Reem Al Tajer

A strategic approach to CSR – an interview with Reem Al Tajer, CSR Partner

BMMI has always been committed to being a responsible corporate citizen that supports its people, and the economic development and social wellbeing of the countries where it operates. Over the past few years, the Group’s CSR initiatives were aligned into a more strategic approach to ensure sustainable positive impact on how the organisation conducts business and supports the community. One of BMMI's key people leading these initiatives is BMMI’s CSR Partner, Reem Al Tajer. The Corporate Communications and Marketing team recently sat down with Reem to learn more about CSR at BMMI. 

We hear a lot about CSR in the corporate world these days, but what does it really mean?

For BMMI, CSR extends beyond responsibility from the traditional sense. We’re not necessarily fully there yet, but I like to think that our work departs from just ticking boxes, or only adhering to legal responsibilities and requirements.

There’s no denying that CSR does give you a competitive advantage. Each company has its own set of objectives, and essentially, it must consider shareholder interest in everything that it does. This includes making sure it hits those targets, generating profit, strategizing its marketing, and most importantly, managing its people. It’s all about building business longevity and ensuring sustainability. This is exactly why BMMI has a very clear mission and guiding principles that steer the way it operates.

These past years have been a true turning point for our CSR work, with it evolving from a simply ‘nice to have’ concept to a more strategic priority across the Group. In fact, the whole region has come to realise that green-washing days are over. It’s now not strange for many organisations to have genuine ethical and CSR initiatives to support the business, which also have a positive impact on its bottom line and its standing in the community and the market.

What guides BMMI’s CSR strategy?

BMMI is not just about business, we are also about our people and the communities in which we operate. We have continued to invest heavily in our CSR programmes; and our CSR policy, Nourishing Life, was built exactly on that basis. It helps ensure we continue to challenge ourselves and deliver value to the communities we serve in a structured and strategic way.

For those of you who are not familiar with Nourishing life, the policy is driven by 75 commitments which are continuously reviewed and revised, under three overlapping themes: truth, zero waste and well-being.

This year we aim to revisit our policy, together with all our people, and not in isolation, in order to make sure we remain relevant together. For example, one thing we are currently debating is replacing ‘zero-waste’ with ‘care’. This is after we heard from various stakeholders that the aspect of care, with the broader sense of the word, is really important to them. Care encompasses our commitment to our people, communities and the environment, and constantly being conscious of the impact of our actions.

We don’t just want to do things because they are easy, and we don’t want to do anything that is not related to who we really are. Ultimately, the hope is to integrate our CSR work into everything that we do so that we can add more value and ensure that all our initiatives are sustainable.

How do we ensure transparency when it comes to CSR?

Today, regular communication has been developed across BMMI and the wider community about our social impact, what we are doing and why. In-line with our first corporate value, honesty, we’re always committed to being transparent in sharing this progress with you all, through various channels.

One of these main channels is our annual Communication on Progress (COP). BMMI is one of the few companies in Bahrain to produce an annual COP report on the Group’s progress towards the United Nations’ Global Compact’s 10 principles. It outlines what measures and initiatives we implemented over the year, as well as their results. This publication is shared on our own website and on the website of the UN Global Compact, ensuring maximum transparency.

Furthermore, for our team, we make sure to regularly communicate in our internal newsletters about CSR initiatives, concepts and share tips towards being conscious of acting responsibly.

How do we choose the initiatives we support?

Across the business community, certain initiatives are unfortunately more of a form of ‘one-off’ philanthropy rather than a long-term project with strategic focus. However, we believe that CSR initiatives should always align to business strategy.

It’s really about intuition and common sense.  It might not always be simple to create alignment with our bottom line impact but we strive to make sure we achieve this.  Take the example of reducing food waste. It fits directly with our core business processes and enables us to foster positive impact. This means that although we are tackling a present community need, we’re also addressing the underlying issue of waste and what it pertains. It’s a win-win situation.

Our team constantly reviews initiatives and seeks relevant partnerships. From supporting individuals with disabilities to gain transferable job skills through the Employment Facilitation Training Service (EFTS) programme, to our focus on food waste reduction through our continued collaboration with Conserving Bounties - we’ve strategised the way we support our communities, our environment and our people.

Do CSR responsibilities fall to one department or one person in the organisation?

Definitely not! For CSR to be seamlessly and sustainably integrated across our business it needs input and action from every single one of us. That’s the only way it will become the way we do things, rather than an add-on.

I genuinely believe that together, there is massive opportunities to do more as one team. Responsibility and sustainable thinking need to be things that we are all accountable for collectively. The biggest social impact the company can make is through the business itself rather than through CSR activities. At the end of the day, you are the expert in your field or area, and you are best equipped to think about how to integrate CSR in a way that is sustainable and makes sense to your work.

This can take a multitude of forms, from things like procedures, responsible sourcing, supplier selection, best case practice implementation, the ability to host programmes to support employment of a diverse range of people, promoting fairness and inclusivity to avoiding waste – the possibilities are limitless if we think together. Even the small things we do every day can have a major impact, such as recognising another coworker or someone in our community. By living our values in that way, we are also reinforcing our commitment to each other.  Through our values, our core purpose, investments and jobs created, we can nourish our communities and people every single day.

Being responsible for CSR, I am here to advise and support, and need your input to think of what makes sense to your area of operation. We will continue to search for opportunities to nourish and make a greater impact as a responsible corporate citizen first and foremost.

Inclusivity is something we truly believe in, and we ask for your continued feedback and partnership. Together, our focus will be to revisit our policy in 2019 and engage in stakeholder feedback to ensure our pillars are relevant and ones that you will be proud to support. That’s the only way to make CSR at BMMI even more impactful.

2 Responses to “A strategic approach to CSR – an interview with Reem Al Tajer, CSR Partner”

  1. May 15, 2019 at 11:35 am, Gordon said:

    Reem is a real trooper who brings the focus & commitment to this very important aspect of who & what BMMI are. Fantastic! Well done, Gordon


  2. May 16, 2019 at 9:55 am, Reem said:

    Thank you for your kind words Gordon! I really enjoyed your recent piece in the GDN- and I completely agree, its also up to us as individuals to change our behaviour and think twice especially when we make purchases. Always looking forward to reading more of your insightful columns.


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