UAE takes the lead in CSR initiatives – MENA CSR Report

By Jalaja Ramanunni

MENA CSR Report 2022

The Middle Eastern nations are taking substantial measures to cultivate a culture of social responsibility. The UAE and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia lead the way in promoting sustainable and socially conscious practices, a new report shows.

The annual MENA CSR Report 2022 was released by Cicero & Bernay Communication Consultancy (C&B) in partnership with 3Gem Research and Insights. The survey engaged 314 C-level executives from nine countries across 12 industries in the MENA region.

The UAE is the most active country in CSR, followed closely by KSA and Qatar – according to a third of the managers surveyed.

Over time, the notion of CSR has evolved globally. Ahmad Itani, founder and CEO, C&B, told Campaign Middle East, “The concept of CSR has come a long way from being a voluntary choice to a mandatory requirement at regional, national and international levels. However, many companies have gone beyond legal obligations and integrated the idea of ‘doing good’ into their business models.”

The increased perception of the importance of CSR in the region, especially in the UAE, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, signals a significant shift towards a more sustainable and socially responsible business environment. Itani said, “CSR can help increase sales and customer loyalty, reduce operational costs, and secure the company’s future in the long term. Furthermore, as employees place a high value on socially responsible companies, adopting CSR practices can aid in attracting and retaining top talent, increasing productivity and long-term success.”

Countries in the Middle East have started to take significant steps towards fostering a culture of social responsibility. Throughout 2022, CSR has continued to be a significant topic among senior managers and executives in the MENA region. Itani commented, “Managers in the MENA region believe their organisations highly value CSR, with eight in ten considering it as a ‘part of their DNA’ or ‘one of their top priorities.’ Most MENA companies plan to increase their CSR activities in the next 12 months.” He added that 75 per cent of the respondents are committed to doing so and 20 per cent of them plan to replicate their CSR activities from last year.

Businesses in the UAE, Egypt and GCC are actively involved in CSR as 80 per cent of respondents plan to increase their CSR practices, based on the survey. “Though the understanding is still comparatively lower in Egypt than in other countries in the region, overall awareness has improved. In the current survey, under one in ten surveyed managers in Egypt claimed to have no knowledge of CSR, which is a significant improvement compared to previous surveys, where over a third had made the same claim,” he explains.

When we asked Itani about interesting trends that popped up during the survey, he commented: “Many companies are looking to step up their CSR game in 2023. They plan to make socially and environmentally conscious investments, implement policies that benefit the environment and give back to their communities through volunteering and charitable donations. Another important aspect that companies are focusing on is employee well-being. They know that when their employees are happy and healthy, they’re more productive and successful. Sustainability is also a top priority, creating long-term value by considering how a given organisation operates in ecological, social, and economic environments.”

Here are some of the key findings from the report:

  • Over 60 per cent of UAE brands have experienced a tangible growth in consumer engagement as a direct result of increased in CSR activities.
  • Eight in ten UAE companies are planning to increase their CSR practices, with Egypt and the GCC now at a similar level, with over 65 per cent of the companies, on average, actively tracking and enforcing CSR performance.
  • 52 per cent of KSA’s respondents believe that CSR activities improve consumer trust with brands and strengthen brand loyalty.
  • Overall efforts to increase CSR grew significantly in the UAE and the GCC compared to last year’s report, with over 90 per cent of those surveyed being in tune with CSR’s definition and purpose.
  • Managers in the UAE were more likely to strongly agree that investing in CSR activities has a long-term, net-positive impact on ‘my’ business’s bottom line (profits) compared to managers in the KSA.