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CSR: good business, or PR ploy?

CSR: good business, or PR ploy?

Is corporate social responsibility just about the giant, camera-friendly donation cheques? Or is it a solid business proposition? Gulf Marketing Review investigates.

March 30, 2010 12:01 by

Innovative contributions

It isn’t hard to imagine how brands can put their products to good use for CSR. For the Al Noor Training Center for Children with Special Needs in Dubai, the paints and coatings brand Jotun designed a premium “children-friendly” paint that’s easy to clean, has a neutral scent and lasting color. Its staff volunteered to paint the center’s premises.

“We have been supporting Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs for the past 10 years, and this campaign holds particular relevance to us as an organisation, as we are committed to utilizing colors to positively affect and inspire people,” says Trine Finnevolden, general manager, Jotun Paints.

Taking the idea of bringing joy to special children even higher, Qatar Airways invited 100 children on a specially organized flight over Qatar.

The initiative was aimed at bringing fun and joy into the lives of children – many from the Qatar Orphan Foundation Dhreima, in line with the airline’s CSR program, “The Oryx Flies Green”. Most of the children, aged 5 to 16 years, had never flown before.

In the field of finance and economic dependence, BankMuscat joined hands with the Sidab Women’s Group as part of its Business Incubator CSR initiative. “The main objective of the BankMuscat business incubator is to produce successful firms that are financially viable and free-standing.

“Its services will be offered to Omani women who possess the basic skills related to their business idea, but require training and support to enhance their start-up ventures,” says Shaima Al Lawati, head of CSR, BankMuscat.

According to Badriya Al Siyabi, founder of Sidab Women’s Group, the core of the initiative is a partnership mechanism helping Omani women to acquire skills guaranteeing economic independence.

Also from Muscat, an interesting CSR brand association is the tourism brand Omran’s design and distribution of e-greeting cards as a tool to promote Omani artists and art that portrays Oman, with a support donation to the artists for the use of their images. Omran also works with Outward Bound Oman/Tahaddi to help people develop life skills by delivering two outdoor leadership development courses for Omani youth. The courses help young Omanis develop life skills sought by employers, thus helping bridge the gap between educational environments and the workplace.

In Bahrain, Islamic insurance company T’azur was honored with the Maqasid Al-Sharia CSR Awards for its commitment to its people and community, its concern for the environment and innovative CSR ideas like the Sadaqah Plan.

T’azur invests regular donations under this plan in Shari’ah-compliant funds and the accumulated capital is given to a charity chosen by the donor. If the donor is unable later on to contribute due to disability or critical illness, T’azur continues to make the donations on his behalf. It’s a good example of blending of Islamic values while designing CSR, as part of a Shari’ah-compliant brand exercise.

Being there

A telecoms brand that has made waves for its extensive CSR footprint in the region is QTel. The Qatari telco company supports the National Program for Raising Awareness and Safe Disposal of Electronic Waste (NPRASDEW), aimed at a clean and safe environment in Qatar by the proper disposal of electronic waste.

QTel has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Qatar University Wireless Innovations Centre (QUWIC) to carry out joint applied research and technology development in the key areas of wireless systems, services and applications.

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  1. Bassem el Zein on April 4, 2010 6:41 am

    CSR (most of it) is a new trend to generate more media coverage through using the goodwill and commitment.
    People react with anything related to human causes, reliefs, charity and so on and the media tends to publish such stories.
    The main objectives of CSR should be the proper support of societies and not media coverage.
    It should be audited and an essential part of company’s report.
    PR agencies should be more mature about CSR implementation and companies should be more responsible towards their communities, without having the objective to raise media coverage and conduct more interviews

  2. Shel Horowitz - Ethical/Green Marketer on April 4, 2010 10:22 pm

    Farrukh, than you so much for spreading the news of my new book all the way to Dubai. i think the book makes a very strong case that CSR (including environmental principles) is a key component of business success.

    Oh, and BTW, it is available in electronic form,and those of your readers who register their purchase at are entitled to many useful extras.

  3. Miss Anne Thropic on April 12, 2010 10:38 am

    It is easy to be cynical about CSR because of the cheesy photo/PR opportunities it creates. But we don’t live in a perfect world where everyone does good things purely out of the goodness of their hearts. If the company MD gets photographed handing over a big cheque to an orphanage or special needs centre or whatever, so what? As long as the cash gets to those who needs it, who cares if it was motivated by the need for PR or not.

  4. Andrew on April 13, 2010 6:39 am

    CSR for most companies in this part of the world is purely PR, but some companies – GE being a good example – have a highly developed and embedded citizenship agenda. An effective and honest citizenship agenda should ultimately be about innovation and savings for the company, the twin benefits being to the company itself as well as the environment it operates in and the people whom it impacts. It’s a far more honest proposition, and there’s a clear motivating factor for everyone involved.


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