By Salman Kattan, Business and CSR Strategist and Managing Partner at Th’qat Business Advisory
The most interesting thing about the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) landscape in Saudi Arabia and something that does not cease to surprise foreign practitioners and academics is how receptive companies are to adopting CSR.
Due to the socio-religious focus on charity and giving back to the community, companies are pleasantly open to the idea of being more responsible. This however, comes with its own set of problems; CSR has been seen as charity for so long that general perception of what it entails, in mind of the Saudi public, is far from the reality of what responsible business involves.
This lack of understanding has slowed the spread of CSR, with companies focusing on one-off community initiatives in an effort to appease the general public. Why should a company bother with a full CSR strategy when others get such positive media coverage by cleaning the beach once every three months? Yet despite all of the above issues or perhaps because of them, the Kingdom offers huge potential for good CSR and sustainability practices. Yes, there are challenges and it is definitely an uphill task, but we are seeing companies who accept their local realities, yet are eager to explore the terrain of CSR in the Kingdom and create truly strategic programs.
An Interest in Embedding CSR
True CSR is about embedding the responsible business principals into the overall business strategy and not about an isolated document marked “CSR Strategy” that is shoved behind the operational manuals and spends all its working life being avoided like the plague because it’s too random, ideological or just irrelevant.
Creating Company CSR Leaders
A company CSR leader is a person who understands your business, is equipped with enough CSR knowledge and is empowered by the leadership to drive CSR.
How one person alone can do so much you ask?
He does so much because he is passionate about corporate involvement in social causes, he is an agent of change, and he is a person who genuinely cares about the impact of company on its stakeholders.
Companies are Insisting on Seeing a Return on Investment
This is one of the most promising trends in Saudi CSR landscape. More and more of our clients want to see where their money is going. One way we help our clients achieve that elusive ROI is by using a social return on investment (SROI) framework that measures the impact of CSR not just on the beneficiary but also on the business.
Leadership Support and Involvement in CSR
Last and most definitely not the least is how many local companies are getting their boards and CEOs involved in the CSR agenda. It is true that long term meaningful change cannot happen in a company without leadership involvement and support and this trend alone speaks volumes about how Saudi companies are beginning to see CSR as a business imperative and a strategic area of focus for the business.