Small business support vital to corporate sustainability

To be truly sustainable, a company must look at ways that it can create both social and economic value at the same time.

Today, a vital aspect of corporate sustainability goes beyond managing the planet’s natural resources that we consume, to look at the way in which we affect the lives of the people we work with and live among because businesses only thrive when the society around them is doing well.

This is a far cry from the definition of sustainability of yesteryear, which was focused more on businesses’ initiatives to reduce environmental impact — activities such as reducing resource consumption, becoming energy efficient, managing waste and so on.

To be truly sustainable, a company must look at ways that it can create both social and economic value at the same time. Benefiting society is a way of building economic value by nurturing the local community towards success. One high-impact segment of our community and also the economy that companies can, and ought to, nurture is the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector.

SMEs and the creative entrepreneurs that run them, are vital to the UAE economy, as they contribute more than of 60 per cent of the nation’s GDP. SMEs constitute 92 per cent of all businesses in Emirates, and they create more than 86 per cent of private sector job opportunities. Supporting them is essential to fostering a sustainable community and a thriving economy.

What SMEs need, though, is more than easy access to finance to achieve their goals. They need the business know-how that established companies can give to them, as well as support and access to essential tools, knowledge and mentors.

They also need government support to steer them towards success. A newly-introduced federal law, approved by Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE, will play a substantial role in contributing to a sustainable economy and SME development by obliging federal authorities and ministries to contract at least 10 per cent of their procurement budgets to SMEs owned by Emiratis.

Moreover, the law will exempt SMEs from paying customs tax for equipment, raw materials and goods for production purposes. Further, it will exempt SMEs from paying bank guarantees for hiring new workers. This law will be an immense boost for local businesses and an innovative way of ensuring sustained business in the local community.

The UAE is witnessing an ever-increasing momentum for supporting the country’s entrepreneurs and SMEs, which will prove infinitely beneficial not only for the country’s up and coming businessmen, but also for the communities that they are associated with. Helping SMEs to create more value will aid them in becoming more efficient, to create better quality products and services leading to creation of more jobs, enriching the market and much more — all because SMEs were given the right support in their early stages.

Encouraging entrepreneurship and supporting SMEs is a very effective corporate sustainability strategy to make the biggest impact on our society. The UAE leadership recognises this, and has taken positive steps towards ensuring that entrepreneurs are given ample support to get up and running and be sustained in the long-run.

Very recently, du hosted the Dubai Chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE)’s new #xtalk concept — the first of a series of interactive discussions between entrepreneurs. The #xtalk, held at du’s headquarters in Dubai Media City, was aimed at triggering thought-provoking interactions between TiE Dubai members, entrepreneurs and experts.

Companies across the UAE should take their cue from the UAE leadership and start adopting entrepreneurship-focused sustainability initiatives into their business strategy. Not only will this help the country to meet its sustainability goals, but it will boost the economy, too. To reiterate what I said at the beginning, businesses only thrive when the society around them is doing well.

Hala Badri is the executive vice president, brand and communications, at du

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Published: May 15, 2014 04:00 AM


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