The new wave of CSR has transformed corporate giving into socially responsible business activities. These activities allow companies to realize actual economic, social and environmental benefits – both for themselves and the communities within which they operate. Rather than focusing solely on community issues, companies are beginning to evaluate their internal corporate practices as well as their environmental impact. By embarking on CSR activities, corporations are able to both regulate how they behave as companies as well as contribute to meeting the needs of generations, present and future.
While CSR in the Middle East has been slow catching on, it has over the past few years been gaining...
in attention and momentum as seen in other areas of the world such as the United States and the United Kingdom. Large corporations in the region tended, and continue, to make charitable contributions based on generic community needs. As the concept of CSR grows, however, companies have been noticing the potential for forming wider partnerships with private sector players, community members, consumers and other stakeholders. This not only acts as a form of checks-and-balances for other companies, but also allows companies to look at the long-term impacts of their policies, activities and investments.
Saudi Aramco has, for the past 70 years, been making giant strides to bring CSR to the Saudi Arabian environment. This state-owned corporation has been active in developing the energy resources of the country and operating extensive networks of refining and distribution facilities. The company’s international subsidiaries and joint ventures deliver crude oil and refined products to customers around the world.
Saudi Aramco’s foundation is built on a number of corporate principles and values that make it well suited to be a successful CSR agent. The company has a strong commitment to human resources, learning and development. Saudi Aramco also seeks to serve its community and serve as a role model for other private sector players, all the while striving to maintain the highest levels of safety, security, health and environmental standards. Today, the company has four main areas of focus: promoting greater private sector prosperity; knowledge sharing; spreading awareness about health, safety and environmental issues; and encouraging volunteering.
As Khalid Abubshait, Saudi Aramco Affairs General Manager states: “Our families and communities are integral to society and by helping our communities we also help ourselves.”
This dedication can be correlated to the educational strides the company has made over the years. Saudi Aramco has provided education to thousands of local and expatriate children through the establishment of nearly 135 schools. The company also awards thousands of scholarships to students who choose to complete their higher education both inside and outside the country. In 2007, the company was commissioned by King Abdullah to build the campus, create the curriculum and attract foreigners to the US$12.5 billion King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Abdullah Jumah, chief executive of Saudi Aramco, supports the establishment of the university, by noting:
“There is a deep knowledge gap separating the Arab and Islamic nations from the process and progress of contemporary global civilization.”
In July 2008, through its partnership with Seimens, Saudi Aramco outfitted preschools with Siemens Generation 21 scientific boxes comprised of 22 experiments on energy, electricity, health and environment. Speaking about Saudi Aramco’s achievements, Peter Löscher, President and CEO of Seimens Global offered this ringing endorsement: “Today we come to give thanks and refer to Saudi Aramco’s core values and the efforts it has made to help promote education.”
By building a solid foundation in its community members, Saudi Aramco is planting the seeds for future educated and exposed, socially responsible citizens.
In parallel to its educational initiatives, Saudi Aramco is also a pioneering force in the fields of health and safety. The company first began offering medical care in 1933, and in the early 1950s, the Saudi Aramco Medical Services Organization (SAMSO) established the Dhahran Health Centre for the benefit of Saudi and expatriate employees and their dependants.
Saudi Aramco has continued to build and manage state-of-the-art health center facilities, satellite services in company communities, and has a network of designated private sector medical centers across the country. Through SAMSO, the company provides healthcare to a patient population of over 600,000 employees and dependents. SAMSO employs nearly 700 physicians, 1,500 nurses and 300 pharmacists, therapists, and technologists. In 2007, Dr. Jaffar Al-Tawfiq, an infectious disease consultant with SAMSO, began drawing up a five-year plan with the World Health Organization (WHO) to control ‘sand-fly disease,’ a skin infection caused by single-cell parasites. Saudi Aramco’s investment in quality healthcare not only ensures the health of its employees, but also that of all Saudi residents – the very people whom the company relies on for future growth.
The company’s newest project is the King Abdulaziz Center for Knowledge and Culture. Prized as the company’s “boldest” CSR initiative to date, the Center is a state-of-the-art institution that seeks to inspire learning and creativity while honoring Saudi Arabia’s Arab heritage and culture. Situated on the Dammam Dome and expected to be completed in 2012, the Center will house a world-class museum, public library, historical archives, children’s educational center, and conference and performance facilities. The building will also adhere to rigorous environmental standards, using hydrocarbon-based products and employing as few natural resources as possible. Through this initiative, Aramco strives to not only develop Saudi Arabia’s current human resources, but also be a driving force behind a prosperous and enlightened future.
Saudi Aramco is without a doubt paving the way for future CSR activities within the Kingdom. Its long history of corporate activities has enhanced the lives of thousands of Saudi Arabian residents, and the company continues to build upon and enhance their efforts. While Saudi Arabia held its first Corporate Social Responsibility Forum in May 2006, the consistent underreporting of Saudi Arabian CSR activities has reflected poorly on the country’s commitment to long-term sustainable development. Saudi Aramco is perfectly poised to embark on knowledge-sharing and act as a CSR representative for other private sector corporations in the country. Their successes can spiral into wider, country-level initiatives that both meet the needs of Saudi Arabian residents and provide mutually beneficial returns to corporations.