First impressions – CSR in the Middle East

Several weeks ago I was invited to come to the Lebanon and speak about CSR reporting. I wasn’t sure what to make of it a the beginning but after a few minutes into the conversation I realized that this man I was speaking to really knew what he was talking about. It all sounded really interesting, something that was absolutely necessary to support in my opinion and another great opportunity to promote CSR. I therefore confirmed my interest and I was on a plane to Beirut yesterday.

We had the first ever CSR Seminar here in Beirut today. I think it was a success and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the topics discussed, the regional input and the totally different culture.

More will follow in a proper post at a later stage but as I am a blogger I needed to share my immediate thoughts today and need some feedback if possible.

Here are my impressions from today:
  • The audience was very receptive to the overall concept of CSR
  • They even had several TV crews at the event. So you might even get the joy on seeing me on TV if you live the Middle East that is.
  • Culturally I believe is CSR is a really good fit for businesses here in he Middle East. The sense of community and responsibility is really strong.
  • Western best practice is really helping to frame the objective of what is needed for businesses to see their CSR objective
  • People with CSR experience in this field are really in high demand.
  • Lebanese people in particular are so hospitable. Just amazing how kind they are.

As I have written at the beginning, I will do a proper post later this or next week so stay tuned for more. In the meantime would I love to hear from you what your experiences with CSR and the Middle East are. No worries if you have none but maybe you could help me in sharing  what you would expect to find in terms of CSR best practice, cultural sensitivity in relation to CSR, etc?

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  1. Agreed. Also, because of the long history in the region there are a myriad of examples that serve as lessons as to when where and how a sustainable mindset would have prevented/helped. For example, the fertile crescent is now a desert. Also, as is often commented, culturally the Middle East has a long memory. That has led to political problems but also means that people are used to thinking of the long term. Converting the long backward view to a long forward view is probably easier than taking short-term thinking and instant gratification of some other cultures and converting it to longer term thinking.

  2. My experience with CSR and sustainability in the Middle East is that cultural considerations must be the "fourth leg" in the triple bottom line concept. It's not enough to lump "culture" into the society sphere — it must be considered on par with the other top-line categories. From religious considerations to women's role in society to stakeholder relationships with Western investors, the savvy CSR practitioner ALWAYS examines cultural impact along with social and environmental impacts.

  3. Agreed. Also, because of the long history in the region there are a myriad of examples that serve as lessons as to when where and how a sustainable mindset would have prevented/helped. For example, the fertile crescent is now a desert. Also, as is often commented, culturally the Middle East has a long memory. That has led to political problems but also means that people are used to thinking of the long term. Converting the long backward view to a long forward view is probably easier than taking short-term thinking and instant gratification of some other cultures and converting it to longer term thinking.

  4. My experience with CSR and sustainability in the Middle East is that cultural considerations must be the "fourth leg" in the triple bottom line concept. It's not enough to lump "culture" into the society sphere — it must be considered on par with the other top-line categories. From religious considerations to women's role in society to stakeholder relationships with Western investors, the savvy CSR practitioner ALWAYS examines cultural impact along with social and environmental impacts.

  5. I am excited to read of your positive experience talking about CSR in with individuals in the middle east. I recently moved to Tel Aviv, and went up to Tel Aviv University to learn more about their Exec MBA program. I was disappointed to learn that they have no focus (or it sounded, even interest) in sustainability. I was surprised, given the propensity of Israeli's to be quite entrepreneurial, environmentally and socially focused. And the program is a joint one with Kellogg in Chicago, which definitely offers coursework in sustainability. I will be looking for ways to get involved in sustainability here in Tel Aviv for the next few years, but it doesn't sound like the Kellogg Recanati program will be one of them. I'd love suggestions for organizations that might be looking for someone with US CSR experience.

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