Dubai’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 – who contributes to the culture of responsible business practices. The unique approach in Dubai 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. If India is to achieve the ambitious development and environmental targets it has set, our fast-growing cities could take a leaf out of their successful model.
As one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, Dubai has some things in common with Indian metros. One thing Dubai does right is leveraging public-private partnerships between the stakeholders in order to achieve maximum social impact. The city has managed to achieve this because of wise leadership at the top and a commitment to sustainable growth.
The government actively encourages companies to invest in community initiatives, to incorporate ethics into their business policy and to drive fairness into their organisational culture. The recent Dubai Chamber Sustainability Week 2020, which had 221 local businesses participating is one example of this approach. Another outcome of this strategy is how swiftly corporate employees have switched to virtual volunteering during the pandemic. They are giving back to society and supporting their organisation’s CSR initiatives while maintaining social distancing norms and keeping themselves protected from infections. For example, the staff of Serco Middle East, which provides public services to governments – came together despite the restrictions so that all those who live in the city could thrive. Whether it was their work on the Dubai Metro, ensuring the safety of students at educational institutes or moving people at the Dubai World Trade Centre field hospital.
The government is also trying to remove the stigma associated with mental health conditions. Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has devised an inclusive mental health strategy titled ‘Happy Lives, Healthy Communities’. The strategy’s key guiding principles include respect for the rights and needs of service users and their families; prevention and early intervention across the life span including vulnerable groups; and recognition of the spectrum of mental health difficulties. Developing a comprehensive mental health strategy is programme No. 6 of 15 health programmes for the overall DHA strategy running from 2016 to 2021.
In line with this campaign, Standard Chartered offices there have upgraded employee initiatives. The company has trained more “mental health first aiders”, created practical toolkits and enhanced the health and wellness policies.
Another management tool in the model is the Dubai Chamber CSR Label. Launched a decade ago, this framework has helped many companies implement best practices and assess their impact on beneficiaries. Recognition is not the only benefit of the Dubai Chamber CSR Label. It has helped corporate entities identify key strengths.
Dubai Chamber’s Centre for Responsible Business makes a strong case for companies to adopt sustainability and CSR programmes. Organisations which joined the centre have shown higher profit and increased employee wellbeing. The centre holds events where these corporates share their experiences with other business owners in order to encourage them to do more CSR.
The Dubai model for CSR creates value for businesses by the working on the main pillars of workplace, market, people, and the environment. The UAE government encourages creative ideas like ‘Happy Lives, Healthy Communities’, cross-sectoral learnings, and picks up best practices from companies. Adopting the above lessons in CSR could help Indian cities to flourish along with adjoining rural areas. Not only will the businesses make a positive impact on society, they will also benefit in terms of customer loyalty and brand power.