Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan – November 22, 2016 – AUK president Dr. Michael Mulnix welcomed government officials, corporate representatives, and community members to the event, praising the university’s business faculty for its commitment to raising public awareness.
Mulnix, whose own background is in marketing, explained why corporations had adopted more relationship-oriented strategies, “It costs a lot of money to lose customers. It’s smarter business in the long run to keep a customer over time.”
Governor Farhad Atrushi submitted that corporations have a social obligation to provide for the common welfare. “In no country can the public sector do everything. We have to be aware of that. When Marxist governments attempt this, the private sector is stifled.” He added that because free-market governments usually promote business-friendly policies, companies have a greater responsibility to give back to the community.
According to Dr. Enakshi Sengupta, dean of AUK’s business department, the relatively recent field of ‘corporate social responsibility,’ or CSR, has its roots in “paternalistic attitudes” of the Industrial Revolution. However, she explained that “[corporations] are not here to do charitable work. The modern concept of CSR is responsible business.”
AUK business professor Vijay Kapur discussed strategic issues in CSR. He claimed that by investing in education, companies can ensure they have “the right kind of people – human capital – for [their] industry.” He also noted that successful CSR projects consider what social needs best match company capabilities and resources.
Ayad Abdulhalim, Chair of the Duhok Chamber of Commerce, dismissed the notion that CSR programs apply only to underdeveloped economies. “In the US, giant corporations know they have a responsibility to the community. CSR is not just for economies in crisis,” a reference to the KRG’s current economic difficulties.
Representatives from several regional corporations discussed their companies’ current CSR projects. Jalal Sabri and Dlawar Mashoud of UB Holding and Al Ameen group, respectively, said their companies are actively involved in building schools. According to Agid Saeed of Korek Telecom, his company runs an apprenticeship program as well as workshops on CV writing and other application skills. Dana Mustafa of AD Media Agency said that, in addition to supporting young artists, his company makes public service announcement videos raising awareness for health, environmental, and women’s issues. Hishyar Bamerni of Hunt Oil said his company has committed to women’s education initiatives.
“In Kurdistan’s CSR game,” began Shaho Hussein Salih, advisor in the Ministry of Natural Resources, “there are three main players: the company, the government, and the local community.” He contended that energy companies “are able to help the people in the area[s]” where they do work. While Salih acknowledged there are no laws compelling companies to offer CSR programs, he said that his ministry relies heavily on local authorities to hold corporations in their districts accountable. In addition, he works closely with the region’s energy companies, and the Ministry of Natural Resources monitors their activities.
The economy of Iraqi Kurdistan has been under serious strain since 2014 amid low oil prices, regional conflict, and budgetary disputes with Baghdad. At a time when many government benefits have been curtailed, many in the region are turning to the private sector for solutions.
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