Attitudes Towards Responsible Business and CSR in Bahrain [Report]

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Most startups in the Arab world have difficulty attracting and retaining talent. In Bahrain, a new study reveals that over 91% believe that launching a CSR program can help with this central challenge, while over 95% believe that it will help with motivating their teams as well.

The study, Bahrain Responsible Business Survey, which was released this week by ‘Triple Bottom Line’ Associates (3BL), in media partnership with Arabic Knowledge@Wharton, assessed understanding and implementation of responsible business practices in Bahrain.

3BL, Bahrain’s first social impact and sustainability consultancy and think-do-tank, focused on assessing the attitudes of companies from multinationals to small businesses, especially because current understanding of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability is largely marketing driven and donation-centric in the MENA region.

Here are the report’s key findings:

 1.    CSR is Most Often Understood as Community Engagement

  • 87% of respondents viewed CSR as community engagement.
  • At least 33% practice Community Engagement, Employee Wellness, Transparency, Corporate Governance, Health and Safety, and Gender Equality and Diversity.
  • Social inclusion of marginalized communities and responsible supply chain management are among the lowest percentages of CSR practices at only 10% and 13% respectively. 

2.    Small Enterprises Are More Engaged in CSR than Medium Enterprises

CSR and Sustainability are practiced by: 

  • 86% of multinational corporations
  • 77% of large companies (defined in Bahrain as having 250 or more employees and over BD 5 million/US$13.3 million in turnover) 
  • 67% of small companies (defined as having less than 50 employees and less than BD 500,000/ US$1.3 million in turnover) 
  • Only 46% of family businesses, which represent a significant part of the private sector in Bahrain.

3.    Executives don’t always understand the benefits of CSR

The top three reasons given by respondents for not practicing CSR and sustainability were: (a) Not a shareholder priority (28%); (b) Not management’s priority (26%); and (c) We lack the financial resources (23%).

This indicates that shareholders and executive management need to be educated on the benefits of CSR, including revenue generation, cost reduction, efficiency optimization, and risk mitigation. 

4.    CSR is Still Siloed

CSR and sustainability should be embedded throughout an organization’s operations rather than residing in just one department. This was the case for only 12% of respondents.

Responsibility for CSR programs belongs to: 

  • Executive Management (30%)
  • Marketing and Communications (19%)
  • Human Resources (12%)
  • Environment, Health and Safety (5%)

    While 11% don’t practice CSR. 

5.    Top Organizational Challenge: Attracting & Retaining Talent

48% of respondents believed the greatest challenge faced by their organizations is attracting and retaining talent, and 91% believed that CSR and sustainability could help an organization attract and retain talent. 

41% also found that increasing employee motivation and pride of association were challenges, and 95% believe that CSR could help with these as well. 

6.    Government Should Play a Role in Responsible Business

  • 80% believed there should be government regulations requiring companies to implement CSR.
  • 95% believe the government should provide incentives for companies to implement CSR. 
  • 83% believed that there should be a degree of government funding to support CSR.
  • 97% also believed in the private sector’s ability to address important social issues facing Bahrain through CSR. 

7.    Bahraini Companies Aren’t Reporting

When it came to measurement of CSR and sustainability, the survey revealed that 65% of respondents’ organizations did not publish CSR or Sustainability reports, and almost half of respondents (48%) said they did not believe that their organizations would.

Comparatively, two thirds of Fortune 500 companies report on sustainability. Other GCC countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Saudi Arabia also outperform Bahrain in sustainability reporting. 

Download the full report in the grey box to the right or see more at Bahrain Responsible Business Survey and use twitter #RBSBahrain.

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