Think Tank: the Evolution of CSR

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Tuesday, December 10th 2019: Panel discussion held in Dubai at the Zabeel House The Greens in partnership with Jumeirah Group.

In a world facing many pressing problems that include extreme poverty, inequality and climate change, good ideas that can be acted upon are essential. Think Tanks exist to mobilize expertise and ideas to influence the change-process.


Today we spent the morning discussing the evolution of CSR

Panel: Brigitte Dierckx, Environmental & Social Responsibility Manager; Brand & Internal Communications Manager at Engie Middle East Peter Stubbs, Director of HSE & Compliance at Jumeirah Group / Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts Marc Cirera, Founder and CEO at Companies for Good Juan Carlos Fayad, Sustainability & Social Impact at Sustainable Square Moderator: Tatiana Antonelli Abella, Founder and CEO at Goumbook


Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the integral component of an organization’s relationship with its stakeholders: customers, tenants, employees, and share-holders. A common definition of a CSR report or an integrated report is a form of value reporting where an organization publicly communicates their “economic, environmental, and social performance”.

The Financial Times defines Corporate Social Responsibility as: “a business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders.”

Others say that Corporate Social Responsibility looks backwards, reporting on what a business has done, typically in the last 12 months, to make a contribution to society, and that CSR is about compliance. Many complain that CSR gets managed by communications teams or that CSR is driven by the need to protect reputations in developed markets…


Corporate Social Responsibility was born out of a drive to be socially accountable to itself, its shareholders, to the environment and the public. This can take many shapes and be interpreted on multiple levels.

While the practice is slowly becoming more common, it has also rapidly taken off and evolved.

Marc Cirera from Companies For Good has written a thought-provoking article titled ‘CSR is dead – Welcome to the Age of Good’ that was published on Entrepreneur Middle East last month


Sustainable Square recently released a comprehensive report, the first one for the region, that analyses the status of CSR in the Arab world and the differences between each country: Juan Carlos Fayad gave us more insight in order to analyse the challenges companies face today when dealing with CSR.


In order to better understand what local groups as well as international corporations are doing today, we have invited Engie and Jumeirah Group to tell us more about how they have evolved in their own management of CSR and how they are acting today compared to when they started.

Brigitte Dierckx and Peter Stubbs elaborated on the strategy both companies have and shared their personal experience.

You can access both companies latest Sustainability Reports here: Engie and/or Jumeirah


There is a misunderstanding over CSR maybe because it is such an emotionally loaded term.

It gives the impression that firms who do not have a CSR program in place are socially irresponsible. Could then CSR be about the core business functions of a company, and about the demands of stakeholders that companies should be held accountable for the social and environmental impacts of their operations? These days the public is raising its expectations of corporations: not just to make things less worse, but to solve social problems.

The problem lies with companies that remain trapped in an outdated approach to value creation.

Sustainability metrics are critical to a company’s credibility, transparency and endurance. Responsibility has never been more important or more appealing, but despite the growing interest, measurement seems to be failing. But when results are defined upfront and strategies are designed with specific results in mind, measuring these results is easy. One defining metric could be Risk Assessment as suggested by a member of the public.

In the end, the real driver for results seems to be value creation. Companies must take the lead in bringing business and society back together. Yet when companies lack a framework for guiding these efforts, they remain stuck in a “social responsibility” mind-set in which societal issues are not the real core.