnings of corporate philanthropy, there have been notable attempts to embrace the spirit of CSR and not look at it just as a marketing channel. Such initiatives generally tend to be transparent in their motives and unsustainable and hence end up being counter-productive. The idea is the leverage the operational strength of the organisation towards positive impact. If done right, CSR is a win-win. Increasingly, meaningful CSR appears to be becoming the norm among the region’s corporations, large and small.
Globally in the past decade, we’ve witnessed a stunning transition as CSR evolved from a nice-to-have silo to a fundamental strategic priority. More recently, we’ve watched as companies went beyond their own walls, using their influence to advocate for global solutions around issues such as climate change, education, poverty, and equal and human rights. These trends are not going unnoticed in the GCC. As the Gulf moves towards the next phase of its CSR journey, there have been earnest attempts to cultivate a deeper understanding of CSR and its implications.
An example of this is the CSR Majlis by Vodafone Qatar and Carnegie Mellon University which brought together scores of peers and experts in CSR and sustainability to debate the critical role a well-defined corporate purpose and solid business ethics play in creating sustainable change. The CSR Majlis programme aims to provide an open platform that facilitates dialogue and knowledge sharing between peers representing both the public and private sectors of Qatar. It is held regularly and under themes to connect the leaders of this field and bring them together to explore ways of collaborations and mutual support.
This collaborative atmosphere can be considered unique to this management branch. As there is no “one size fits all” model for CSR, any strategic decision will depend on the particular circumstances of the organisation. So it’s largely beneficial to come together to discuss these issues, because there are several factors to consider; to regard CSR from a strategic perspective is largely about paying greater attention to political and social risks, as well as opportunities.
This is why it’s easier for CSR practitioners to share knowledge and experiences. It is from these global discussions that some trends emerge, which can be extrapolated to suit the needs of the region. There is a call for corporations to stick to their commitments to sustainability regardless of political changes. This is especially relevant to the USA which is expecting to see a weakening of social and environmental regulations. CSR experts also increasingly see corporations stepping up as advocates and problem-solvers. In 2017, we can expect to see more corporations step up to address challenges outside the company and tackle large global problems, like climate change and sustainable development goals. The role of the Chief Sustainability Officer also continues to grow more sophisticated; the bar has been raised, often they report directly to the CEO and there a new demand and reliance on CSR leaders to influence the private sector.
It’s all in the semantics. There is a shift in terminology in addressing these activities; from “corporate social responsibility” to “social impact”. This branding shift reflects a growing consensus that the key driver for a company’s pro-social program should be not some generic standard of responsibility or as penance for perceived negative effects, but rather unique, measurable, positive impact – human, environmental, societal, and financial.
Although it sounds counter-intuitive, corporations are also expected to play a big role in accelerating the transition to the circular economy. With a growing population and ever-rising demand for resources, it’s becoming necessary to find ways to eliminate waste and reuse valuable materials endlessly, to replace the “throw away” culture with a “fix it” one.
Importantly, much discussion about CSR concerns the corporations’ impact on society which sometimes leads to its internal stakeholders being forgotten. For example, a corporation’s employees are perhaps its most important constituency, in part because of the pervasive influence that the corporation has over their lives, but also strategically because they are the holders of the organisations’ core competencies. This is particularly relevant to companies in the GCC who have been finding it incredibly difficult to attract and retain employees with the right skills.
Sasol continues to promote accessibility
Sasol supported the British Council’s annual Diversity Week by presenting an accessibility workshop for students and staff.
On a yearly basis, the British Council organises a global Diversity Week featuring a number of fun, as well as educational events, taking place at the British Council office for staff, visitors and customers. This year, the British Council also announced their official support for the Accessible Qatar initiative; its students will be contributing to the application’s user submitted reviews. Sasol’s accessibility consultant, Jennifer Stirling, conducted the workshop, explaining the inspiration for the project, application and website.
Accessible Qatar, which builds on Sasol’s ongoing Definitely Able CSR initiative, grew out of an engaging session called “Finding the Accessible Doha” during the Definitely Able Conference in March 2015. Disabled individuals from around Qatar, the region and the world discussed inclusion for people with disability as full members of society. Sasol, in partnership with the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, Mada, and the Shafallah Center and in close collaboration with Qatar Social & Cultural Center for the Blind and the Qatari Center of Social Cultural for the Deaf, developed the initiative to help the local community. Additionally, Sasol has recently partnered with construction exhibition Project Qatar in order to raise awareness around accessibility and to encourage project developers to make their existing and future venues accessible.
CSR in the curriculum
A Memorandum of Understanding between Qatar University (QU) and Qatar Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Network, which sought to inspire university students concerning the concept of social responsibility through numerous initiatives, has been extended by three years until 2020.
Over the past three years several initiatives has been spearheaded under this Mo, including the National CSR Report, academic studies and researches, specialised lectures and workshops, and the CSR exhibition, the next edition of which will be hosted in March 2017 by QU. The educational event is the “first of its kind” in Qatar and aims to review the different experiences of business leaders in order to raise students’ awareness through the creation of a realistic engagement with representatives of the public and private sectors.
On the sidelines of the exhibition various workshops will be conducted tackling major issues such as social responsibility within the framework of Qatar National Vision 2030, the partnership between the public and private sectors, and the global standard ISO 26000.
The conference will also deal with related topics such as the social responsibility of QU, the CSR initiative of Harvard University and the CSR Person of the Year. The organising committee of the exhibition and conference is counting on the added value that will be achieved through the interaction between the students and leaders of multinational companies and various corporations and agencies from the private and public sectors who will attend the event.
Run for a greener earth
Hundreds of people participated in the annual Al Dana Green Run organised by Doha Bank at Aspire Zone.
Families, running enthusiasts and go green supporters across Qatar put their best foot forward for a cleaner, greener tomorrow at the annual run that covered a 3-km circuit around Khalifa Stadium. The Al Dana Green Run is hosted every year by Doha Bank to build participation and awareness on environmental protection among people in Qatar. To celebrate 12 years of the green run, Doha Bank put together an enhanced agenda this year that included as many as eight race categories catering to different age groups and social segments.
A safety net
Vodafone Qatar organised a treasure hunt at Gulf Mall and Hyatt Plaza to inform parents about how to keep their children safe in the digital world and to encourage them to have an open dialogue with their children about these matters.
The treasure hunts involve a number of puzzles about the digital world today that parents need to solve in collaboration with their children to win prizes. This comes under the banner of AmanTECH, Vodafone’s aid programme for online child safety. Launched in May 2014, AmanTech, which stands for “safe tech world”, aims at promoting digital literacy amongst parents and improving children’s digital safety. In 2017, AmanTech will continue to reach out to parents and children aged between the ages of 5 to 17. The programme will adopt a three-pronged approach with a focus on awareness, education and technical support. This will entail ongoing school parental workshops, an online source for information and tips for parents, online magazines, in addition to digital parenting guide available online.
Supporting a good cause
AG Middle East recently held a luncheon for Teach For Qatar’s Fellows at the five-star Banana Island Resort Doha, showcasing its support for the NGO’s ‘Summer Institute’ programme.
The ‘Summer Institute’ is an integral component of Teach For Qatar’s training program. The eight-week intensive course serves as a foundation for the two-year Leadership Journey, which provides passionate leaders with the opportunity to positively impact Qatar’s students by nurturing teaching and leadership skills and by preparing Fellows for their placements at independent schools.
Nasser Al Jaber, CEO of Teach For Qatar, said, “We are extremely grateful to AG Middle East. Their contributions have helped us provide rigorous training for our Fellows who have chosen to become part of the solution to some of the education challenges that students in Qatar face.” The luncheon was also attended by distinguished golfer Jose Maria Olazabal, winner of over 30 worldwide professional golf tournaments. Olazabal is co-founder of the Olazabal & Nadal Invitational, a charitable foundation that aims to combat social exclusion, with tennis champion Rafael Nadal.
A cool new way to be sustainable
For Qatar, Cool sustainability is no longer just about doing business responsibly – it is also about identifying key social and sustainability challenges, and finding ways to work with others to resolve them.
Being a responsible and sustainable Qatari organisation is of the utmost importance to us. We continuously encourage improvements to the environmental and social impacts of our activities, whilst ensuring our presence results in positive benefits for our stakeholders. We believe that district cooling has a critical role to play in the country’s development and the National Vision 2030. Qatar Cool commits to reducing environmental risks, preserving natural resources and improving economic growth and opportunities. Qatar Cool ensures that the growth of operations is undertaken in a sustainable and responsible manner.
Qatar Cool aims to be a responsible employer and adopt values and standards designed to help guide our staff in their conduct and business relationships. The company recognises its responsibility and integrity in meeting best practice benchmarks when interacting with its employees and stakeholders.
Qatar Cool takes the environmental impact of district cooling very seriously, whilst district cooling has minimal environmental impact and energy consumption compared to conventional cooling systems, there are additional methodologies to further optimize environmental savings. Qatar Cool contributes substantially to the environment; we have achieved the reduction of over 150 million kilograms of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in 2016 alone. This is equivalent to removing over 28,000 vehicles from the roads or planting 15 million mature trees.
District cooling plants are operated more efficiently with less harm to the environment by eliminating such things as carbon dioxide, possible gas leak and noise pollution. District cooling offers major environmental benefits and allows us to economise on natural resources. Qatar Cool has put into action the switch from potable water to Treated Sewage Effluent (TSE) as make-up water in our West Bay plants, thus saving a vital natural resource. Treated Sewage Effluent (TSE) in the Middle East and other Gulf countries is a resource that is under exploited. Local authorities in Qatar have developed a conservation plan with all major district cooling companies in the country, which have access to readily available TSE to make the switch from potable water to TSE.
Qatar Cool’s third plant in the West Bay District, which is currently under construction, is the first cooling plant in Qatar to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification. The plant, once operational, will operate using TSE as its make-up water.
Qatar Cool is focused on increasing the awareness of district cooling values and benefits whilst stressing on sustainability and conservation in the country. To do this we support several conferences/seminars focused on district cooling, sustainability and the future of Qatar.
Qatar Cool’s CSR objectives reflect the commitment of the organisations responsibility towards society, users and the environment locally, regionally and internationally. In this sense, Qatar Cool is positioned as an industry driver, promoting and implementing international, clean and green policies. Beyond the positive media coverage the company receives, its actions have spoken loudly of its vision, culture and pro-active thinking.
We produce collaterals that shed light on the benefits of district cooling, not only for customers, but also to society and the government. We highlight facts such as, district cooling provides financial gain as electricity is a subsidized commodity and the impact on its demand is an impact on national resources. Qatar Cool also encourages its customers and the community to conserve energy and water; we introduced the ‘Conserve Today, Preserve Tomorrow’ guide. The guide consists of useful tips on methods to conserve energy, such as not cooling unoccupied rooms, regular maintenance and many more, not only for users but for building management too. We will continue to encourage conservation within the community with our partners Tarsheed.
Qatar Cool participates annually in Earth Day, World Water Day and the GCC Conservationwek along with our partners and the community, as an organization it is essential for us to show our community spirit, and to enlighten our customers of the work we do for both them, as our customers, but also as a whole to the general community in the state of Qatar, and the environment. During such events we engage with our stakeholders and display important information on conservation, sustainability and the environment. We also hold environmental discussion with local schools stressing on the importance of sustainability and conservation thisto enable us to engage with our customers while creating awareness about the Environment through their children.
Qatar Cool in collaboration with Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) runs a blood donation drive on The Pearl-Qatar to raise social awareness about the benefits of communal bonding, not to mention the associated health benefits for the donors themselves. Qatar Cool feels a sense of responsibility to contribute to the social development of the country, in line with the Qatar National vision 2030.
Qatar Cool runs a three month clothes donation drive on The Pearl-Qatar, for all residents in association with Qatar Charity’s TAYF project. The clothes donation sees the community come together and give back to the society through their contributions..
Qatar Cool and Tarsheed will work together to deploy key messages and implement programs to schools, residents and business owners on energy conservation and efficiency through their partnership, in line with the national campaign for the conservation and efficient use of water and electricity in Qatar.
Qatar Cool are members of the Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC) and are active in the Green Education Interest Group which focuses on educating and training university students on sustainability and environmental issues. The group regularly formulates lesson plans, project and presentations for the students.
Qatar Cool sponsored the Green Program for Schools (GPS) under the banner of Oryx Publishing and Advertising and Qatar Today magazine. The GPS is the largest and the most engaging green environmental initiative for students, this initiative goes beyond typical competitions and places the responsibility of sustainability directly on the students making each of their contributions valuable to the environment we live in. Students are constantly reminded of the obligation they have towards the environment. Schools are invited to be part of the program and given orientation session in administrating and initiating green responsibilities.
In an effort to enhance the conservational impact and development of district cooling in Qatar, Qatar Cool and the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) entered into a partnership outlining our plans to work together to expand on environmental reserves and research with regards to district cooling as well as explore ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of district cooling in Qatar. One of the key projects we will embark on is to investigate the reuse of Treated Sewage Effluent (TSE) for critical applications by providing an advanced treatment processes to deliver a high quality of TSE.