The true meaning of corporate social responsibility

Much has been said about social responsibility, community service and sustainability. But to really understand the meaning of good corporate citizenship, perhaps we need to take a few steps back.


Corporate social responsibility started becoming mainstream in the early 1970s, although aspects of social responsibility were already the subject of actions by organizations and governments as far back as the late 19th century. Social responsibility programs reflect the expectations of society at a particular time and are thus constantly evolving. As the needs and concerns of society evolve, expectations from organizations also change to reflect these needs.

In times of economic and financial stress, societies become more vulnerable, thus the need for increased focus on the bigger meaning of social responsibility. Early notions of social responsibility was limited to philanthropy and charity giving, but the concept has since expanded to include employment practices, fair operating practices, consumer protection, countering fraud, community development and environmental sustainability.

What is social responsibility?

Today around the world, social responsibility is defined as the willingness of an organization to incorporate social and environmental considerations in its decisions and be accountable for the impact of its decisions and actions on society and the environment. This implies that social responsibility takes into account the interests of stakeholders, is integrated throughout the organization, and is practiced in its relationships.

This is a far cry from the popular belief that social responsibility is simply giving back to the community. This definition recognizes that every organization has many stakeholders and that it has a responsibility towards all of them.

How does sustainability relate to social responsibility?

Sustainability has three inter-related dimensions: economic, social and environmental. This is why social responsibility is closely linked to sustainability. However, these two terms should not be used interchangeably. Sustainability sums up the broader expectations of society. As such, the over-arching objective of any social responsibility agenda should be to contribute to sustainability.

What are Samba’s CSR contributions?

Our balanced scorecard management framework constantly seek to understand the needs of our stakeholders and balance these with the expectations of our shareholders, customers, employees, regulators and the whole community. Because social responsibility concerns the potential and actual impact of the organization’s decisions and actions, Samba’s day-to-day activities constitute the most important behavior to be addressed, making social responsibility an integral part of our core strategy.

Samba has been living and practicing the principles of social responsibility such as accountability, ethical behavior, respect for the rule of law, respect for interests of stakeholders, transparency, and respect for international norms well before these were internationally formalized as core CSR principles.

Here are a few examples of our actions and practices:

  • Predictable and sustained returns to shareholders
  • Group’s ratings by top credit rating agencies
  • Operational efficiency ratios
  • Risk management policies
  • New to Bank customers
  • Range of products offered to all customer segments
  • Convenience of services offered on alternate channels
  • Compliance programs
  • Loyalty programs
  • Samba Alerts
  • Customer profiling for investment products
  • Customer inquiries and problem handling
  • Customer satisfaction surveys
  • Staff benefits such as cash flow loans, saving scheme and share participation plans.
  • Staff training and development
  • Management Associate Program.
  • Medical Insurance
  • Ethical Behavior Policies
  • Two-week mandatory leave policy
  • Operational and Service KPIs
  • Fraud Management Policies
  • Customer Confidentiality and Privacy
  • Policies related to Intellectual property rights
  • Procurement Policies (such as 3 bid policy)
  • Building Management Systems
  • Increased legal due diligence (i.e. sign-off on all contracts for the group)

How do we apply a social lens to business activities?

Based on our activities as a business, everything we do has a social dimension which affects our various shareholders in many ways. If we look at these activities again through a social lens, consider the predictable and sustained dividend payments and the resilience of our share price. Think of product and service choices our customers enjoy, the convenience of being served 24X7, how we value our relationships through loyalty programs, our strict policies to protect the privacy and wealth of our customer, how we address their needs, and how we respond to feedback on our service performance. Moreover, given that a fundamental principle of social responsibility is respect for the rule of law, we take great pride in our relationship with regulators and never compromise on regulatory compliance. We believe that the training and development of our staff offer choices for growth, financial rewards and improvement to quality of life for our staff and their families. We believe that purchasing from local suppliers supports the local economy. Our procurement policies ensure fairness and transparency in major purchasing decisions. We respect intellectual property rights within the group and we fight pirated software. We are meticulous about properly drafted contracts to protect not only our rights, but also, the rights of our counterparts who represent segments within our society. Last but not least, the electronic archiving of documents and reports help us save paper and reduce the impact of our operations on the environment.

What about the community?

We are also a stakeholder in the community, sharing a common interest. There are constituents whose interests and needs we try to respond to, who are also part of the community. These are our customers, shareholders, employees, regulators, suppliers, and vendors. By engaging in responsible, balanced and sustainable operations and practices, we ultimately seek to foster development and progress for the community and improve the quality of life of the people we touch. Just reflect on our track record in profitability and support of the local economy, innovation, automation, efficiency, training and development, compliance, risk management, partnerships, and ethical practices to name a few. Our leadership in these fields has contributed to the strengthening of the community by continuously raising competitive boundaries. There is also the community at large with whom we have no direct relationship but whose support we need. Charitable giving was and will continue to be part of our involvement in the community. This is further supported by programs that invest in community development and responds to national priorities. Job creation and/or employability are key drivers of community development Hence, our focus has been on sponsorship of training programs to arm young Saudi graduates with soft and technical skills to boost their chances of landing their first jobs. The results on the ground have shown that not only was this a noble premise but also an achievable one. Many of those who completed their pre-employment training sponsored by us were hired by leading companies in the kingdom. We will continue to offer these programs and seek ways to do more in the field of job creation and employability.

Our staff also support our corporate citizenship journey in a number of ways, celebrating their contributions to the communities and taking pride in it.