As social responsibility has entered the corporate bloodstream in recent years, concern for consumers and the wider world has become a bigger priority.
Multinationals start setting agenda on social responsibility
But as social responsibility has entered the corporate bloodstream in recent years, concern for consumers and the wider world has become a bigger priority.
In the Mena region, such anxieties have crystallised around issues of particular concern in the region, ranging from water scarcity and malnutrition to unemployment.
Data showing the extent of the water supply challenge trip off the tongue of Arijit Ghose, the managing director of Unilever Gulf. Average annual consumption of water in the UAE is 560 litres per capita, far higher than the global average of 168 litres per capita. Levels of personal consumption of water are about three times higher in the UAE than the global average, he says.
"Every day two billion people globally use our products, many of which that use water," he says. "Small actions taken by consumers can add up to a big difference. As a marketing company we know how to create and change habits."
The company is working on campaigns to encourage people to use less water when brushing their teeth or washing dishes. Closing the tap while brushing teeth can save 11 litres of water , he says.
Health and hygiene are other issues Unilever is tackling. Through its Lipton tea brand, it is promoting healthy food habits, a campaign that has so far targeted 150,000 women in the region.
Nestlé has worked with schools in the UAE and Lebanon on a roadshow to promote healthy eating and exercise among children. It is also changing its products to help address malnutrition.
"To address the widespread problem of nutritional deficiencies in our region, we have developed products fortified with the relevant micronutrients for our consumers," says Lynn Alkhatib, media relations manager at Nestlé Middle East.
Finally, in a region with unemployment running at about10 per cent, companies are also keen to help improve skills and create jobs.
Nestlé has developed a centre of excellence to train Saudi Arabian nationals in sales. Last December, the first batch of 15 Saudis completed the programme.
Unilever has an Emiratisation level of about 15 per cent in the UAE and is keen to grow its national workforce further.