x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 December 2017

Giving back to society is a mark of any great society, say business-owners

Specifics about the amount of corporate social spending companies could be ear-marking for charity will be announced before the year-end

Businesses should readily take up the mantle by extending a hand to disadvantaged people, company-owners said on Thursday.

“This is the mark of any great society, when economic actors participate in the betterment of citizens and residents' lives, especially the ones that are most in need. It would not be fair to assume that the government alone is responsible for social services,” said Hamza Zaouli, head of Iris Executives, a recruitment firm that specialises in Emiratisation.

Such funding could change the lives of families who cannot afford to pay school fees, he said.

“Schooling cost is a great challenge to many families, especially the ones with low income or where one parent has lost his job. I think company support for their employees' children’s education cost could have immense long-term benefits to UAE society and would greatly contribute to talent retention,” Mr Zaouli said.

This week, the Community Development Authority said companies will be offered government guidance on how to kick-start corporate social responsibility programmes to give back to low-income workers and people with disabilities.

Specifics about the amount of corporate social spending companies could be ear-marking for charity will be announced before the year-end.

As contributions to social services was the norm for many company owners in their home countries, Mr Zaouli said the initiative would not come as a shock to many.

Similarly, he said the benefits of doing business in the UAE in terms of quality of life, security and freedom far outweighed the contribution being asked for.

Still, change should be gradual if there were future plans to make this mandatory, he said.

“Any change must be progressive. The UAE market needs to remain attractive to employers and before adding more taxes, companies will need to first digest the recent changes like VAT, compulsory medical insurances. These changes are great but to allow companies to adapt and thrive with these changes, time needs to be part of the equation,” Mr Zaouli said.

India became the first country to legally oblige businesses to pay two per cent of their net profit to charity two years ago. Although it sparked debate over the likelihood of evasion and actual benefit, the overall charitable spend of companies has increased as per media and independent reports.

Formalising the procedure in the UAE was a step in the right direction, company owners said.

“The government initiative to give guidelines to people is fantastic, I fully support it,” said Surender Kandhari, chairman of the Al Dobowi Group, an automotive company.

“People need to have a holistic approach to living rather than to just make money and put in their pockets. People like us who have the capacity to look after others should come forward and do it.”

Mr Kandhari, also the founder of the Sikh gurdwara in Dubai, has been a long-time contributor to community initiatives and supplying workers’ camps with food and essential goods.

Just as Muslims are expected to pay zakat, typically 2.5 per cent of savings accumulated over the year, in the Sikh religion, daswandh refers to a religious duty to give 10 per cent back to society.

“It should be done with love, you shouldn’t talk about it and you should give more than you are asked,” he said.

“This is a good system the government has planned. For people who don’t know how, there is now a path, an avenue for giving.”