Ajala Changemaker on August 7, 2017

The AJALA Project Blog: CSR

With the economy of United Arab Emirates coasting to new heights, numerous organizations are turning their attention towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. This is a significant deviation from the ideology that businesses should focus on profit maximization. Instead, today’s CSR is an opportunity for companies to become socially responsible and contribute positively towards the society in which they operate.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility is, by definition, the continuing commitment by businesses to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large. In short, CSR is about a business giving back to society. Given the interpretation, CSR isn’t just about taking part in 1 or 2 events, CSR is a culture that should run through the core of each organization, and business decisions based on their impact to the society. It’s about being ethical and giving back to the society which has been the breeding ground for businesses for all these years.

Corporations based in the UAE have also joined the bandwagon of CSR ventures to foster community relations and initiate corporate social marketing projects. Business leaders in the United Arab Emirates are starting to demonstrate a high degree of social responsibility awareness.  A company’s involvement in such initiatives is regarded as an investment rather than a cost to preserve the environment, promote fair treatment of employees and, show genuine concern for the customer and awareness of their needs.

Benefits of CSR?

  • Used as a way to enhance and strengthen ties of mutual benefit with customers, suppliers and networks.
  • Increase customer retention for a firm
  • Use it as a cause marketing tool
  • Promoting the USP and culture of a company.
  • Winning customer loyalty
  • Attracting and retaining workers
  • Generating positive publicity for a company (which the PR department won’t be too angry about either).

However, many organizations in the UAE exhibit a low level of CSR practice as they fail to implement such policies and practices. As a result, they have not been able to establish CSR-related objectives and targets, and audit, monitor and report CSR projects. Thus, while social responsibility is considered important for an organization, it is not yet central to its business strategy. This indicates a gap in the understanding of corporate responsibility and the readiness to put these initiatives into practice.

The time of pure industrialization is over, the time of humanity has come. CSR will be obligatory to execute among 400,000 companies across the country (not mandatory for private companies though but strongly encouraged), aiming to dedicate at least Dh500 million in cash or in-kind philanthropic work from companies.

UAE companies will have to allocate funds and be involved in social responsibility initiatives by the end of 2017, a top official in the UAE government said.

As a part of its Year of Giving strategy, the Ministry of Economy launched 11 initiatives in June 2017 to create workplaces that take up philanthropy as part of its core values.

Year of Giving
Year of Giving

An award system will be introduced to give financial privileges and exemptions for outstanding companies in the area of social responsibility. The ball is now in our court to use our business platforms as a tool to make this world a better place- and earn a few awards along the way.

Some significant areas in which corporations make a contribution towards the community:

  • Supporting people with special needs
  • International aid and development
  • Environmental conservation programs

Only a small number of organizations invest in initiatives related to education, local arts and culture, and donating products and services to local communities.

In addition, many UAE-based organizations undertake marketplace focused CSR activities, which measure customer satisfaction and tackle their health and safety issues. Since arts and culture are relatively untouched in the CSR landscape, companies should aim to use that sector as an initial launching pad to their CSR activities, in order to support local heritage and encourage artists in the region.

Emerging artists (of all forms) have a lot of talent to share, but unfortunately, there are not many outlets or platforms for them to use this talent as a means of subsistence. Sadly, much of this talent goes to waste and local communities of artists are then left in limbo. Supporting our local artists must be a priority to enable them to enrich society with arts, culture, and heritage, while it will also play a part in helping future generations take up this endangered profession. Art is uniquely positioned to move people—inspiring us, inciting new questions and provoking curiosity, excitement, and outrage. Art is the daughter of freedom- and we mustn’t give up on it.

Organizations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi lead CSR projects in the Gulf and UAE region. Higher levels of CSR awareness, top management commitment and promotion of marketplace activities are shown by these organizations. Ta’atheer is a forum held in the UAE and going into its 14th edition this year, the forum will highlight new areas of growth for charitable and corporate responsibility programs as well as develop social impact projects to maximize the impact of sustainable giving across the region. Led by an expert panel of industry leaders and innovators in CSR and the social impact space, the annual Ta’atheer Awards recognise outstanding achievements made by organisations, teams and social programs that have contributed to the development of the region’s CSR and Sustainability agenda. The Arabia CSR Network is a professional multi-stakeholder organization established in the UAE in 2004. It is devoted to advancing the principles and practices of Corporate Social Responsibility in the Arab region. It facilitates networking, learning and sharing experiences and knowledge in matters of CSR. Notable winners of the Arabia CSR Awards in 2015 were Emirates NBD, Emirates Transport and The Green Design (in a new business/social enterprise category). A considerable number of organizations in the UAE participate in traditional charitable and philanthropic giving, which emphasises the culture of generosity in the society. However, there is a need to encourage long-term partnership with other organizations and stakeholders.

As mandated by the Government’s ‘Year of Giving’ Initiative, more firms in the UAE need to get involved in the CSR movement, and it isn’t just the big firms, even the smaller firms can play their part.

Greater awareness of the model of CSR needs to be implemented, and it’s glaring benefits to not only the society in general, but also to the firm itself should be used as a tool to encourage others. The framework is there, just the final push is needed- by the businesses and the government.

The government is now actively trying to promote CSR in UAE to globally high levels of involvement, and announced financial incentives and awards to encourage everyone in this country. Nevertheless, a greater focus on social responsibility by firms in the UAE reflects a sea of change.

Having seen 2017 declared as the Year of Giving, corporate entities were asked by Gulf News and other sources to share the vision they have for the forthcoming year and explain how they have aligned the nation-wide initiative with new CSR programmes in the coming months.

Malabar Gold and Diamonds

Malabar Gold and Diamonds is one, who said it has firmly believed in contributing towards uplifting the less privileged in the society in which it operates. Malabar Group has its own social wing, Malabar Group CSR initiatives, which concentrates on conceptualizing and implementing the CSR initiatives of the group. A Dh50.31 million CSR programme saw a three-year plan constructed by the Group to deploy the funds earmarked for CSR initiatives based on the business projections, which are mandated and guided by the CSR policies of the company.

“Our CSR initiatives are directed towards serving communities through various projects in the areas of health, education, environment, women empowerment, and housing,” said Shamlal Ahmad, Managing Director of International Operations at Malabar Gold and Diamonds. He further stated that Malabar Gold and Diamonds is dedicated to spending 5 per cent of its profit in CSR activities through implementing projects in these areas.

He said that the company’s CSR initiatives in the UAE, specifically, have been active since they started operations in UAE in 2008 and go from strength to strength every year.

Al Jalila Foundation

A Dh10 million donation was made to Al Jalila Foundation to support research in genetic diseases and disorders last year, which the Group said affects more than 350 million worldwide.

The corporation said it has a strong corporate responsibility scheme engrained in its system from the time of its foundation in 1993. Over the years, their charitable trust has provided lifesaving drugs for over 650,000 patients and over 10,000 homeless people have benefitted from it till date.


Among various CSR initiatives carried out by Etisalat in the last five months is the Etisalat mobile charging units, which contain slots with digital locks. The units are placed in public areas including Al Twar Centre, Al Manar Centre, Al Kifaf Centre, Zabeel Park and Creek Park. “In line with the government strategy for 2017, the year of giving, Etisalat CSR has come up with an initiative that aims to keep people connected and reachable even when their mobile device goes out of battery,” said Etisalat.

Dubai Carbon

Meanwhile, Dubai Carbon’s CSR initiatives are focused on tackling the imperative issue of food waste management. “Our vision is simple — transform food waste and organics into a fuel source and decentralise waste management to the communities, allowing them to manage the economic value of resource recovery, thus making the communities compete and compare, while avoiding unnecessary costs and resources,” said Ivano Ianelli, CEO of Dubai Carbon. Their second CSR initiative is a social experiment, which focuses on understanding the lifestyle habits of the general public in Ramadan. By asking consumers to provide data on domestic waste they create, as well as on transportation, electricity and water, the study is accumulating information needed to evaluate consumption patterns, resource efficiency and waste management.

The aim of the initiative is to create a tool (through tracking consumption patterns) to educate and present the idea of changing daily habits as being a pathway to being more energy efficient and reducing waste while ensuring financial benefits.

“In the near future, we will be launching a new initiative called ‘Safaqat’. It is a green accelerator based on the concept of crowdsourcing, which is meant to act as a catalyst to the penetration of green services into the community. Through this, we are aiming at providing solar kits to residential buildings so that they can also be a part of making Dubai a more sustainable city,” said Ianelli.

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority

Earlier this year, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) had also approved 12 programmes to provide 27 social and humanitarian initiatives, in support of the Year of Giving.

The initiatives will be implemented in cooperation with acclaimed and international humanitarian organisations. Among the initiatives is the ‘Risalt Khair’ programme, which supports international relief efforts, educational programmes, and infrastructure development projects in poor countries.

Another Dewa CSR initiative is the ‘Ghars Al Khair’ project, which will provide hydroponic greenhouses to reduce water consumption by up to 80 per cent with proceeds from the sales of agriculture produce going to charity.

Movenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach

One of the more original CSR initiatives in the country was explained by Movenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach general manager Horst Walther-Jones, who said that employment strategies can even combine CSR programmes. “We have a programme to employ those from child support funds, the same as children in Vietnam on the street – we give them a one-year basic training.” “We need to support the families and support their lives in the long term,” Walther-Jones added. “It’s not about donations – they are forgotten very quickly. It might be nice for the media, but it doesn’t really have value.”

So, this year (and always) let everyone showcase their love for society on their respective stages, because when it comes to humanity, no stage is too small.

The AJALA Project

The AJALA Project, an award winning social enterprise, helps your company to create CSR initiatives catering towards both Art and Culture, as well as social impact. We assess community driven projects around the world that are committed to the Sustainable Development Goals and connect them with our database of over 250 emerging artists around the world.

By supporting the local emerging art scene, you are providing opportunities to countless artists who can concentrate on their passion and talent, and improve local culture and community.  Instead of using your marketing budget, you can now use your CSR budget to buy art. By buying art from our platform, you help to support and raise awareness for community driven initiatives and emerging artists around the world. We create art collections catered to your organisational culture and vision so your employees and customers can be inspired by the socially conscious art on your walls.

Why work with us:

– Empower emerging artists worldwide

– Buy art that tells a story

– Be a part of our impact chain

– Build your CSR portfolio

– Deliver exciting workshops to clients and partners

– Fill your spaces with unique and invigorating art

– Build their community of supporters

– Engage in cause marketing

– Support initiatives and artists working towards the sustainable development goals

– Increase morale and communication within your company through the power of art and social giving

How you can work with us:

  • Support our project so we can continue to operate and facilitate impact through art
  • Sponsor an art exhibition to raise awareness for the countless grassroots initiatives and emerging artists we work with
  • Your employees and our artists can work together to create a community mural at your offices
  • Hire our artists to hold a wide variety of employee engagement workshops for team building including: art journaling, drawing mandalas, drawing, oil painting, graffiti, doll making, watercolors, etc.
  • Commission our artists to create a brand specific mural or painting that reflects your organisation’s values
  • Order corporate gifts that showcase inspiring art based on changemakers
  • Choose one of our 10 community projects that we actively campaign for and help support them directly
  • Corporate Art Advisory – By decorating your offices with art from our collection, you are supporting the AJALA Project, emerging artists, and grassroots projects from around the world
  • Create employee matching dirham-for-dirham gifts to support our initiatives
  • Hire us to create an Arts-based training programme for your employees to increase creativity, collaboration, and leadership and communication skills
  • Create a social impact based employee art show

Contact community@theajalaproject for more info