We know what it means to be socially responsible: to act in a way that demonstrates awareness of the environmental and social impact of our actions. But what if certain actions are better than others?

There is a common misconception that social responsibility is the same as doing a good deed. Social responsibility—sometimes referred to as corporate social responsibility—is the framework that suggests that corporations (and individuals) have an obligation to act for the benefit of society, not just their own gain, and that they must work toward maintaining a balance between the economy and the ecosystem around us.

In the past few years, the concept of social responsibility has grown in popularity in our region. Many companies have embraced it, as it has laid the framework for sustainable projects to be developed and enabled companies to continuously give back to the community instead of relying on charitable events that are often “one-offs.”

Wاhat qualifies as a socially responsible project?

The grey area lies in this question: “What qualifies as a socially responsible project?” I will answer this with examples I’ve seen while driving around Bahrain.

In one of the expat-dominated communities, there was a “car boot sale” event going on during the weekend. I was surprised at the number of sponsors that were supporting this event, and these were not small companies. Don’t get me wrong—I have nothing against a car boot sale when I want to declutter my home, but I don’t see this type of activity as the most effective means for corporations to spend their funds if the goal is to help the community.

On the other hand, as I was getting lost in another oceanfront area of our beautiful island, I came across a hospital that was built by a corporation that has been in Bahrain for years. This hospital is not new, and yet it was clean, organized, and fully functional, serving hundreds of people. This is an example of a socially responsible project that will be around for years to come, serving hundreds, if not thousands, of people in our community.

…Each and every one of us can play a role, whether as an indiviual who is part of a laeger organization, or as an organization in its entirety.

I am not suggesting that we should all go and build hospitals, but each and every one of us can play a role, whether as an individual who is part of a larger organization, or as an organization in its entirety. We choose what we can do with our resources—our time and money. We can encourage the development of sustainable projects within our organizations. We can direct our individual efforts and free time to projects that have growth potential and can be maintained and improved.

Most companies have a yearly budget to spend on “good deeds.” Many companies participate (or encourage their employees to participate) in community events, like the annual marathon in which hundreds of companies are represented. This is a clear example that shows us that people want to be engaged in the community! What we need to do is direct our efforts in the most effective and efficient way possible in order to serve the community in a socially responsible way.

Every person can make a difference—even in a small way.

By: Dina Shabib