The UAE Government’s recent announcement encouraging private companies to make provisions for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reflects the country’s seriousness in promoting the spirit of giving back to the society in the Year of Giving.
The UAE Government had earlier declared the year 2017 as the Year of Giving in order to make everyone socially conscious and responsible to the society. Many people might have taken the earlier announcement lightly — as just a slogan. However, the latest decision that encourages private corporations to make provisions for CSR budget is a clear indication that the government has taken it very seriously.
The seven emirates collectively host more than 400,000 registered businesses. Even if 10,000 entities make provisions for Dh50,000 each on giving back to the society, the collective amount would reach Dh500 million a year — enough to make a difference in societies.
The move comes a few weeks after the UAE Government announced the National Volunteers Programme — to encourage residents to participate in social and community works. All these laudable initiatives — if followed by businesses and the people — would drastically change our society.
For businesses, the Year of Giving comes in multiple dimensions.
Firstly, it reflects the need to take care of the most important assets — the human capital that helps businesses to generate wealth. Paying their salary in time, creating an enabling working environment, giving them enough to live a healthy life, creating a happy working condition, offering them health insurance, bonuses and regular increments — all are part of the essential responsibility. Although these are a necessity and should happen naturally, a lot of businesses cut corners by not looking after these aspects.
Secondly, the Year of Giving is a polite reminder of businesses’ moral obligation to make timely payment to external suppliers and creditors and ensure that the supply chain is maintained smoothly. Things like taking care of customers and attaining high level of customer satisfaction and happiness and reducing payment cycles from 90 days to 30 days — for example — are keys to the spirit of the Year of Giving.
The third aspect is our responsibility to the country we operate in and the society we live in. What are we doing for the host country and society — or are we doing enough?
As we move towards the end of Ramadan, we are half-way into the Year of Giving and it’s time to take stock of where we stand in terms of our moral, ethical, social, economic and charitable commitment.
While during Ramadan, we witness a lot of charitable activities, most businesses forget that the best thing that they can give to the society — is to remain true to their social and economic obligations and commitments.
For example, the proverb — charity begins at home — is a reminder that it is very important to meet the obligations of family members. For businesses, it means taking care of your team — employees — and making sure that their needs are taken care of.
The most important obligation and commitment for a property developer is to timely deliver properties to the buyers — with the highest quality standard and earn their satisfaction and trust. If businesses remain focused on their obligations and remain true to their commitments — including payment obligations to suppliers and sub-contractors and delivery of goods and services to customers — the true meaning of the Year of Giving will be fulfilled. However, that’s only the beginning.
However, as we move towards the second half of the year — we are all faced with the third aspect of giving — to the host country’s economy and society. As the country prepares to introduce value-added tax (Vat), all businesses will now have to prepare for the new tax regime. We all need to prepare to give back to the country — so that the governments can re-invest the tax-generated funds for further development.
For years, governments of the Gulf countries have been providing us with facilities — developing infrastructure, services and creating an enabling environment for us to generate wealth and grow — without asking for anything in return. It’s time for us to give back to the country to maintain, transform and expand the infrastructure and services delivery.
For this, we need to shift our mentality towards giving. And for many business owners, who have long been used to ‘easy income’ in a ‘tax-free’ environment, this will require a 180-degree shift in thinking.
For most people, this might be tough — especially to adjust to the new era — the one that promotes the culture of giving — or paying taxes. But once we get used to it, it will become part of our culture and system — the same way we have provided health insurance to our colleagues.
Some would argue that the cost of doing business as well as inflation will go up. However, history shows that societies do adjust to new realities, eventually. These developments in the Year of Giving will make UAE businesses more agile, more socially responsible and humane.
Mahmood Shaikhani is the managing director of Shaikhani Group.