Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become one of the standard business practices of present time. For companies committed to CSR, it means an enhanced image – a remarkable testimony to what they stand for in an otherwise cynical business world.
As Narrative Summit is approaching, we couldn’t find a more appropriate candidate to interview than one of the speakers, Ahmed Nagy, Director of Fundraising and Partnerships Sector at Zewail City of Science and Technology covering individuals, local & International corporate, local and international foundations and institutions and finally on Gulf and Middle East foundations and NFL’s (a nonprofit, independent city of learning, research and innovation). Following up on his successful career (we interviewed him back in 2012 and knew his potential), he talks about the fundraising process and how CSR is important for companies, nonprofits and employees alike.
Nagy has more than 20 years experience in hotels & tourism and development. He has previously worked with the European Union TVET program as Marketing Manager, Misr El kheir Foundation as Senior Manager and Head of the Fundraising Department, Arab African international Bank Foundation (We owe it to Egypt foundation) as Director of Fundraising and Partnerships. He is registered with the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and is currently completing his MBA from Northampton University, London.
What does non-government organization (NGO) mean?
The World Bank defines NGOs as “private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services or undertake community development”.
What is the role development organizations play?
Big development organizations seek to bridge the gap between beneficiaries and the government resources.
Who is the fundraiser?
A fundraiser is any person or organization, including a business that collects voluntary contributions of money ,in-kind donations or other resources from individuals, businesses, charitable foundations or governmental agencies for a beneficiary cause or thing–rather than solely for their own profit or commercial benefit.
What is CSR?
Corporate Social Responsibility is a management concept whereby companies achieve a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives (Triple-Bottom-Line- Approach), while at the same time addressing the expectations of shareholders and stakeholders.
There is a common misconception that NGOs and development organisations offer a very laid-back environment where retirees or non-disciplined young people work. While in fact work there is not easy and there are very tough targets to meet amid strict oversight from a number of ministries.
Others think that these organisations have an abundance of funds and projects. But the process is very difficult given the desperate need of beneficiaries these organizations serve. Also, nobody can imagine that there are more than 48,000 NGOs in Egypt, which means competition is very tough in terms of ways to gather donations. Even organisations that have sufficient funds carry out a large number of projects that go beyond the money available or better say the money they collect.
How can we explain a company in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility?
I believe from my own personal humble experience tnat donating companies should be classified in three types:
- The first type directly addresses CSR as a means of media blitz, publicity or PR. Also some of these companies might be facing a problem that negatively affects their public image and thus do not really care about what project they will donate to, but rather the advertisement and media hype the organisation will create for them. From my humble experience, I believe that this type of companies only enlists the help of NGOs to receive cosmetic solutions.
- Another type of companies considers CSR as a part of the company’s core values, better say the company’s DNA. Such companies have a separate budget for profitability and they similarly set a budget for development and non-profitable strategies. They have a firm belief that ‘the healthier the environment, the healthier the business’. I call this type “leading by example”.
- The third type is one we call ‘The Followers”. These are the companies that just follow the steps of competitors; they see how the market operates and just follow suit. You may find the same company interested in small-sized projects at one time and in water projects, hospitals or health projects another time. This type of companies cannot be tied up to a certain pattern of donations. It is hard to tell what project they will donate to.
Some companies prefer to work with a well-advertised association that is surrounded by media hype.
What are the facts only known to NGO practitioners?
With the recent rise in the number of development organizations as opposed to stationary contributors, development in my opinion has become like any other industry where competition is fierce.
While non-government and large development organisations are non-profitable, the business environment of such bodies is similar to that of any business where the resource development department sets a target that should be met. Efforts to achieve the target are even fiercer than usual at NGOs, given the urgency of some projects and the staff’s understanding of how important a service or a project is to beneficiaries.
With a growing number of NGOs and as the competition gets tougher, resource development staff are preferred to have corporate background which would make them familiar with budgets, target, budget deficit, etc. I personally prefer to choose people who have worked in hotel corporate sales because I believe that a fundraiser is an employee who sells a service to a donor. More importantly, the job is about maintaining the donator to guarantee they will donate the following years; this is what we call the after-sale service. Hotel sales staff are usually familiar with the process of following up with corporate clients and used to deal with the worst complains professionally. The effort made to obtain a new donor is much greater than that of marinating a current donor, and the effort made to restore a donor that an organisation has lost is greater than preserving that donor.
What’s your vision for developing social responsibility system in Egypt?
First, I’d like to highlight the definition of corporate social responsibility. It means that every organisation should carry out a responsibility of abiding by a code of ethics, a set of principles and transparency when dealing with shareholders, investors, employees, clients, suppliers, society and the environment–something that will eventually achieve growth, preserve rights and benefit all those parties.
I believe social responsibility system comprises of three main pillars: the state and the government institutions, companies and development organizations. These three pillars work hand in hand to bridge the gap between the state’s resources and the needs of the beneficiaries. It is very important to have social responsibility committees comprising representatives of these three pillars to ensure projects are not repeated or that a certain sector benefits at the expense of another and thus achieve utmost benefit to beneficiaries. Each committee should be in charge of a certain sector (a health committee, a communications committee, an energy and petroleum committee, etc) and each should have its own head.
Contributions by the private sector are still insufficient despite the huge profits achieved, how can CSR entrench itself and how can the business sector be encouraged to adopt CSR strategies?
I believe reluctance to adopt CSR strategies stem from a misconception that CSR means donations, charity contributions and non-profitable projects. CSR is not a burden. It is rather a new approach for making investment, trade and generating profits by carrying out development projects or offering products that are not harmful to health or environment (starting from the manufacturing phase all the way to consumption by consumers), in a manner that allows recycling and guarantees sustainability. It’s a win-win approach.
What is the vision of Zewail City for developing CSR?
Zewail City is Egypt’s national project for educational and research development under the auspices of President Sisi. No doubt that Education and scientific research are one of the major days s of Egypt’s deterioration and losing its leading position among the world , accordingly in Zewail”s City of Science and Technoligyvwe are dealing with the solution. We believe in specialization. We are driven by a vision based on two main elements: scientific research and education. In order to bring this vision into effect, we started to gather donations from companies (CSR), individuals, Arab countries and Arab communities living in the US and UK, as well as international organizations and donating bodies.
What is Zewail’s idea, aim or target?
Indeed, Egypt is a living testimony to the nexus between the power of knowledge and the progress of society. Nearly a thousand years ago, the Islamic civilization paved the way to the European Renaissance through contributions of scientific knowledge, and only two centuries ago under the visionary leadership of Mohammed Ali, Modern Egypt underwent a renaissance in education, culture and industry through interactions with Europe. Egypt became a regional industrial and military superpower, and reforms in education were crucial elements that brought about the renaissance.
The recent revolution has brought to the forefront insurmountable challenges on all levels and a strong drive for Egypt to move into the future with new strategies that will enable the country to reclaim its role on both the regional and global levels. The first part of the strategy is to build a new generation of leaders, scientists and entrepreneurs capable of having a significant impact on society. The second part of the strategy is to introduce new cutting edge fields of endeavor, which will align closely with market and national needs. Clearly, the creation of sustainable development through industries built on the outputs of scientific research requires a new system of education and scientific research. The vision behind Zewail City of Science and Technology, the “National Project for Scientific Renaissance”, was charted to capture Egyptians’ imagination and strategies and to demonstrate the power of science in building the future. Just as the Aswan Dam provided the power to build the industrial base, the National Project — in this age of science (Asr Al Alm) — must provide the power for the mind, as “Knowledge is the Light of Life”, and knowledge-based economy is the only way for improving national productivity.
The City is not in isolation. It must cooperate with existing governmental, non-governmental, societal and civic efforts in the general areas of scientific research.
In order to contribute significantly to Egypt’s development, the City has established a five-component structure that defines the path from university education to research and development and on to the local and global economy market.
In spite of the present economic hardships, Egyptians have decided to invest in the future. The government has provided the land and initial buildings for the national project. Egyptians inside and outside the country are continuing to make donations to the City, from 10 pounds by the children of this nation to millions of pounds from great Egyptians.
To date, the City has managed to attract world class scientists to join in this vision and to help Egypt become a major player in science and technology on the regional and global levels. Currently, research in fundamental physics, biomedicine, solar energy, nanotechnology and other fields is underway.
With the commitment of Egyptians to this national project, together with the cooperation with other research and educational institutions in the country and abroad, we are confident that we will succeed and prove the City’s motto “Egypt Can” during this historic epoch of Egypt and Arab awakening.
There is a long-term plan that we have embarked on and will announce progress in very soon. We often prefer to make plans public only when work is completed. To sum up, we have ‘promotional convoys’ that work to raise funds in Arab countries and some Western countries. Meanwhile, we lend special attention to corporate social responsibility in Egypt. Studies have shown a lack of awareness within business sector of the meaning of social responsibility; where only 4% percent of the respondents believe that the service may affect their business, while 25% percent doubt that. Corporate social responsibility is often linked to improved performance and higher profits. Several studies worldwide have revealed that organizations which adopt fair and balanced strategies for all parties involved are likely to achieve more growth, higher profits and greater sustainability than the companies that run their business traditionally to merely generate profit. Lately, a study by Harvard University showed that companies which employ corporate social responsibility achieve a four-fold growth compared to other companies. Statistics showed that 68% of customers prefer to buy and deal with companies that apply social responsibility principles. In my opinion, this is expected from a society that has become more aware of the rights of individuals and more familiar with the role some companies play in benefiting the society.
What about cooetation with civil society groups?
A number of deals have been signed and will be brought into force soon, the latest of which was signed last mont with Misr El kheir Foundation. We are always ready to enter into new agreements that will benefit the country.
Social responsibility is not only restricted to the outside world but should also targets staff, what are the services Zewail City offers to its employees?
At Zewail City, developing human resources is a key element of our work. This is done through a series of training programs aimed to improve the skills of our staff and unlock their potential. This helps improve their productivity and purchasing power, something that will eventually help bolster the country’s economy.
How do you see the role of CSR in developing society?
Let’s first identify the basic elements that indicate how strong an economy is.
These include total public spending and income, number of employees, unemployment and per capita income, business and trade activities, prices, currency rate and market stability as well as backing from governments and global statistics. It’s widely known that the performance of the business sector plays a significant role in the country’s economic conditions.
Corporate social responsibility means encouraging organizations to adopt fair and safe strategies. Companies that provide financial support to their staff and develop their potential, maintain stakeholders’ rights and promote their investment and carry out sustainable projects with social objectives can greatly contribute to boosting the country’s economy and promoting growth.
That said, sustainability can be achieved by adopting a win-win approach. Companies should think of how a service, a product or investments can serve society. For instance, CSR can be best represented in a company’s attempt to use raw materials from elements that can be recycled and its efforts to ensure that manufacturing techniques employed are not harmful to the environment.
For donations to Zeweil City: Account NO. 1000/1000 in all Egyptian Banks.