Why Corporate Social Responsibility and Giving During Hajj Matters, by W7Worldwide’s Abdulrahman Inayat

Abdulrahman Inayat, co-founder and director of award-winning independent marketing communications consultancy agency W7Worldwide

A recent study has shown the UAE and Saudi Arabia emerge as leaders in the MENA region in terms of CSR implementation. The report also highlights how the value of giving is culturally ingrained in the region and therefore not an attribute that needed to be adopted.  Companies are striving more and more to run their businesses ethically, responsibly and with a conscience.  Charitable giving and CSR activity regularly sees a major spike during the holy month of Ramadan and Hajj (Pilgrimage).

This year sees the second year of Covid-19 restrictions imposed during Ramadan and Hajj as the holiest occasions for the 1.8bn Muslims around the world. In 2021, people were more prepared to adapt to observing Ramadan and celebrating Eid in the pandemic and to understand the reasons for limiting Hajj for the sake of keeping pilgrims and the Kingdom’s people safe.  Hajj carries vital meaning for Muslims as one of the five pillars of Islam and mandatory religious duty they must carry out once in their lifetime.

The Covid-19 pandemic represents a major challenge in managing this highly significant largest annual mass gathering of Muslims.  Typically, Saudi Arabia welcomes an incredible 2.5 million pilgrims from across the globe to visit the holiest sites of Makkah and Al-Madinah during the week-long Hajj season.  Hajj is a demonstration of solidarity and unity for the Muslim people and concludes with Eid al-Adha, one of the most important celebrations in the Muslim calendar when one gives thanks to Allah for the blessings received.

This is where businesses can play an important role with meaningful CSR and communications campaigns to create a peaceful Hajj and festive Eid season for all.  One of the most important aspects of Islam is charity and the act of giving, not just for the good the charity does for the receiver, but also for the spiritual reward it provides the giver.  Building engagement with CSR initiatives wins long-term brand loyalty with both internal and external audiences, making the company an agent of positive change.  Companies can also help raise awareness of the extraordinary and successful efforts made by the Kingdom to facilitate this important event during the pandemic.

Shared positive experiences will create a sense of community and enable companies to communicate with customers thoughtfully.  Ramadan and Hajj are an opportunity for global outreach with cultural education of non-Muslim audiences to help them understand the traditions, history and meaning of Hajj and Eid al-Adah.  Brands can come out with their own creative ways to positively promote the values of Islam and reinforce that everyone is in this together with imaginative CSR programmes and communication that promote introspection, humanity, gratitude, and kinship.

The pandemic will accelerate CSR development in the long run and should be seen as an opportunity to rethink how organizations give back to their stakeholders and society while adapting their communications.  CSR is the strong arm that will help overcome the short- and long-term impact of Covid-19.  Getting the word out about a company’s CSR initiatives is a powerful branding tool to demonstrate industry leadership and build connections with relevant target audiences.

Covid-19 has changed everything in respect of corporate social responsibility (CSR).  The global crisis is a wake-up call for businesses to address their purpose and how they operate. This is important, not only so they can thrive today, but also the society and community they are part of.  CSR, therefore, needs to be a core element of the corporate communications strategies companies adopt as a way to future-proof their business and build trust in their brand.

Relaying on W7Worldwide’s experienced Corporate Communications team experience working with Saudi, GCC and international clients to help formulate and promote their Corporate Social Responsibility Programs, we are currently planning on producing a seven-step guide to creating Corporate Social Responsibility strategies and campaigns in Covid-19 with impact.