Engaged and transforming projects and programmes : CSR in organisations in the UAE

Al-Reyaysa, Meera and Pinnington, Ashly H. and Karatas-Ozkan, Mine and Nicolopoulou, Katerina (2015) Engaged and transforming projects and programmes : CSR in organisations in the UAE. In: 2015 CRRC Corporate Responsibility Research Conference, 2015-09-16 - 2015-09-18.

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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an increasingly influential business concept throughout the world. CSR practice has evolved over the last two decades and is believed to be at a more developed stage in Western countries. In contrast, CSR in the GCC and MENA countries is generally thought to have not reached the same level of development. The literature implies that CSR is misunderstood in this region and is mainly philanthropic in nature. This research study aims to investigate developments in CSR in the UAE, especially those that reveal different levels of awareness and implementation of CSR. The study consists of data analysed from 16 interviews with CSR representatives from UAE based organisations. From March 2011 to February 2014, 35 interviews were conducted with individuals with CSR roles and responsibilities as part of their job. Analysis of the data uncovered themes relating to CSR in the UAE, including, education, leadership, CSR strategy, and industry and compliance contexts. The findings and identified themes were then compared with the literature on CSR. Specifically, they were assessed against the CSR stages model developed by Mirvis and Googins (2006) to give an indication of their degree of ‘implicit’ and ‘explicit’ development. In contrast to popular belief, the comparison reveals that CSR activity in the UAE is more developed than is implied in the literature on the MENA region. It is predicted by most studies that organisations in the UAE would show signs of awareness and activity in the elementary stages of CSR rather than the more sophisticated stages. However, it is evident that all 6 organisations interviewed in 2013-14 show a more sophisticated level of CSR activity, with three of the organisations interpreted by the researchers as being at the “engaged- innovative” stages, one at the “integrated” stage and two at the “transforming” stage. Overall, it is argued that strategic and socio-economic levels of CSR exist in some organisations in the UAE. These organisations show that CSR related activity in the UAE is not just philanthropic and that CSR exists across a range of dimensions, from elementary to transforming stages of development.