The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is situated in the Southeast of the Arabian Peninsula, bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia. In December 1971, the UAE became a federation of six emirates – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, and Fujairah, while the seventh emirate, Ras Al Khaimah, joined the federation in 1972.
The United Arab Emirates has one of the highest per capita income levels in the world and a highly developed welfare system. It also has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the Middle East and depends heavily on foreign labour.
The UAE has the most diversified economy in the Middle East. The country was reliant on oil and gas for centuries but of late the government has started giving equal prominence to other sectors. This move has helped the government in increasing its revenue and has led to an impressive development in tourism, retail and manufacturing.
1. Corporate Social Responsibility in the UAE
The UAE’s commitment to corporate social responsibility in the face of an economy-destroying pandemic is impressive. The secret sauce for this successful CSR recipe is the way that the UAE government rewards every corporate – big or small – that contributes to the culture of responsible business practices. The unique approach in the United Arab Emirates has made the Emirates leadership a model for other nations, which are struggling to meet their targets for the Sustainable Development Goals after the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Laws surrounding Corporate Social Responsibility in the UAE
The UAE Council of Ministers issued a resolution (the CSR Law) concerning Corporate Social Responsibility in the UAE which came into force on 1 February 2018. The CSR law imposes reporting requirements on contributions made to CSR activities and financial contributions, which will apply to many companies in the UAE on a mandatory basis, and to others on a voluntary basis. It also offers various incentives to contribute to CSR initiatives.
The CSR Law states that social responsibility is based on voluntary principles. However, while CSR contributions will remain voluntary, filing a CSR return and listing on the platform will be mandatory for all businesses in the UAE which fall within the scope of the CSR Law. Before the annual trade licence renewal, the CSR Law provides that businesses must disclose their contribution, or non-contribution, to social responsibility for the preceding year, via the CSR Smart Platform. If the company discloses a CSR contribution, it must include all data and information relating to the type and volume and the beneficiaries of the contribution.
2.1. Smart Platform
The Smart Platform brings all members or stakeholders that are involved in the sustainable development projects, programme and development including establishments, businesses, non-profit organizations and Government agencies. Its main purpose is to circulate information on the strategy of government for development and related initiatives and coordinate the communication between the state and private sector entities.
2.2. Which companies must comply with the CSR Law?
The CSR Law in the United Arab Emirates applies to:
– commercial companies of all legal forms operating in the UAE, including banks, financial institutions and branches of foreign companies;
– companies owned (partially or wholly) by Federal or Local Governments; and
– other organisations and entities which opt to be listed on the Platform.
Sole proprietorships, free zone companies and professional service companies are not currently within the mandatory provisions of the CSR Law, but may opt-in to the regime.
2.3. What CSR contributions count?
CSR contributions which may be considered for inclusion on the CSR Smart Platform include:
– contributions to social developments by monetary or in-kind contributions to fund development programmes and projects;
– adopting eco-friendly policies for production and work;
– promoting the spirit of innovation and scientific research;
– contributing to solutions to problems or challenges faced by society; and
– establishing a culture of social responsibility though strategies, providing opportunities for humanitarian and community campaigns and initiatives, and engaging in voluntary programmes.
3. CSR UAE Fund
CSR UAE Fund is a federal authority setting the framework and governance for Corporate Social Responsibility in the UAE while managing and directing contributions from the business sector towards national priority initiatives. It has metrics in place to rank and reward active businesses in CSR on a country level. It is also an enabler for relevant authorities to enhance and regulate socially responsible practices within corporations and business entities.
CSR UAE Fund was formed under the UAE Ministerial Cabinet Decision No. 2 for 2018. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the CSR UAE smart platform on 26 November 2019. It is keen to develop initiatives that enhance the social responsibility expertise of UAE businesses through incentivizing them and providing indicators to make CSR institutional and systemic, thereby ensuring wide-ranging social benefits and addressing the needs of the private sector.
Lately, the CSR UAE Fund has achieved multiple positive milestones. The Fund succeeded in raising financial and in-kind donations from the nation’s business sector, that were allocated to help some half a million beneficiaries through initiatives launched to address the adverse impacts of COVID-19. The Fund continues to receive financial and in-kind contributions from the private sector to serve the UAE’s community.
3.1. New policies
CSR UAE Fund’s Board of Trustees approved several new policies in 2021 to develop the Fund’s mechanisms, ensure rapid implementation of initiatives, and thereby widen its impact and reach. During the first meeting since it was established in accordance with Resolution no. 18 of 2020, the Fund’s Board approved a set of guidelines and systems to measure and monitor community work and also announced the formation of four specialized committees that work under the board’s umbrella. The committees are tasked with following up on policies, projects, financing, and risk management, in addition to enhancing performance across all areas.
The Board also approved the launch of the CSR UAE Index and constituted a team to oversee its effectiveness. The index will document the performance of institutions and companies in the CSR space, according to leading local and international standards. In addition, the Board approved the CSR Label programme, that in cooperation with the UAE Chambers of Commerce, categorizes companies according to a set of criteria and indicators.
His Excellency Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy and Chairman of the CSR UAE Fund’s Board of Trustees, said at the meeting held in January 2021 that the CSR UAE Fund has an ambitious vision to enhance the country’s global leadership in CSR through building an integrated regulatory framework to manage, strengthen, and measure companies’ social contributions and initiatives. In doing so, it aims to serve as a model for best practices at a regional and global level.
3.2. CSR UAE Index
The CSR UAE Index taskforce includes members boasting diverse skillsets and expertise. Working together, the taskforce will present recommendations on indices and their alignment with national goals, verified usable data sources, and the Index’s overall methodology. Drawing on global standards used to evaluate CSR, the CSR UAE Index is a measurement tool to evaluate CSR and sustainability practices in the country. It benchmarks local practices and their impact on the UAE’s global competitiveness
3.3. CSR Label
The CSR Label programme has been formed to classify public and private sector entities, based on three categories – platinum, gold, and silver. The label is awarded in cooperation with the UAE’s Chambers of Commerce. The evaluation process for awarding the CSR Label factors in seven main criteria: contribution to national priorities, local added value, strategic planning and implementation, societal and environmental impact, stakeholder engagement, risk and opportunity management, and creativity and innovation.
Here are the top corporates practising CSR in the UAE:
Emirates National Oil Company Limited (ENOC) is an integrated global oil and gas player operating across the energy sector value chain. A wholly owned company of the Government of Dubai, ENOC was initially established in 1993. The ENOC Group comprises more than 30 related subsidiaries involved in refining, lubricant blending, storage, aviation and retail. ENOC has been promoting environmental sustainability, empowering disadvantaged and underprivileged individuals, driving awareness on various social and environmental issues, promoting employee welfare and actively partnering in community-oriented events in the UAE for decades.
5.1. Blood Donation
ENOC’s Wellness & Social Programme Committee organizes a voluntary blood donation campaign for employees in collaboration with the Dubai Health Authority. The campaign aims to help those in need and encourage employees to donate blood on a regular basis to replenish blood supply.
5.2. Clean up UAE
ENOC has been closely associated with the Clean Up UAE campaign since 2009 as part of its goals to implement best practices and enhance the quality of life of residents in Dubai and the UAE.
5.3. Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
ENOC partnered with EMAAR on the UAE’s Night Creatures exhibit at Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo in The Dubai Mall as part of its commitment to promoting educational initiatives and raising awareness on various social and environmental causes. This opportunity to work with Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo offers a platform to promote the UAE’s National identity and play a role in educating the UAE’s future generations about the country’s rich and diverse wildlife.
5.4. Ramadan Aman
As a strategic partner of the Ramadan Aman initiative, and in collaboration with Al Ihsan Charity Association, ENOC’s employees and senior management distribute care packages to motorists at Traffic Light junctions before sunset throughout the holy month of Ramadan.
5.5. Interschool Environmental Public Speaking Competition
A collaboration with Emirates Environmental Group (EEG), to promote environmental education through the presentation that the students conduct from different school to raise awareness among the local community.
5.6. The British University Sustainable Path Group
A partnership between ENOC and the British University in Dubai (BuiD), where ENOC sponsored the first sustainability summer school international trip, which is a knowledge exchange initiative organized under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance and Industry.
Since Ducab’s founding in 1979 by the government of Dubai as a joint venture with BICC cables, the company has supplied cables and wires for a number of landmark projects within the UAE and internationally. Some of their projects in the UAE include Burj Khalifa, Dubai Metro, Emirates Palace, Burj Al Arab, Atlantis, The Palm and Yas Marina Circuit. Ducab has had a strong role to play in the UAE’s industrial and social development alike, with a focus on developing a sustainable business.
To amplify its CSR efforts the company formed a CSR team in 2012, that would implement a strong structure and systems for a more targeted approach to contributing to the community. Since 2012, Ducab has been the recipient of the Dubai Chamber CSR Label award every year, affirming its strong commitment to the community. It does self-assessments as per the Dubai Chamber CSR Label framework, which is specifically tailored to this region and includes international best practices. Based on this, Ducab follows a CSR strategy focused on the four areas set out by the Dubai Chamber CSR Label: Workplace, Marketplace, Community, and Environment.
6.1. Power Over Fire
PowerOverFire was launched in 2013 as an educational platform to raise awareness of fire safety and hazards that can potentially cause building fires. The programme was launched with a roadshow in partnership with the UAE Civil Defence in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and has continued over the years.
The seminars focused on educating the industry, both locally and internationally, on the most up to date regulations and industry-approved cabling. Ducab’s PowerOverFire truck travels the UAE distributing information to the general public, dealers and retailers in the electrical product supply chain. It features touch-screen kiosks and a classroom for seminars that raise fire safety awareness amongst attendees.
6.2. Gift of Light Project
In celebration of the UAE’s Year of Giving, Ducab launched its Gift of Light project to encourage members of the public to share kind, positive sentiments. For every message shared on the portal www.ducabgiftoflight.com, the company donated $2 to Salma Humanitarian Aid, an initiative by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, which provides long-life meals of 100% certified halal food to victims of man-made and natural disasters.
6.3. Year of Giving
2017 was declared as the Year of Giving by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, the Emir of Abu Dhabi and the Supreme Commander of the Union Defence Force. Inspired by this, Ducab arranged a variety of activities throughout the year, including distributing more than 2,000 meals to labourers at camps in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
7. Apparel Group
Apparel Group has been a member of the United Nations Global Compact since 2015. The conglomerate supports the United Nations Global Compact’s principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. They engage in collaborative projects that advance the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet & ensure prosperity for all by 2030. They are also signatories to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles to promote gender equality and ensure well-being of all employees.
Blood donation camps are organized at the head oce by Dubai Blood Donation Centre to provide a safe and adequate supply of blood to all Dubai Health Authority hospitals & private hospitals in Dubai. Around 70,000 pairs of shoes were distributed among war-displaced children in UAE and at refugee camps in Jordan & Yemen through Emirates Red Crescent. This initiative is part of TOMS’ ‘One For One’ commitment in the region, wherein a pair is donated to underprivileged children, for each pair sold. Around 50 orphan children from Ajman & Umm Al Quwain were invited to Grand Centrale Ajman to shop for their Eid gifts, as part of the Group’s Ramadan activity. Children were also treated to surprise goody bags for their new school year, in association with Ajman Youth Council and Emirates Red Crescent.
Apparel Group brands R&B, Athlete’s Co. And Skechers supported education and sports activities for blue-collar workers in association with SmartLife by sponsoring kits and gifts. Apparel Group brands Coldstone Creamery & Garage helped raised funds for special needs centres Special Needs Future Development Center & Al Noor Training Centre For Persons With Disabilities (PwD) at their fundraising events.
The Group’s brand Nine West sponsors treatment of breast cancer victims and raises awareness on early screening by supporting Pink Caravan, through sale of special pins in its stores. Nine West also donated 5,300 pairs of sandals to breast cancer survivors for each pair purchased, as part of its Pink October campaign. Another brand from the stable, Skechers, was a sponsor for ‘Relay for Life’, an event by NGO Friends of Cancer Patients, to raise funds for cancer survivors. The Children’s Place has partnered with Dubai Cares, a nonprofit that aims to ensure inclusive and quality education, to raise funds through customer donations in stores.
As part of the ‘Back to School’ initiative, Skechers engaged children to play virtual games and encouraged them towards charity, by donating 4,500 pairs of shoes on behalf of every child that completed the challenge. 6thstreet teamed up with winners of the Cosmopolitan Middle East’s 2019 Influencer Awards during Ramadan to raise funds for special needs children. For the ‘Box for a cause’ campaign, influencers filled a box each with products from 6thstreet and 25% of the proceeds from the selected products were donated to Emirates Red Crescent. Over 5,000 children supported by Dubai Cares, Rawafed Centre, Dubai Foundation for Women & Children and Ministry of Health & Prevention were provided school kits by Skechers.
To integrate students with special needs into a workplace, Apparel Group offered a 6-week internship & opened their kitchens to Integreat Center students, who were on an experiential learning trip to practice their skills at making a range of hot and cold drinks. The project and Apparel’s donations impact 85 children with special needs.
8. Al Ghurair Group
This Dubai-based conglomerate was founded by the Al Ghurair family. It has operations in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and North America. Since its foundation in the year 1960, Al Ghurair Group has emphasized the importance of respecting and caring for the communities it operates in and the stakeholders with whom it interacts. It runs a number of CSR initiatives relating to the environment, health and local employment.
8.1. Safe & Sound
Safe & Sound campaign is one of the largest, most comprehensive breast cancer awareness campaigns in the Middle East. Launched in 1997 by BurJuman, this year-round programme focuses on the key message of survival through early detection and treatment. Through numerous in-mall and external events along with outreach initiatives, Safe & Sound has encouraged families in the UAE to proactively take charge of their health, helping to increase understanding and empower women in the fight against breast cancer.
In 2015, BurJuman introduced the BurJuman Safe & Sound App. The app harnesses the latest mobile technology to meet the needs of the digital age – its purpose was to provide even more flexibility, touch more lives than ever before and ensure that the Safe & Sound message of prevention through self-detection, continued long after October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month came to a close. Alongside tracking their walks and runs for the cause, participants were invited to donate directly to Al Jalila Foundation and Brest Friends through the app’s payment gateway.
8.2. Environmental sustainability
As one of the leading manufacturing groups in the UAE, Al Ghurair is acutely aware of the need to protect our environment and to enable more sustainable usage of non-renewable resources. The Group is represented on the board of Emirates Environmental Group, an NGO devoted to protecting the environment through education, action programs and community involvement. As a Group with core competence in manufacturing, their units have pioneered sustainable products.
Taghleef Industries is the sole manufacturer of the biodegradable and compostable NATIVIA™ BoPLA films, made from vegetable-derived instead of oil-based resins. NATIVIA™ range includes transparent, solid white, metallised and label films, to cover a wide range of food and non-food packaging applications. All NATIVIA™ films are approved for direct food contact and certified compostable and bio-based approved. Gulf Extrusions uses recycled “scrap” aluminium, combined with water recycling and various energy-saving measures to produce “green” aluminium profiles which meet the tough sustainable product guidelines such as those required for Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City project.
Al Ghurair is a contributor to the Absher initiative of the UAE government which aims to increase the participation of UAE nationals in the labour market and achieve a competitive advantage for the national economy by supporting Emiratization policies through an integrated and strategic framework.
CSR becomes an indispensable safeguard sought to be implemented and promoted by the countries all around the world to ensure greater prosperity for their people, and protect the planet. In the UAE – one of the most important giving countries in the world according to the Giving Index – the Government seeks a fundamental transformation in the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility, by moving beyond contribution in charitable activities to the launch of well-organized development initiatives at the national level.
The UAE Government aims to develop innovative sustainable development projects consistent with the UAE Strategy for Overall Development at human, social, economic and environmental levels. The Ministry of Economy is keen to establish a fruitful partnership with the private sector to articulate the future of the national economy and maximize its role in the development process.