We debuted our global #LeadersForGood initiative in the UAE this week through an exclusive event in Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. The program aims to create a platform for prominent and influential leaders to come together from within the Middle East to network, connect and share best practices around how they are positively impacting their communities.
The members-only program was attended by French ambassador to the UAE H.E. Ludovic Pouille, Chalhoub Group CEO Patrick Chalhoub, Boeing MENA & Turkey President Bernard Dunn, The National Editor in Chief Mina Al Oraibi, Director of CSR at SAP MENA Batoul Husseini, CEO of Jameel Arts Centre Antonia Carver and Director of Media & Digital Transformation at Unilever MENA Asad Rehman.
We're introducing the initiative as one where these leaders can inspire others in the region to do good, not just on an organizational level but individually as well. Their causes can often be as powerful as the corporate cause itself. We see that the more those programs can be embodied with individuals, the more these messages really seem to hit home. So we want to empower leaders to be the conveyors of that message.
From diversity and inclusion, to digital literacy and youth job creation, the leaders shared best practices and challenges around corporate responsibility in the region.
In presence of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Tolerance, we had 22 French multinational companies join a UN initiative dedicated to gender equality and commit to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). But we need to create more momentum. These are basic commitments which many companies are probably already implementing. So we are planning another event to further build this program, because we know that this is an important issue in this country.
Although Chalhoub Group already engaged in corporate social responsibility when I joined the family business more than 20 years ago, I felt that we were trying to create a small group of people in order to finance some of the social responsibility to the community which was not creating real impact. We decided to shift perspective and reorganize the program to become the heart of the way we are doing business rather than a CSR program.
At SAP, we have launched several digital literacy workforce readiness initiatives. We rolled out an initiative in the region in 2015, where we introduced basic coding to refugees and hosted nationals in around 10 countries. As for the age group of 18 to 24 years who were interested in pursuing a career in IT, we started a 16 week coding bootcamp. So far we have 483 young men and women who have found gainful employment with an average salary of 1800$ per month, ten times the average salary of an IT university graduate. Employers include global and local companies such as Wikipedia, Amazon and Weather.com.
One of the programs that I’m proud of is with an organization called Light and Hope in Egypt. It trains visual impaired women with artistic skills such as playing instruments. They even went as far as creating a world class orchestra that has conducted concerts around the world. I personally am a big supporter of women empowerment and it’s encouraging to see a strong focus on women across our region. I believe women come with the right skills to succeed, all you need to do is give them an opportunity.
The Twitter #LeadersForGood event will be followed by a series of activities throughout the year to further build the community. It is planned to roll out globally in markets including Europe and North America.