Why giving back should be part of every company’s strategy

Budding businesses can give back in creative ways that don't necessarily affect the bottom line

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, JUNE 4, 2015. Pupils at Al Arqam Private School help Ali Al Hassani unload the books into the school's library. Photographer: Reem Mohammed / The National (Reporter: Nadeem Hanif / Section: NA) *** Local Caption ***  RM_20150604_BOOK_011.JPG
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How much do you as a business owner, or your management care about philanthropy and giving back? How do you think your company’s culture would change if your employees not only cared about their bonuses but also about supporting their community?

Giving back is part of the UAE’s culture. According to statistics by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UAE is the largest donor of developer assistance in 2017, in proportion to its gross national income.

Companies in the UAE are incentivised and get write-offs for supporting certain initiatives and charitable causes identified by the government. Sandooq Al Watan, an initiative launched by a group of Emirati businessmen, encourages contributions by organisations and individuals to support the development of our country’s human capital, and empowering its society.

Though there are great initiatives that induce philanthropy, many small businesses and entrepreneurs have yet to incorporate the humanistic tradition into their overall business strategy.

Last week I had a conversation with a friend around corporate social responsibility (CSR). She was interested to learn about implementing a CSR strategy rapidly without affecting her company’s balance sheet.

When I was helping clients implement CSR strategies, they were concerned CSR would require a large budget annually and for budding start-ups this can be stressful and a burden. While monetary contributions are great, they are not the only way to engage in giving back and there are other ways for businesses to make a positive impact on society.

Here’s why more companies should give back:

Cost efficient. When a client of mine decided to go green, and ban printing at his company, he ended up saving thousands of dirhams per year and it positively influenced his team. They felt proud to work in a company that cared about the environment. This is one of the easiest and fastest ways for a company to become more sustainable while saving money. Decreasing the printing quota or banning it completely is a start.

Cutting energy consumption, by shutting the lights at the night, participating at Earth Hour is another good initiative. Purchasing electric or hybrid cars is a meaningful way to live sustainably every day.

Furniture brand IKEA only sells LED light bulbs. You could also start to recycle all of your company’s waste and work with a local recycling plant to come pick your company’s trash. Some recycling plants would pay you in exchange for your company’s waste. A client donated money from a recycling plant to the needy. So one CSR cause helped support another.

Good PR. Good deeds can create new ways to talk to your customers. If you decide to opt for recyclable packaging, then you could start an advertisement campaign and tell your customers about it. You could also ask for their feedback on how your business can support the community. Engaging customers can be integrated with a campaign that includes literature with your products, in your emails, on your website, and social media accounts. Cosmetics brand MAC, encourages customers to recycle their products. For every empty six lipsticks containers returned to any of MAC's stores, customers receive a free lipstick. Kiehl's has a similar offer as do other well-known brands.

Spark creativity. When you set a social responsibility goal, it helps spark creativity and innovation. If you promise to be more environmentally conscious then you naturally think of providing products and services that are environmentally friendly, and possibly inspire new product or service ideas.

There are many ways companies can give back and that are not costly. Small steps and creative ways can go a long way.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi