x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Companies push good deeds and worthy causes

The Life: Many large firms have initiatives to give back to the communities they work in. But any company can start a social responsibility programme in a few simple steps.

Ibrahim Lari, the chief executive at Injazat Data Systems, says the company's CSR programme was launched in 2006. Lauren Lancaster / The National
Ibrahim Lari, the chief executive at Injazat Data Systems, says the company's CSR programme was launched in 2006. Lauren Lancaster / The National

As a senior executive at a major European bank's Middle East and North Africa (Mena) division, Philippe Vollot has been involved in quite a few important deals.

But he is particularly proud of a programme that tracks the migration patterns of hawksbill turtles.

For in addition to acting as chief operating officer at Deutsche Bank Mena, he is also the chairman of the Middle East Foundation, the bank's corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm, which sponsors the Emirates Wildlife Society World Wide Fund for Nature's Marine Turtle Conservation Project.

"We put satellite trackers on these turtles. We are following them to make sure that where they nest it will be protected and we are protecting also the areas where they are feeding," he says.

But CSR programmes are not just for large companies such as Deutsche Bank.

Any firm can set up its own division to give something back.

The first step is to put together a CSR team. Many, Deutsche Bank included, involve people working in corporate communications.

Once a company has a team in place, it moves on to step two: picking a cause to support.

Deutsche Bank's Middle East Foundation, which has a committee that selects projects, supports initiatives on a country-by-country basis.

"What Egypt would need is not exactly the same as what the UAE will need. These countries have a very big gap in terms of development and need," says Mr Vollot.

"Coming back to my turtles, we said in Egypt it makes a lot of sense to help education or avoiding child labour for example. The UAE is a rich country. What is the main issue for the UAE? Sustainability or the environment."

But for many companies starting a CSR programme, the cause they select often relates to the core area of their business.

Intercoil International, a mattress and bed manufacturer in the UAE, chose to support initiatives that address issues related to sleep when it launched its CSR initiative 12 years ago.

"We wanted to highlight how healthy sleep could lead to a healthy life," says Hassan Al Hazeem, Intercoil's managing director.

As part of this, the company has sponsored sleep conferences and radio campaigns, but it has now widened its CSR objectives to include the environment, and has invested in technology to help preserve energy. Injazat Data Systems, an IT joint venture between Mubadala Development and Hewlett-Packard, launched its CSR programme in 2006. Mubadala is a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government.

Injazat's CSR team was made up of senior management and members of the communications team.

"We said we need to look into what sort of support we want to do and which area we want to work in," says Ibrahim Lari, the Injazat chief executive.

It initially chose to focus on knowledge.

"We had a couple of guys who we wanted to help in terms of improving their career. We sent one of our UAE nationals to study abroad to finish his career while we are paying his salary and supporting him."

Injazat has since widened the remit of its CSR initiatives to support a range of non-profit organisations and causes.

They include sponsoring an annual Ramadan football tournament run by the London Diabetes Centre, a cause it selected because the problem is rife both in the UAE and in the region.

"We always say that we exist because of others. We are providing services to the clients who trust us and give us business," says Mr Lari.

"Therefore we believe part of our responsibility is to return some of what we get from society."

And in the end, CSR is just about doing the right thing, says Mr Al Hazeem.

"It shouldn't be an added responsibility," he adds.

gduncan@thenational.ae