Managing CSR projects and programmes in the UAE

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an increasingly influential concept, which is usually claimed to be implemented more in the West than in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and MENA region, where it is portrayed as less developed and philanthropic. This research investigates developments of CSR in the UAE revealing different levels of awareness, engagement, and implementation. The study consists of data analysed from 29 interviews with CSR representatives of UAE-based organisations from 2011 to 2016, and a case study of a strategic youth engagement CSR programme. The varying degrees of sophistication and programmification of CSR activities in the UAE reveals a more developed stage of maturity than is implied in the literature. The use of project management to organise, implement, align and monitor CSR activity provides knowledge relevant to the UAE but also other countries. The study shows organisations with project management skills and governmental links are in a better position and under more pressure to undertake strategic CSR activity that is sustainable. Organisations linked to governmental organisations or leadership seem more aligned to national goals and so are more influenced to undertake strategic CSR activity that will contribute to these goals. CSR activity that is strategic seems to be projectised to achieve these goals as well. The research addresses a lack of knowledge on developments of CSR in the UAE, including the use of project management as a means to implement strategic CSR activity. Strategic CSR itself has not been associated with the region before, however the examination of CSR projects and programmes in the UAE has revealed that there are cases of CSR being strategically managed to achieve and contribute to organisational and not only social goals. Implications for project management theory drawn from the study include the application of project management to CSR activity, the CSR and PM theories are somewhat linked in the available literature, however not to the degree of which is presented in this study. The study provides an example of CSR and PM directly integrated to maximize success and achievement of organizational goals. Pellegrinelli (2002, p. 229) states that “Emergent thinking on programme management best practice has focused on the internal context, namely the marshalling of projects and resources to achieve the desired strategic and/or synergy benefits.” Most importantly, this research demonstrates the positive influence project management can have on implementation of CSR. The study sheds light on the institutional factors such as government pressure and peer pressure that influence the way CSR is perceived and managed in organisations in the UAE. Studying these factors in more depth will allow us to understand more on the way CSR in the UAE is developing and how it might be expedited further towards sustainable development. This area is recommended for future research; to produce more specific theory on institutional drivers that could further develop the CSR landscape.
CSR projects, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), project management