BEIRUT: CSR Lebanon held its 6th annual convention Thursday at the Phoenicia Hotel, as part of an ongoing examination of the impact of social programs on corporate success.
The forum discussed how businesses are looking for various ways to currently integrate social impact programs into their business plans. While corporate social responsibility is still a growing trend, there have been some Lebanese corporations have been pioneers in transforming their business by incorporating CSR into the basis of their strategy.
Keynote speaker, Khaled Kassar, CEO and founder of CSR Lebanon, discussed the ongoing efforts of the organization in introducing the concept of corporate social responsibility to local business sectors.
He also announced the launching of the organization's, "First national CSR report for businesses that includes recommendation on better corporate social responsibility practices."
Saad Azhari, chairman and general Manager of BLOM bank spoke about how the bank aims at incorporating social responsibilities programs, including those with humanitarian benefits. He noted the bank's special credit card that helps in removing mines and cluster bombs by providing a small monetary amount upon each transaction done by a customer toward this program. This work of removing in mines is sponsored by the Lebanese Army.
The same can be said of the "BLOM Shabab" (teenagers) initiative for educational guidance. This program has benefited more than 250,000 young men and women who aim at starting businesses. This in return has been helping to create more job opportunities, and decrease the rate of emigration from Lebanon.
"Our goal is to try and to help citizens academically, economically, and socially. We have to help the citizens pursue their dreams without any obstructions. We are responsible to help push for this model that would vastly improve this nation's capabilities," he added.
Fadlo Khoury, the president of the American University of Beirut was the next speaker in line. He said that CSR is a key part of AUB's mission.
He noted that Lebanon is undergoing a brain drain, whereby it is necessary to build character and economic empowerment by creating loans for students. Beirut is an intellectual capital, and AUB along with other universities should be part of the solution for a bright future for youth. Education should be the great equalizer to be able to ensure worthy students to get a job.
"And we would like to extend our hands to other units, banks and NGOs to be better than today, it is time to step beyond our comfort zone," Khoury said.
Riad Salameh, Governor of the Central Bank, noted that socially responsible activities and their positive effects pave way for a better global economic structure. These type of initiatives were the beginning of several CSR-oriented corporate world changes, especially after the 2008 crisis. On a global-scale, he said, the CSR issue resulted in challenges to rebuild the trust in the business sector, but they overcame that through focusing on social and ethical performance.
The Lebanese Central Bank has prioritized CSR such as working with the banking sector to increase the availability of loans for the development of CSR initiatives. "Banks and financial institutions in general have been keen on following their social performance in a bid to restore confidence in the business world," Salameh said.
Organizations including L'ecoute Recyclable, The Little Engineer, LLWB, AUBMC and Unite Lebanese Youth project took part in the CSR forum exposition.
In parallel educational panels took place such as one examining the importance of CSR cooperation between businesses, NGOs, trade unions and governments. Another panel looked into how financial sector performance can be increased using CSR mentods, with a particular focus on discussing the role of youth in the finance sector.
CSR Lebanon, in its educational material, ask rhetorically, "Reputation is everything. How much is yours worth?"
Certainly, a question to consider.
An attendee, Yehia Mourad, said that the CSR forum was very useful in informing on ways to improve businesses through corporate social responsibility.
"CSR Lebanon has gone a long way, and I believe their persistence will pay-off in more responsible corporations and banks, in turn, creating a better, brighter future," Mourad said.
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