x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Social responsibility in the UAE should be everyone's pleasure

The UAE is a pioneer when it comes to the amount of money raised for various charitable causes; however, to see organisations willing to shift their focus away from making profit for a while to actually making a difference in society is always marvellous.

Last week I had an interesting meeting with the chief executive of a financial company who told me about an upcoming project - an annual fund-raising initiative to give back to Abu Dhabi. It is the company's first initiative of this sort.

I was excited to hear him utter these words. It is true that the UAE is a pioneer when it comes to the amount of money raised for various charitable causes; however, to see organisations willing to shift their focus away from making profit for a while to actually making a difference in society is always marvellous, no matter how many times we hear about such initiatives.

The chief executive wants to involve his staff in this humanitarian project by encouraging them to donate so that they too feel that they have made a difference in society. He did not want just to donate a large sum, but rather to make sure that the money was given to a humanitarian organisation that helped special-needs children in Abu Dhabi.

The chief executive's approach made me step back and remember what I love most about western corporations - their strong sense of giving back to the community. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and currently the world's second-richest person, pledged to give away at least half of his fortune to charity, because of his strong sense of community and because he wanted to contribute positively to the world. He did not forget about the importance of supporting community members once he reached the top, and that is exactly what society needs to move forward, no matter how big or small a business or organisation is, or how resourceful a country may be.

Some might argue that the UAE's Government already does its fair share of supporting community causes, funding various charity drives, and that it has dedicated billions of dirhams to such causes. But it is not solely the government's responsibility. Each member of this community should do his or her fair share to help.

National Bank of Abu Dhabi is a great example of a UAE organisation fulfilling its corporate social responsibility. Every year, the bank collaborates with the Abu Dhabi Blood Bank to organise a blood drive outside their office buildings, where employees and members of the public can donate blood. I love that the bank did not limit this good cause to its employees only but extended it to the public.

I discussed this issue with some young Emiratis and asked them about good ways to encourage businesses to be more socially responsible. Many suggested that a good way to get corporations involved is to obligate them to do so. They suggested that because of the UAE's tax-free business zones, many have come to reside in the UAE and have established great names for themselves and their work, and that they could be charged a "community tax", a small annual token that is put towards funding various community projects.

Others suggested a different approach, similar to what I was considering. The best moves are those made from the heart. Companies and organisations should be happy and willing to take such a step to make a difference. Perhaps an annual recognition award dedicated solely to businesses from different emirates that have aided their communities. Another way is through incentives, providing easier business expansion procedures, deduction of fees, and extra privileges for business owners who give back to society.

In the same manner that the UAE eased the way for various businesses to launch and expand their work, business owners should do the same and give back even a small amount of support to the community and the country that helped them become who or what they are now.

It is important to keep in mind that corporate social responsibility does not entail only giving out money, but can also be accomplished in other ways such as supporting young entrepreneurs, providing internships for top-performing students or simply recycling waste.

It is never too late to give back.

*Manar Al Hinai is an Emirati fashion designer and writer. She can be followed on Twitter: @manar_alhinai

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