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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

QTel’s charity auctions of Easy-to-Remember Mobile (ERM) numbers have benefited the Qatar Diabetic Association, Qatar National Cancer Society, Qatar Society for Rehabilitation of Special Needs, the Qatar Orphan Foundation and the Qatar Red Crescent. QTel is in the process of taking its CSR best practices and exporting these across its international operations in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Many organizations run anti-smoking campaigns but one that stands out in terms of strategic brand association as well as its impact is Dubai Healthcare City’s 30-day “Quit and Win” program.

Organized to coincide with the World No Tobacco Day, the program was rolled out across multiple platforms from traditional media to a dedicated website, a Facebook group and a Twitter profile, too. The campaign resulted in half of its participants successfully quitting smoking, far ahead of the international benchmark of 20-24 per cent. Campaign partners were ExHealth and the Green Crescent Insurance Company, logical choices for such a campaign.

WHO says the UAE is among the most obese nations in the world; it ranks 10th in the list of overweight countries. Using these insights, Al Islami has planned educational sessions for 100 schools across the UAE to educate students on how to tackle these hazards.

Global FMCG brands in the region adapt their international CSR programs locally. Pampers-UNICEF “1 pack of pampers = 1 dose Vitamin (A)” project by P&G did it well. Egyptians were persuaded and made aware of the importance of Vitamin A by Karima Moukhtar, a popular mother figure in Egyptian serials; Dr Muhammad Ref’aat, a child care expert; Mona Zaki, a young mother and actress; and Mo’ataaz El Demerdash, the TV presenter.

Playing it safe

In the auto sector, Chevrolet Middle East’s “Buckle Up” campaign took its message all the way from schoolchildren to policy makers. “Being an automotive company we have a responsibility towards road safety,” says Samer El Khalil, communications and public relations manager, GM Middle East. Khalil explains how parents were informed through live demonstrations on the right way to restrain children for their safety while driving.

Over 5,400 people visited the campaign stands in malls, of which 1,485 were interviewed and instructed on the correct installation of child safety seats. More than 18,000 leaflets were distributed. High traffic events like the Dubai Motor Show and the Mother and Baby Show were used for maximum exposure. Students in schools wrote letters to the local authorities highlighting the issue of child passenger safety.

The pilot project was carried out in the UAE and it will now be taken around the region. “The plan for us is to continue this campaign – not to have it as a one-off,” Samer says.

For CSR initiatives to be really effective, Samer feels it is necessary to also have legislation that makes compliance to the safety guidelines compulsory.

“You could do as many campaigns as you want, you could try to reach as many target audiences as you want. But if it is not properly enforced, it’s not going to change [anything].”

The brand that has put Kuwait on the map for CSR efforts is logistics company Agility, which employs more than 37,000 staff in 120 countries.

Agility’s Humanitarian and Emergency Logistics Programme (HELP) brings the company’s expertise in emergency preparedness and response operations to some of the world’s most challenging environments. It has provided logistics support in disasters in Myanmar, Lebanon, Indonesia, Iraq and Bangladesh.

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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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