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Raising the bar for community impact

Founded in 1976 by royal decree and 70% government owned, Riyadh based SABIC is already one of the world’s largest petrochemical manufacturers with over 40,000 employees working in 50 countries.

The company’s aim was to use the by-products of oil extraction to produce value added commodities such as chemicals, polymers and fertilisers in order to create new industries allowing developing Saudi Arabia to diversify and develop. With production in 1985 of 6.3 million metric tons (mmt) rising to 69 mmt by the end of 2012, SABIC is one of the world’s fastest growing companies and today remains committed to further expansion.

With manufacturing plants in the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific and research hubs in the USA, Western Europe, Saudi Arabia, Southeast and Northeast Asia, SABIC is also in a prime position to make a positive global impact with its corporate citizenship initiatives.

Having invested some SAR 2.7 billion (£477 million or US$719) over the past ten years in supporting education, healthcare, community development and environmental protection initiatives, SABIC, like many leading corporations, is now focusing on active involvement in addition to traditional chequebook philanthropy such as donations and sponsorships.

Employee Volunteer Programmes (EPVs), whereby employees are encouraged to get involved in local non-profit or charity programmes, often during working hours, are win-win initiatives. Not only do they make a real impact on the local community as well as giving the company a personal presence in the community and promoting the company’s corporate image, but they also promote valuable soft skills in employees such as leadership, team building, problem solving, mentoring and communication, often at far less cost than traditional leadership training programmes. In addition, corporate volunteering engenders a sense of pride and wellbeing in the employee, promoting engagement, reducing staff turnover and attracting new recruits.

SABIC already recognises the importance of employees, through their volunteer activities around the globe, acting as ambassadors in their communities. The company encourages staff in each of its business regions to participate in SABIC-sponsored events, opportunities to volunteer during specified work hours and incentives for employees to do community service on their own time – reflecting the company’s “culture of giving.”

The challenge, however, is to identify opportunities which both reflect the company’s values and at the same time inspire employee engagement. Having identified food and water security, urbanisation, population growth and environmental stewardship as the key challenges facing today’s world, SABIC this year launched its RAISE programme to enhance employees’ opportunities to participate in community service.

RAISE is a strategy that ensures that volunteer projects reflect both SABIC’s corporate identity and employees’ interests by guiding, organising and streamlining the company’s community involvement and investment in order to address employee-nominated community needs and create a lasting, positive, socially responsible impact.

RAISE highlights four priority focus areas that align with SABIC’s global business strategy and 2025 Corporate vision: science and technology education; water and sustainable agriculture; environmental protection; and health and wellness. At employee level, RAISE provides for the development of regional committees. These regional committees allow local and regional input about community needs whilst enabling SABIC to ensure that these initiatives align with the company’s global vision and strategy.

During certain periods throughout the year, SABIC employees are encouraged to submit their CSR project ideas to the RAISE committee in their business regions. With support from the Corporate CSR team, these committees evaluate CSR opportunities by scoring them on whether and how well they meet the RAISE evaluation criteria and how well they align with the four priority focus areas. Projects that receive a threshold score are considered for funding.

Finally, the programme measures and evaluates SABIC’s CSR efforts on a quarterly basis, examining initiatives by criteria such as focus area, geography and financial commitments. This allows the company to fine tune initiatives and respond to community needs on a real time basis. Measuring impact, not just output, is a unique component of RAISE.

Examples of SABIC employee-lead projects include the SABIC Science Caravan, the Global, the Blood Drive in India, the Back to School Campaign and the SABIC Health Beacon.

The Science Caravan’s purpose was to promote the spirit of scientific research among future generations by offering a series of interactive programs, workshops and science experiments in chemistry, mathematics, space, innovation, and information technology. Staffed by some 500 volunteers, the Caravan passed through seven cities in Saudi Arabia – Riyadh, Al-Ahsa, Al-Khobar, Jubail, Yanbu, Jeddah, and Madinah – and was visited by over 25,000 students.

More than 3,500 people, from SABIC employees to students, took part in the Global Waste Free Environment Campaign in three countries and five cities – Riyadh, Jubail and Yanbu in Saudi Arabia; Sittard in The Netherlands; and Cape Town in South Africa – collecting and recycling waste.

In India, SABIC selected World Blood Day, June 14, around which to organise a blood drive awareness campaign to promote blood donation. The drive encouraged residents in six Indian cities to help address the country’s shortage by donating blood and brought together thousands of participants including SABIC employees, neighbouring companies, customers, suppliers, and local residents.
Back to School is a worldwide drive coinciding with the start of the school year. More than 80,000 primary and middle school students are provided with bags of basic school supplies and the programme also includes student workshops on chemistry and technology and volunteer efforts to repair schools and repaint classrooms.

In Riyadh, twenty five public and private partners participated in the SABIC Health Beacon which saw some 15,000 visitors engage in an innovative event promoting the importance of adopting practices for health living.

With RAISE, SABIC is now able to to embed social responsibility on a global scale while meeting the needs of the communities where the company operates and its employees live. This expands the company’s commitment to a a robust, integrated and measurable CSR global program.

Through the unique process to determine RAISE projects, employees are engaged in the company’s CSR initiatives and add value in terms of their subsequent volunteer efforts as well as their commitment to a company that values employee involvement.

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