Businesses investing in CSR were able to respond more effectively to new challenges created by COVID-19.

Businesses in Dubai investing in corporate social responsibility were able to respond more effectively to new challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey from Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Centre for Responsible Business.

The survey, conducted in May and June 2020, revealed that the Dubai businesses community quickly responded during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak by safeguarding employee health, safety and well-being and putting processes in place to ensure business continuity.

Digital shift
Overall, the transition for businesses to remote working was smooth thanks to a number of factors such as digital preparedness, advanced IT infrastructure and digital savvy employees. Surveyed organisations highlighted the importance of top management in reassuring employee safety and job security while working from home, while ensuring healthy interaction with peers and physical and emotional well-being.

In response to restrictions on face-to-face meetings and events, companies quickly adapted by shifting employee volunteering activities to digital platforms, leading organisations to explore new ways to give back to their communities and maximise social impact.

Organisations surveyed during COVID-19 emphasised the importance of institutional guidelines introduced by authorities in advising the business community on measures that should be implemented to ensure employee safety.

Changing attitudes
For the most part, companies put environmental issues were put on the backburner as they dealt with the impact of COVID-19 and shifted their focus to internal matters. Referring to recent CSR activities, respondents said they considered such efforts as an obligation or “the right thing to do”, as opposed to an initiative designed to improve their reputation.

The study analysing businesses’ responses to COVID-19 is a follow up to an in-depth report recently published by Dubai Chamber entitled Corporate Social Responsibility in Dubai: Current Practices, Challenges and Future Opportunities, which revealed that more businesses are now consistent and systematic in their approach to CSR and engage in CSR initiatives aligned with business strategies.

Growing CSR awareness
More than half of the surveyed organisations had a formal CSR policy and 65.7% of organisations had a dedicated department or officer to manage CSR. Among the organisations that participated in the 2019 CSR survey, 62% of respondents reported a highly mature approach to employee involvement and this figure increased to 70% when in relation to health and safety.

More than 70% of organisations reported that the board of directors are involved with CSR issues, while 68% of respondents reported advanced CSR practice maturity levels with employee volunteering. Large organisations were the most mature when it came to community investment. Overall, 76% of responding companies engaged with their communities.

Findings in the comprehensive report show that “improving the community” was the top motivating factor behind CSR initiatives for 80% of companies, while “improve revenue” was the least motivational factor. In addition, 58% of responding organisations reported either a marginal or a significant increase in CSR expenditure over the last three years, and 42% noted that CSR spending either stayed the same or decreased over the same period.

The Centre for Responsible Business (CRB) was established by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2004 to support and promote corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability. The Centre’s objective is to engage the Dubai business community in assuming greater responsibility for the emirate’s social and environmental needs.

The CRB also promotes Dubai as the GCC’s gateway for global commerce by offering its business partners an environment of transparency and rule of law.