Posted on December 01, 2014

Leveraging Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to accelerate Qatar’s socio-economic development, building a strong framework for effective sustainability reporting, and enhancing labor standards and workplace safety were among the issues that dominated discussion on the first day of CSR Qatar 2014, which opened today at the Marriott Marquis City Center Doha Hotel.

The second edition of the annual conference – taking place from 1 to 3 December 2014 – brings together corporate and community leaders from Qatar and across the region to share ideas and experiences and discuss ways to enhance business contribution to sustainable development.Officially supported by the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QCCI), the conference is seen as a key platform in further developing the CSR environment in Qatar and in enabling decision-makers to explore how CSR can support the National Vision 2030 and drive social progress and economic development.

The three-day conference kicked off with an opening keynote address by Mohamed bin Ahmed bin Tawar, Vice President of the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry.He said, “Social responsibility is the ethical obligation of companies towards the society. It’s neither a gift nor charity handed out by them; hence companies should not confuse Corporate Social Responsibility with sponsoring or participating in sporting events. The private sector has an important part to play in accelerating Qatar’s economic growth and social development. As the role of private sector in the country’s economic activity continues to increase, businesses must take on greater responsibility in contributing to the common good and ensure that their actions and initiatives benefit society as a whole. I hope that this conference will be an important step in taking CSR in Qatar forward to the next level.”

The day’s sessions got off to an engaging start with a panel discussion on the topic “CSR – More Than Just Charity”.Participants in the discussion included Essa Al-Mannai, Executive Director of ROTA (Qatar Foundation); Mohammed Hammoudi, General Manager of Cisco; and Hasmig Khoury, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Bank Audi, Lebanon.

Talking about the importance of CSR programs to be more strategic in nature, Essa Al-Mannai said, “An organization has to realize its potential to impact the community and it should use its core skills for better effect and partner with others to have a bigger impact on the community. We definitely see a shift from philanthropy to CSR which is a good sign for the future of CSR in the region. At Bank Audi we had to reassess our CSR programs in order to be more strategic and get stakeholders aligned” said Hasmig Khoury. “We identified issues that we could focus on and then focused on a few select strategic pillars for the long term and even turned down requests for donations if it did not fit our objectives.”

On this occasion, Mohammed Hammoudi said, “From my perspective, when we talk about CSR programs being strategic, we need to understand the relevance of CSR and what is important to the country and community. Also, it should never be a one off activity and it has to be sustainable and have a long term vision.”

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Rounding of the discussion in terms of prioritizing initiatives in line with the Qatar National Vision, Mr. Al –Mannai talked about the need to be a responsible citizen and said that all sections of society have to develop whether they are locals, expats and migrant labourers. He remarked on the impact of volunteer initiatives and said that they are studying how such programs can help bolster literacy initiatives among labourers so they can also improve their lives. 

Talking about their participation in CSR Qatar 2014, a spokesperson from AlFardan Group said, “As a leading business conglomerate, our aim is to create value for society as a whole and CSR programs are the best way to do so. CSR Qatar 2014 offers a dynamic platform for the country’s businesses to share their ideas and strategies to make meaningful and valuable contributions towards the social and economic growth of the community we live in. Our participation in the event is a testimony of our unwavering support towards further instilling and nurturing a culture of social responsibility within the Group; to reiterate the vision of H.H. Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of Qatar embodied in Qatar National Vision 2030 for building a better and sustainable nation for future generations. We have led in undertaking CSR initiatives that strive to make meaningful contributions towards addressing environmental sustainability, economic welfare and humanitarian challenges.”

The second day of the conference will commence with a panel discussion on private and public partnerships featuring Ourania Dionysiou, Advisor, Partner Relations at UNICEF, Somaya Al-Mutawa, Head of Community Awareness & Development Section at KAHRAMAA - Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation, and Mohamed Al Ayed, President and CEO at TRACCS.

The day’s keynote speakers includeZeina Al-Azmeh, Assistant Vice President for Communication and Outreach at Qatar University; Mohammed Abu Jbara, CSR Manager at Shell; Karine Kamel, Managing Partner, BridgEgypt; Alexandre Amato, Head of Sustainability at Qatar Green Building Council - Qatar Foundation; Ahmad M. Homssi, Environmental Manager, Q-Chem,and Mohamed Waseem Hemmoudeh, Senior Specialist - Student Financial Services, Student Affairs, Hamad Bin Khalifa University.

The third and final day of the conference is dedicated to workshops.

Launched in 2013 with the aim of aligning CSR initiatives with Qatar’s National Vision 2030, CSR Qatar provides a dynamic platform for CSR professionals to network with high-level experts from across the region. This year’s edition is supported by several leading organizations in Qatar,including the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Qatari Diar, Alfardan Group ,Qatar Petrochemical Company (QAPCO),  Qatar Fuel Additives Company Limited (QAFAC), and Microsoft.