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Contents:
  1. How Serious is CSR? A Critical Perspective *
  2. CSR in a comparative perspective - Gateway House
  3. Stay up to date!

CSR is an important differentiator in the current global business arena as companies are adamant about communicating their CSR contributions to gain legitimacy, enhanced brand image in the pursuit of higher financial performance and long-term profits. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development WBCSD provides a definition of the concept as the integration of environmental and social values into core organizational processes and with stakeholder interactions for the purpose of sustainable economic development [ 2 ].

Other conceptual definitions of CSR outline a social responsibility pyramid with four paradigms of application spanning economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic patterns [ 3 ]. It is economic if companies pursue CSR for higher profits or to save brand image from public criticism.

The legal paradigm constitutes following policies and regulations by taking managerial action to avoid legal issues.

Ethical decision-making involves long-term planning for responsible behavior for its integration with all aspects of operations and stakeholder interaction. Philanthropic CSR is when companies provide a financial contribution for meaningful causes to address societal and environmental issues. It becomes clear that CSR is more than merely philanthropic; it involves a restructuring of managerial perspectives on the relationship of the business with its surroundings.

The practice of CSR started in highly developed nations, such as in USA and Europe, where corporations were responding to the increased public criticism and media pressure to avoid bad corporate image or legal lawsuits regarding harmful practices to society and the environment. As it caught traction in western contexts, and with globalization, the concept spread through multinational corporations MNCs , their subsidiaries and international standardization, leading to the salience of global best practices of CSR and the importance accorded to environment in other parts of the world, including the Middle East [ 4 ].

Consequently, the CSR concept diffused from West to East, carrying western values, connotations, and practices that form its basic understanding. Research on CSR in non-western contexts has asserted its divergence in different political, cultural and socioeconomic settings [ 5 ]. Therefore, as western assumptive CSR logics spread, they get diffused and altered according to every unique national context.

Each country has a set of institutional variables that define its collective political and cultural values, beliefs and practices. In light of each constellation of particular institutional order logics, CSR is invariably translated for local applicability. In western contexts, CSR is organized based on coherent systems of governance and national business systems that form western institutional realities and have implications for the way CSR is understood and practiced [ 6 ].

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How Serious is CSR? A Critical Perspective *

In such contexts, CSR is increasingly entrenched by corporate strategies and institutional particularities. On the other hand, less developed nations have vastly heterogeneous institutional order logics that interfere with the way CSR is translated for local practice. For instance, research on CSR in developing contexts has outlined the different cultural and religious motivations to pursue CSR in the form of voluntary philanthropic contributions to local communities [ 4 ].

CSR logics in non-western contexts are therefore dependent on the merger of western assumptive logics of CSR with local socio-economic, historical, cultural and political realities. Each institutional order logics and their specific interactions with western assumptive logics, creates peculiar and unique CSR discourses and practices specific to each nation. For this chapter, the focus is on the main institutional order-CSR logics and how they influence CSR implementation in various contexts.

Each country has a set of dominant logics pertaining to each institution which form the collective system of meaning that interacts with western assumptive logics of CSR. This dynamic translation and adaptation process of CSR leads to nuances in the ways it is understood and practiced and thus calls for a nuanced analysis of each local context and its salient institutional order logics at play.

CSR in a comparative perspective - Gateway House

Institutional orders of state, market, corporate, religion, and family [ 6 ]. Business activities are embedded in Middle Eastern history as the region has a strategic geographical positioning for trade across three continents. The current Middle Eastern business arena has witnessed a proliferation of CSR practices due to globalization and global sharing of best practices. The translation and adaptation of western assumptive CSR logics was also driven by social media attention, awareness and education in the area of CSR, and greater local demands for accountability and sustainable development [ 1 ].

Businesses are now accountable not only for their economic performance but also for their social responsibility and corporate citizenship as these concepts become more embedded in mainstream business practices across the region. The Middle East is a region in South-West Asia containing around 25 nations comprising highly heterogeneous and diverse contexts. Key GCC development and economic metrics [ 9 , 10 , 11 ].

The Middle East contains diverse nations, each having a unique set of institutional order logics. As previously mentioned, these institutional orders consist of state, market, corporate, religion and family, and each has a particular function. Although some development challenges are shared among countries in the region such as gender equality or worker rights, however other socioeconomic factors remain rather diverse. Therefore, we expect to see in each country a specific amalgamation of logics that shapes a unique CSR arena including discourses and practices for CSR.

The GCC region for instance collectively has almost half of the oil reserves in the world and They also have the highest per capita carbon emissions, which makes them liable to more environmental challenges than other parts of the Middle East.


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The information gives an overview of the institutional realities of each nation. As outlined, GCC has been successful in advancing their development metrics as compared to other countries in the region.

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Saudi Arabia has the highest population of Moreover, Qatar ranks the highest on HDI of 0. The most problematic factors for doing business in Qatar are access to financing and restrictive labor regulations. The same holds true for Saudi Arabia whose global competitiveness remains fairly stable [ 11 ]. Qatar remains the second highest competitive economy in the Arab World but has receded on worldwide ranking from 18th to the 25th place mainly due to the drop-in oil and gas prices which has impacted its fiscal situation; yet Qatar is still strong in many areas including infrastructure of its facilities, and goods market economy [ 11 ].

The UAE scores highest in the Arab World for overall competitiveness however the problematic factors for doing business in UAE relate to high inflation and also access to financing; Bahrain scores fairly high on ease of doing business with a slight problematic factor pertaining to inefficient governmental bureaucracy [ 11 ].

Kuwait has the highest inefficiency in governmental bureaucracy and the highest corruption rate; and lastly, Oman ranks highest on restrictive labor regulations and has other problematic factors regarding inadequately educated workforce and insufficient governmental bureaucracy [ 11 ]. It is important to note that the figures used for this analysis date prior to the Qatar-Gulf crisis, when several countries in the Gulf, namely Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain, in addition to Egypt cut off their diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed an air, sea and land blockade.

Due to the diverse contexts presented above, we expect to encounter a diversity of CSR logics in GCC region reflecting the amalgam of western and local CSR-institutional logics and the translation of these logics in the context of the unique systems of meaning and local practices in each nation [ 6 ]. Global forces through the sharing of best practices regarding social responsibility of MNCs and local forces resulting from the unique social, cultural and historical dynamic are both significant factors affecting CSR translation in the region.

To study the CSR logics in the GCC region, a folder was created for each country and journal articles, book chapters and review publications analyzing CSR practices, expressions, and connotations in each country were downloaded. Through content analysis, the information was extracted from statements that are collectively used to draw conclusions on each institutional order logics and their interface with CSR. The analysis is inductive in nature where extracted statements provide evidence in relation to the nature of institutional logics of each country and their amalgamation with western assumptive CSR logics, in order to draw conclusions in relation to salient CSR logics in each context.

Each of the following sections of the chapter 3—7 discusses the institutional order-CSR logics interface: Section 3 discusses CSR logic at the state level where regulations, policies, and decisions are made on a national level; Section 4 relates religion dominant moral values, belief systems and world view to CSR practices; Section 5 looks into CSR-market logic which captures the compartmentalization and pricing of human activity in neo-liberal market economics; Section 6 discusses CSR from a corporate institutional order which is a hierarchal structure organizing and facilitating neo-liberal market economics and Section 7 will relate CSR to family ownership and family ties.

Finally, Section 8 presents the discussion of the results with concluding remarks and recommendations. A recent report published by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development recognizing the transition to sustainable practices as a necessity for the region to secure a path towards a sustainable future [ 14 ]. The GCC governments seem to play an integral role in achieving the necessary goals set by the Arab Forum. CSR logics however have unique expressions in each national context. Although these contextual differences exist in highly developed nations, literature points to higher heterogeneity among emerging economies [ 15 ].

For example, even in a single country such as the UAE, differences are prevalent between the different emirates and how their economies are run [ 15 ]. Due to the recent downfalls in the oil economy, the government is attempting to diversify its national economy and is consequently encouraging and supporting the private sector in its significant role and participation in its vision [ 16 ].

It has been mentioned in the literature that there is a lack of legislation or an institutionalized system for CSR; this has resulted in fragmented efforts with a low level of overall strategic strength [ 17 ]. Governmental and legislative factors including high bureaucracy, labor laws, corruption, legal systems, and investment regulations are major challenges for CSR implementation [ 18 ].

Business Ethics: Corporate Social Responsibility

The government passed a legislative requirement through the Saudi corporate governance CG code, which requires firms to have an audit committee with at least three non-executive directors and at least a financial and accounting director; this code had a positive impact on CSR disclosure with a higher number of companies registered by research studies post its application [ 13 ]. However, it can be argued that this is a non-intentional CSR impact, where more direct legislative policies are required for promoting CSR.

The governmental initiative aims at monitoring and evaluating CSR strategies of leading companies through social, environmental, economic, management, and stakeholder participation metrics [ 16 ]. However, issues of human and labor rights, corruption, and environment are pressing international issues that are of concern to CSR global standards; and these concerns are not addressed by SARCI [ 19 ].

The UAE is a fast-developing country with a growing economy. It has large oil reserves particularly in the Abu Dhabi Emirate; this has enabled it to become a business and trade hub of the Middle East. Due to its economic strength and opportunity and its affluent sales prospects, MNCs consider the UAE economy as a gateway to enter the Middle Eastern market.

In terms of CSR, the government of UAE has been encouraging business involvement in social responsibility and consumer awareness of their rights through various programs; such as activities for sustainable management focused on the importance of philanthropic initiatives to aid sustainable development [ 20 ].

Particularly, Dubai has championed emerging sustainability projects, specifically in construction and energy conservation. Poverty reduction is a main concern for the government which has been tackled through food and housing projects and marriage funds. The Sheikh Zayed Housing Program and the Mohammed bin Rashid Housing Establishment are two examples of UAE-led philanthropic initiatives to aid citizen welfare, in addition to humanitarian initiatives that provide food for subsidized prices; in accordance to cultural attitudes, UAE also provides a marriage fund for low income citizens along with other programs such as healthcare and educational support [ 20 ].

Government funded CSR programs are also expanding internationally and deal with international development challenges; this is initiated by various programs such as Dubai Cares, which is the largest CSR initiative in the Middle East supporting social welfare in low-income countries in fields of education, health, water and sanitation, and school infrastructure [ 20 ]. The government also encourages employees to participate and volunteer in social projects through an initiative called ENGAGE [ 21 ].

Other UAE-funded national and international initiatives support SMEs by promoting CG and raising awareness on issues of transparency, responsibilities of board directors, auditing, and sustainability practices [ 20 , 21 ]. Lastly the Dubai Ethics Resource Centre specifically targets issues of CSR in the Gulf markets by planning forums and seminars in collaboration with business leaders and Gulf executives; their training sessions focus on improving knowledge of CSR targeted at professionals with the aim of enhancing CSR programs, strategies and infrastructures [ 21 ].

UAE governmental initiatives have yielded tangible results, evident through the increased awareness by consumers in the country, and specifically in Dubai and Abu Dhabi Emirates, where responsible business programs are concentrated [ 20 ]. Qatar is also a country rich in oil and gas with other booming sectors, with Qatar recently serving as the largest exporter of cement and steel [ 22 ].

It is a small country with the second highest migration rate and the first GDP per capita in the world [ 23 ]. The Qatari government has been according importance to accountability and transparency issues in the country, setting fertile ground for the disclosure of information, specifically related to socially responsible behavior [ 24 ]. While financial reporting has improved in the past decade, CSR disclosure is still a voluntary practice in Qatar, and not enforced by law.

Companies lack a broad scope of CSR disclosure that mostly focuses on human resources; state regulations by the Qatari Government would help enhance CSR activities and set clear environmental disclosure standards in line with global sustainability trends [ 22 ].

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Through initiating semi-governmental institutions, Qatar has participated in national and international philanthropy and community outreach programs [ 23 ]. In the country put forth the Qatar National Vision setting clear sustainable development goals with economic, social, and environmental targets. To further promote CSR activities and disclosure, the government should apply legal regulations for private sector involvement based on international and professional standards and criteria [ 14 , 26 ].

Oman is an emerging mixed market economy that also highly relies on the oil and gas sector with a salience of joint ventures with international corporations [ 27 ]. Private sector partners along with the civil society are expected to collaborate with the government to maintain national competitiveness and equality.