Philanthropy and sustainability debated at forum arranged by UAE’s University Leadership Council
The UAE has hosted a forum that discussed the importance of philanthropy and responsible social contribution in creating a sustainable society within the region. Organised by the University Leadership Council of the UAE at Dubai’s Grand Millennium Hotel, the event saw leading businessmen and politicians discuss how the region could better enhance its CSR practices.
Osman Sultan, CEO of Du, one of the UAE’s leading telecom firms, told attendees how important a clear CSR strategy was in today’s business environment and how the region needed to catch up with the practices of other parts of the world.
He said: “In today’s world, we must adopt corporate social responsibility as a necessity in order to achieve sustainability; we no longer have the luxury of considering it to be an option. Sustainability should be integrated into both strategy and operations, in order to reap rewards that will reflect positively upon business and the community.”
Much of the focus of the forum was on education, and how businesses could provide better training and opportunities for the youth of the UAE. Sultan added: “I urge more corporations to contribute to providing a better educational environment and empowering those within the education ecosystem, to support the leaders of tomorrow’s UAE in building a stronger future for the nation.”
The event, in collaboration with Strategia Consultancy, also pointed towards philanthropy as a key driver in educational development. Dr Fred Moavenzadeh, President of the Masdar Institute, added: “The culture of giving is inherent in the very traditions, customs and rites of this region.
“The discussions at this event aimed to bring to the fore these practices, the multi-layered contribution of the key participants and raise awareness about how deeply entrenched they are in our societal practices. The participating stakeholders adequately emphasised the need for sustainable development through responsible social contributions.”
Considerable focus has been placed on developing education in the UAE in recent years, with the government investing a quarter of its entire budget on improving the facilities and training of its young people.
While the region has been relatively slow to adopt universal CSR standards – recently receiving criticism in a report by consultancy firm the Red Flag Group on compliance and transparency – many leading firms have placed philanthropy at the heart of their business activities.
Emphasising the importance of this at the event was Dr Thomas Hochstettler, Provost and Acting Chancellor of the American University of Sharjah, who said: “Philanthropy in education is of mutual benefit where industry and government support universities in funding their educational projects and at the same time provide a platform to develop new talent for building the regional knowledge economy. Regional universities are establishing endowments, scholarships, chairs and other opportunities for philanthropists to advance their corporate social responsibility initiatives.”