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Promoting corporate social responsibility in Saudi Arabia
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 05 - 12 - 2015

The third corporate social responsibility summit that took place at the Hilton Hotel in Jeddah on Dec.1 stressed the importance of promoting the concept of CSR to enhance the development of Saudi society and contribute to its economy. Investing in human capital, focusing on long term plans, concentrating on youth development, and changing the mindset of the people in society, were some of the factors stressed for promoting better corporate social responsibility.
It is very comforting to see concerted efforts to raise awareness and support the development of CSR in Saudi Arabia today. The advisor of the Ministry of Social Development, Ibrahim Al-Haidari, highlighted the ministry's collaborations with key stakeholders that support the development of Saudi Arabia's community and economy.
For our society to develop we need to push for CSR initiatives to implement effective programs that can benefit our society and influence social good. Businesses must act beyond the interests of the firm and contribute to the economy. Corporations are called upon to contribute to the community and engage stakeholders including consumers, employees, investors, communities and others for the common good.
There should be more awareness campaigns to highlight the importance of CSR to encourage the spirit of contributing to society. People must learn to adopt it as a way of life. It is a philosophy that should be ingrained in every business and every institution.
Director of Public Affair Regulatory and Communication at Sanofi Dr. Mustafa Al-Jawadi gave an example of CSR initiatives incorporated in health care and said that "it is not about the donation of certain medication in the country; it is about working with your partners in creating a program that is sustained and can benefit patients." He also said that "the focus is on making sure that they protect patients and provide them with a better quality of life as well as providing the patient with the best medication to prevent his disease."
The idea is to cooperate with partners to produce effective results and to work with conscience and dedication. This is what we lack in our society. Our young generation need to be educated about CSR principles to act in a more responsible manner and to train them to produce effective results that serve the needs of the community and the welfare of society.
The role of CSR programs and civil society stakeholders can strengthen responsible citizenship in our country by addressing public needs and encouraging public participation and humanitarian services.
The private sector must play a bigger role in society. Businesses should invest in human capital. CSR services could include loans, job training, educational assistance and community development. Unfortunately, for a long time most government agencies and the private sector supported the status quo with minimum contributions to society. However, lately there have been some government initiatives and nonprofit organizations, charitable societies, business associations and civic organizations which are keen to address public needs.
Advocating long-term plans that can provide sustainability and safeguard a better future for our youth should be the focus of all stakeholders. Lip-service reforms, unfinished business, inefficient work, botched-up plans are unacceptable trends that should be stopped and forbidden in every government department and every private corporation.
Unemployment at 11 percent in the Kingdom is a major concern. Investing in our youth and catering to their needs is the responsibility of all stakeholders. The government is responsible for upgrading the educational system and raising the standards of vocational training centers as well as generating new projects and jobs. Academic institutions are responsible for the welfare of students and are called upon to make the learning experience rich and beneficial. The private sector should also shoulder the responsibility and provide on-the-job training and offer better wages. Civil society groups should address social concerns to safeguard the interests of the public and the government.
The reason behind our failure to implement sustainable development is mainly due to the inability of the existing institutional structures to cooperate and be more responsible to produce good results. Government alone cannot satisfy the requirements of the market. A coalition of the private sector, civic organizations and government departments can help develop more adequate strategies to implement effective CSR programs and influence more responsible behavior among our youth.
Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer. She can be reached at [email protected]

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