Drs Daan Elffers, founder EMG CSR
EMG CEO has chaired Qatar CSR 2013 and was also presenting at a similar conference in Jeddah, CSR Saudi Arabia 2013. Daan will also be the Chairman for the flagship sustainability summit CSR Dubai 2014, now in its 11th year.
Participants at Qatar CSR Conference 2013, chaired by EMG, tackled one of the big questions for organisations thinking about CSR – namely how to put a value on it.
During presentations and panel discussions with contributors from Middle Eastern businesses, non-profits and academia a number of key points emerged:
- Some CSR benefits have a clear direct financial value which can be captured, even if it is hard to measure.
Zeina Abou Chaaban is founder of Palestyle, a small high-end fashion business based in the UAE. Her business empowers local women refugees by providing skilled jobs such as embroidery using traditional Arabic designs. Zeina explained that this approach can be used to differentiate the company’s brand and appeal to customers provided it is (a)genuine (b)additional to good quality, not a substitute for it and (c)communicated appropriately.
- To maximise value CSR activity must be aligned with business strategy and organisations must take a longer term view
Dr Richard Manlove (center) EMG CSR moderator at CSR Qatar
This point was well made by Noor Sarafi of the International Medical Centre, a private hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She emphasised the importance of taking a structured approach to CSR. Putting a price on CSR is difficult but can be achieved with the right data plus experience and expertise. The importance of tracking and measurement was further reinforced by Professor Dima Jamali from the American University of Beirut based on her work in the Olayan business school.
- Intangible value can be the most important sort.
Amar Benaissa’s organisation, INJAZ, works with the business community to link it to education and work with children in classrooms. He sees the main value for the companies involved as the motivation and empowerment of employees.
Drs Z Davis EMG CSR Presenting on “Reputation and CSR” at CSR Qatar
In Qatar itself major infrastructure projects are only possible thanks to a large migrant workforce, with relatively high levels of turnover. The way companies treat their workforce is a key driver of retention and motivation. Construction company QDVC presented details of its programme to ensure good conditions in accommodation camps, exceeding legal requirements and welcoming external inspections.
A range of related CSR issues were addressed by the conference, which was chaired by EMG founder Drs Daan Elffers with panel discussions moderated by EMG consultants Drs Zeljka Davis and Dr Richard Manlove:
- The leadership roles of companies, NGO’s, government and individuals.
- Untapped opportunities
- The Cradle to Cradle approach.
Drs Zeljka Davis (second from the right) EMG CSR moderator at CSR Qatar
What emerged from the conference was a picture of Qatar and the ME more generally as a region with huge potential to do good for its communities as well as to prosper economically. The geography and demographics of states such as Qatar, which have small native populations, abundant hydrocarbon resources and very limited fresh water and productive land means that businesses which operate there need external resources and expertise, training and education to realise that potential. With economic activity expanding exponentially it is vital that CSR and sustainability become embedded in strategic thinking and action. As the Qatar Business Council Vice President, his excellency Mohammed Ahmed T Al-Kawari, stated in the Keynote Opening Address, “CSR must be made a strategic concept in Qatar”.
CSR Qatar 2013, H.E. Mohammed Ahmed T. Al – Kawari, Vice Chairman, Vice President Business Council, Qatar Chamber
Article: Qatar CSR Conference Spotlights the Value of CSR
EMG organizes various individual One on One and team courses in Qatar, click here to find out more about CSR training
Although sustainable food production is in the category of large scale, complex and difficult global problems sometimes described as ‘wicked’, companies should see it as a source of opportunities and leverage it to drive innovation, argues Dr Richard Manlove of EMG CSR Consultancy and the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership.
Despite unacceptably high levels of malnutrition globally, the large majority of planet earth’s seven billion humans have had access to adequate, good quality, affordable food for many years thanks to Herculean developments in agriculture. But ‘past performance is no guarantee of future returns’ and the challenge facing governments, agriculture and the food industry is ominous.
An approximate doubling in demand for food by 2050 must be met with finite land, water and other resources and without exacerbating the already huge environmental impact of food production. Finding solutions to this large scale, complex and difficult challenge presents huge potential opportunities for innovative organisations.
Possible approaches fall into four broad categories:
1) Reduce resource demand through qualitative and quantitative changes in diet (e.g. vegetarianism and veganism)
2) Increase productivity through intensification and technology
3) Reduce environmental impact of conventional agriculture by technological solutions and / or extensification
4) Find innovative alternative food sources (e.g. mycoprotein, in-vitro meat, insects)
Some approaches, e.g. intensive vs. extensive farming, may be conflicting and in practice some combination of all approaches will be almost certainly be required.
Companies in agriculture and related life-sciences have a key role to play but are faced with dilemmas about the right way forward. Genetic improvement, genomics and inputs such as fertilisers, crop chemicals, animal medicines and growth promoters are often regarded negatively by consumers and sustainability professionals alike due to their potential to pollute or the perception that they are unnatural. But the fact remains that we need to produce more food using less land and water and fewer animals. Tools which increase productivity can do just that and reduce environmental impact per unit of food produced. What are needed are innovative approaches which develop and deploy productivity-enhancing technologies at scale with minimal negative environmental consequences. Bio-pesticides and precision use of inputs such as fertilizers are current examples.
So what innovative approaches for companies involved directly or indirectly in food production are suggested by a sustainability perspective on food production? Based on my work in the dairy sector here are some suggestions.
- Look at current sustainability initiatives and emerging environmental regulations in your sector – what changes are coming and who is in the driving seat? If you are not already involved how can you contribute?
- Look at the production-to-consumption chain end-to-end. Many, if not most, of the challenges involve several stages and inter-related factors from different disciplines. Build ‘solution-focussed’ alliances with other players in the chain to address specific opportunities.
- Use holistic systems approaches to reveal new insights and potential solutions.
- Identify ‘clean’ technologies which you are well placed to develop to replace or improve existing products and services.
- Build radical long term scenario’s to disrupt your current patterns of thinking and generate new ideas.
The author will explore some of these ideas further in future articles.
Sustainable food production