Second annual Arabia CSR Awards highlight growing commitment of companies towards societal causes

Published November 2nd, 2009 - 11:02 GMT

The Emirates Environmental Group yesterday (October 26, 2009) honoured leaders in Corporate Social Responsibility in the Arab world at a ceremony held at the Raffles Dubai hotel. With 57 companies from the GCC, Levant and Northern Africa competing for the second cycle of the Arabia CSR Award, the event marked a celebration of Arab leadership in CSR. 

Winners of the Arabia CSR Awards 2009 were:
• Jumeirah Emirates Towers in the large category,
• Abraaj Capital in the medium category
• Global Village in the small category.

1st Runners up for the three categories were:
• Dubai Customs ( Large)
• Six Senses Zighy Bay (Medium)
• Mohammed bin Rashid Establisment for young Arab leaders (Small)

2nd Runners up for the three categories were:
• Dubai Properties Group (Large)
• Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (Medium)
• Salam Bunian (Small)

Financial downturn not a deterrant
The second cycle of the Arabia CSR Awards highlighted in particular a commitment to CSR and sutainable development despite the financial crisis of the last 12 months. In her opening speech, Habiba Al Marashi, chairperson EEG, lauded the overwhelming response from companies to the call to participate in the second cycle of the award, regardless of these challenging economic times.

“This proves that companies are serious about acting like responsible citizens, and do not hide behind the economic crisis to absolve themselves of their responsibilities towards the society and the environment,” she said. Despite the pressures of budget cut backs, 57 local and multinational companies from 7 countries entered the award.

Mr. Matthias Stausberg, Spokesperson for the UN Global Compact, also on the judging panel, commented that, “many of the winners this year have demonstrated a really outstanding commitment to and understanding of CSR, and could be regarded as best in class internationally in their respective sectors.”

Demonstarting the vital role CSR plays in the core business of many organisations, the awards ceremony once again hosted a range of dignitaries, UN representatives, VIPs from the private and public sector, and participant companies in the second cycle of the Arabia CSR Awards. The Honorable Al Gore was the guest of honor at the gala event.

Arab Companies leading the way
According to the judging panel, Arab businesses do not have to venture far when looking for inspiration and practical guidance on how best to develop and implement effective CSR frameworks. Chair of the judging panel Dr. Grace Ugut said, “The Arabia CSR Award is open to companies from all over the world that operate in the Arab region and this year’s entries were all of an extremely high calibre. We undertook a rigorous judging process, and it is interesting to see that unlike last year, all the winners are actually organisations from the Arab world.”

Mrs. Al Marashi noted that “companies in the Arab world are not merely adopting international standards, but are actually leading by example. Some of the CSR strategies we have seen are really going above and beyond what is expected of them, and can serve as examples of best practice not only to the region, but to the entire world.”

Increasing public sector commitment
This year’s Award cycle saw a rise in the number of public sector organisations entering for the first time, and in many cases excelled themselves, surpassing expectations. “The policies and practices of government agencies in the UAE stand out through their progressive and holistic approach to CSR and unlike in many other parts of the world, they can truly compete with the private sector,” added Mrs. Al Marashi. Building on this, and the commitment and high quality submissions from the public sector, it was anounced that a new category will be opened for the 2010 cycle specifically for public sector entities.

New initiative: Arabia CSR Network
Mrs. Al Marashi also used her opening speech to announce the launch of another exciting platform: the Arabia CSR Network. Having outgrown its original format as CSR Network under the umbrella of the EEG, the Arabia CSR Network is now an independent platform, aimed at bringing together stakeholders from the public and private sector. Capitalising on the growth of CSR in the Arab world, the Arabia CSR Network will actively reach out to companies in the entire Arab region and will work to offer them learning experiences, networking opportunities as well as practical help in developing and implementing sustainable CSR strategies.

About the awards
The Arabia CSR Awards was launched in 2008 as the natural next step for the EEG CSR Network which has been successful in working with businesses on sustianable development since 2004.

The second cycle of the Arabia CSR Awards was officially launched on May 17, 2009, calling on companies, both multinational and local, across the Arab world to submit their CSR strategies and policies. The award is divided into three categories: small, medium and large, based on the entrants number of employees.

Through the awards, the EEG aims to honor companies for their outstanding CSR strategies and policies, and encourage others to step up their efforts in becoming responsible corporate citizens.

The application submission consisted of a detailed questionnaire, specific supporting material, and a short synopsis. Consistency of format and process of the Arabia CSR Award is maintained from year to year, but small additions and adjustments are made as the CSR market matures and the award develops. This year a new section in the questionnaire was added focusing on CSR performance.

The submissions are screened before being examined in detail by a panel of international expert judges. Submissions were rated on the depth and breadth of their CSR policies. Judges also paid close attention to the way in which companies integrated their CSR policies into their core business strategies. Special attention was paid to implementaion in the region and adaptation to the local context. Of the 57 applications that the EEG received, five were ultimately shortlisted in each category.

The juding panel this year was made up of:
Dr. Grace Ugut: Dean, Asian Insititute of Management, Philippines
Dr. Ralph Thurm, Sustainability Director, Deloitte Netherlands
Mr. Matthias Stausberg, Spokesperson,UN Global Compact New York

Two technical advisors also provided advice and guidance on the awards process: Dr Elizabeth Ness, Director, Crest Nicholson UK, and Mrs Hope Sherwin, Synergy Global Consulting and CSR Advisor to EEG.

EEG hosted two question and answer seminars to support first time entrants in the process. These were facilitated by EEG’s CSR Advisor Hope Sherwin. The seminars have proven to be of great value in convincing prospective applicants of the value of their CSR practices. Mrs. Al Marashi said, “Many companies are doing a lot in terms of CSR, but are lacking in communicating this both internally and to the general public.”

In addition to honoring the winners of the Arabia CSR Awards, the evening was dedicated to the ongoing UN Seal the Deal campaign, aimed at raising awareness for the upcoming Climate conference in December. Mrs. Al Marashi called on all guests to sign the petition on and to express their support through CEO statements. The UN were represented by Mr. Matthias Stausberg, spokesperson for the Global Compact who also served as member of the judging panel.

Mrs. Al Marashi ended the evening noting that the submissions of Arabia CSR Awards are an excellent showcase of what can be achieved when businesses make sustainability a strategic and operational priority. Armed with the new Arabia CSR Network, she vowed to redouble her efforts in making the Arab world into a global leader in sustainable practices.

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