By Fathi Buhazza
Question: Why should businesses in the Middle East embrace the concept of social corporate responsibility?
A look at the history of social corporate responsibility
The increasingly popular concept of corporate social
responsibility (CSR) is nothing new. It started in the 1970s and has woven its
way into the fabric of companies and corporations the world over. Some argue
that it is a moral responsibility to broaden the perspective of companies and
align their values and behaviours with something good. On the other hand, some
argue that it’s a window-dressing, hypocrisy, or means to garner good public
relations. Undoubtedly this debate will run and run, but maybe in the midst of
challenging economic times, it is time to think out of the box, to reinvent
Offering a helping hand even in difficult market conditions
Any reinvention will require a change of perspective. For
business, improving lives and achieving commercial success should not be at
odds. They are undoubtedly linked. Business should no longer be based on
financial targets alone and CSR should no longer be viewed as dislocated from
this. The two can go hand-in-hand in a sustainable business model. But how can
the Middle East airfreight industry help, and
moreover how can it help during harsh economic times, when profit margins are
looming high on the agenda?
The importance of logistical coordination on a larger scale
As one of the UAE Red Crescent’s partners, Maximus Air Cargo
has gained first-hand experience of the devastation associated with natural
disasters. Our experience in humanitarian missions led me to consider how on a
larger scale our industry could co-ordinate to alleviate suffering and offer
help whilst still meeting bottom lines. Interestingly, the aviation industry
travels with 4 million tonnes of empty space from 3400 airports across 220
countries. This means only 70% of loading capacity is utilised. If just 0.0003%
of this empty space were to be filled with rice then we could feed
approximately 5 million people. In a world where 13% of the world’s population
go hungry and natural disasters require rapid response, then these facts are
ironically food for thought.
Launching ‘care by air’ as a humanitarian relief initiative
I decided that an initiative within the framework of a
sustainable business model was the answer. The result was the birth of ‘Care by
Air’ as a humanitarian relief initiative that offers logistical support through
a network of partners in the industry. And key to this initiative is an innovative
and sustainable business model, the ‘at cost’ principle, which ultimately has
tangible benefits for all stakeholders.
What the innovative ‘at cost’ approach means to participants
In basic terms, the ‘at cost’ principle means no losses will
be incurred by those assisting in a humanitarian concern, in essence it is
sustainable from a commercial point of view.
For example, using unutilised cargo space ultimately means the cost of
fuel and mileage decreases and profit increases. What’s more, we can apply this innovative
concept more broadly across the board, for example airports, cargo companies
and even fuel suppliers. This can involve donating empty space on flights at
cost, waiving handling, landing or parking fees, or discounting fuel prices.
The impact of csr schemes on global relief organisations
This assistance is invaluable for relief organisations. Not
only does it help save millions of lives through an increase in relief flights
and a reduced lead-time, but it gives relief organisations much needed exposure
and support through the partners’ networks and marketing activities. With these
concepts in place, we launched ‘Care by Air’ at the Dubai Air Show in November
2009. We set up websites, developed logos and gave it the apt tag line “A helping
hand from the UAE”.
Developing a wider network of partners for continued success
The founding partners
were Maximus Air Cargo, Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) and Etihad. In
addition, the likes
of UAE Red Crescent and the World Food Programme (WFP) were quick to support.
The journey has just begun and its time to welcome others from our industry
onboard. I sincerely hope this column encourages interest and opens the doorway
to our industry uniting to do good. With this in mind, I hope that next time I
write an article for Logistics Middle East, I can share more rewarding stops
along our way.
Fathi Buhazza, is the CEO of Maximus Air Cargo and founder of Care by Air.For all the latest transport news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.