Contractors top the CSR hit list

Corporate social responsibility for workers and environment lacking in construction industry, says ethics survey

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By  Angela Giuffrida Published  November 18, 2006

Local contractors have topped a list of the worst offenders for ignoring business ethics and corporate social responsibility. A total of 111 construction companies responded to the survey, which was conducted by the Dubai Ethics Resource Centre (DERC). UAE construction companies must improve conditions for labourers as well as show more respect towards health and safety and the environment if they are to survive in the long term, according to Alex Zalami, executive director, DERC. The study addressed issues including human rights, health and safety, the environment and financial transparency. And it found that although companies are aware of corporate responsibility practices, they are not yet investing in ensuring that these are followed. “We were not surprised to find the construction industry lagging behind others,” said Zalami. “The primary challenges that the industry faces relate to respect of workers and fair labour practices. There is a lot of pressure on the industry as a whole to pay attention to this – we are by no means pioneers in raising these issues, but for the sake of business sustainability, if companies want to be around in five to 10 years from now, then these issues need to be addressed seriously.” Other areas in which construction companies were found to be lagging behind were respect for the environment, in terms of instigating and monitoring environmental impact assessments, as well as transparency in financial transactions. According to the findings, only 64% of companies questioned disclosed financial results. “Typically, you find that sectors that have a high level of client contact tend to be more aware about business ethics, being fair and honest in their transactions and not discriminating against employees, because they are keen to protect their brand,” added Zalami. “Whereas within sectors that do not have to interact with end-users, and construction is a classic example, awareness about these issues is not typically very high.”

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