The CSR Saudi Arabia Summit took place in Jeddah from 24-26 November and was attended by representatives from government bodies, non-governmental organizations, institutes of higher education and the private sector. A key feature of the summit was the focus on the need for corporations to invest in education.
Opening remarks were delivered by chairman Daan Elffers, founder of EMG, who stressed the potential in Saudi Arabia for local and international firms to invest through corporate social responsibility (CSR) in education and development projects.
‘A country such as Saudi Arabia has very strong potential to make a positive contribution through CSR to both society and the environment,’ he said. ‘The advantage of its highly educated youth creates an ideal starting point to accelerate innovation and take the lead in transforming challenges into their competitive advantage.’
Mohammad Abdul-Aziz Al-Ohali, deputy minister of higher education, outlined the collaborations which his ministry has established with a number of Saudi corporations, saying that it was expected that more companies would be encouraged to join them in developing programs which would take into account the needs of Saudi society.
The chairman of Bupa Arabia Loay Hisham Nazer also highlighted his organization’s CSR programs, in particular one which provides free health care insurance for orphaned children as part of the corporate strategy to maximize value for all stakeholders. ‘We have achieved our aim… through cooperation with our program partners and stakeholders, which include the Ministry of Health and all the orphanages under the ministry’s supervision,’ he said.
Princess Lamia Al-Saud, executive manager of media and communication at the Alwaeed Bin Talal Foundation, spoke on the role of the Foundation in the local community, and stressed the element of the empowerment of women, which was, she explained, a major concern of the Foundation.
Speakers also included Amr Banaja, vice-president of CSR at SEDCO, who referred to the SEDCO Riyali Financial Literacy Program as an example of elevating CSR in businesses. The program has conducted a number of visits to various local organizations such as the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, the Majid Society for Community Development, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour, to explain its goals and role. ‘These visits have all strengthened the program’s capacity’, he said.
Discussion among delegates included how to approach the problem of youth unemployment and in what ways the education system in the Kingdom can be upgraded and redeveloped to create more opportunities and deliver appropriate training.
At the end of the first day the Awards Ceremony was hosted by Daan Elffers of EMG, who was also a member of the judging panel.