The UAE and KSA have emerged as regional leaders in the awareness and adoption of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices based on the findings of the second edition of the MENA CSR Survey Report. The survey was conducted by Cicero & Bernay Communication Consultancy (C&B), a leading MENA agency headquartered in Dubai, in partnership with 3Gem Research and Insights, a global research partner.
The annually conducted survey studies the understanding and impact of CSR across select countries in the GCC, Levant, and North Africa. In this year’s report, the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia lead the way and emerge as leaders, retaining their position from the report’s previous 2020 edition.
In total, 263 C-suite government, aviation, automotive, banking and finance, construction & real estate, healthcare, and transport executives and corporate leaders from across the MENA region were surveyed, including the UAE, the KSA, the greater GCC, and Egypt. The respondents were asked a series of CSR-related questions to gauge overall regional perception.
Commenting on the launch of the report, Ahmad Itani, Founder, and CEO of C&B and chairman of PRCA MENA said, “Our annual CSR Survey report is a way of gauging the comprehension and adoption of CSR among C-suite executives in the region. For us, in the UAE, we were privileged to witness firsthand the positive impact of CSR over the past two years, under the guidance of our wise leadership. When we published our survey in 2020, our aim was, and still is, to inspire more regional social responsibility among organizations and highlight the incredible benefit such initiatives have on corporate cultures and their stakeholders on the path towards positioning the MENA at the forefront of global CSR.”
Regionally, the UAE and KSA are still the most knowledgeable in the region, whereas in Egypt, where the scoring was much lower (consistent with 2020’s results), over a third of C-suite managers claim not to understand CSR at all. Results consistently showed that a lack of understanding is a barrier to valuing and adopting basic corporate social responsibility practices, and without educating those managers that need it, it will be difficult for them to overcome the financial commitment needed to implement and run an effective CSR program. Almost all the managers we prompted with a description of what CSR means (to ensure awareness was consistent among survey respondents) understood core CSR practices relating to employing good moral values, being more involved in social issues or charities, or meeting domestic/international standards for CSR certification. In fact, in the UAE, managers highly value and trust companies that are more socially responsible, with the majority claiming to change their shopping habits to buy more from these types of companies, even if it costs them more, while also advising friends and family to do the same.
Seven in ten C-suite managers feel CSR is very important and virtually all the rest feel it is somewhat important. Those in the UAE, KSA, and GCC place the most importance on CSR, with eight in ten claiming it’s very important, whereas in Egypt, where familiarity and understanding are lower, just over half regard CSR as important.
The main drivers behind this perception of high importance include differentiating the company/brand from competitors or improving the reputation of the company/brand, although a quarter feels it will ‘be pivotal in creating a positive influence on society. Financial considerations are less of a direct motivation, even though, by implication, the effects of a successful CSR program and the benefits it delivers will ultimately lead to increased profits. There was also a high rate of agreement with the less tangible aspects of CSR involving brand trust/image and creating favorable consumer perceptions.
Overall understanding of corporate social responsibility in the MENA region is high, with over half of C-suite managers having a strong understanding and another quarter saying they have good knowledge of it.
The value of CSR is apparent to C-suite managers, with nine in ten feel that adopting CSR practices will have a positive effect on a company’s business, including almost two-thirds who feel it will be a very positive effect. Mirroring the importance of this question’s results, managers in the UAE are among the most likely to perceive the effects of CSR favorably, with at least seven in ten feeling it has a very positive effect on business. Conversely, those in Egypt are less likely to value CSR, with just over half feeling it is very beneficial.
Of companies planning to engage more with CSR in 2022, ‘Charitable giving’ and ‘Socially, environmentally conscious movements’ were the most likely areas and will be a focus for just over half of these companies. ‘Corporate policies that benefit the environment,’ ‘Diversity, equity, and inclusion’ and ‘Community and virtual volunteering’ are likely for just under half, and ‘Reducing carbon footprints' is a focus for just over a third.