Queen Rania urges members of ASLG to focus on social equity and youth employability during times of economic hardship

National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia launches first sustainability report by Arab financial institution

November 03, 2008

(Office of Her Majesty, Press Department – Amman) Lead by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, twenty two representatives from some of the Middle East’s most progressive organizations came together in Amman this week for a two day meeting on how corporations and non-governmental organizations can best serve their shareholders and stakeholders by balancing profit with environmental protection, and equal opportunity.

 The 22-member strong Arab Sustainability Leadership Group (ASLG) held their second official meeting to discuss ways to embed sustainability in an organization’s structure, how to lobby governments to improve policy, and ways to further advance the mission of spreading the sustainability ethos across the Middle East. Noting that “ASLG is becoming a standard bearer for sustainability,” Her Majesty urged the members to keep up the meeting’s momentum as they return to their bases across the Middle East. Her Majesty also encouraged the members to maintain their commitments to social equity and to focusing on youth employment and employability in the region, warning that these issues should not be abandoned during economic hardships. “Issues like unemployment, climate change, and access to education don’t vanish in an economic downturn,” she said, “But addressing these issues can both spur growth and tackle long-term challenges because our economic, environmental and social systems are so interconnected” Group members pledged to tap into the existing sustainability networks within each of their own countries to bring them in under the bigger ASLG mandate as they work towards promoting sustainable business practices in the Arab world. Their goal is to add at least 50 new members within the year to the group. With increased membership the ASLG will work quicker to change mindsets about sustainability and reporting, to increase public awareness of the benefits of reporting to companies and the public, and to discuss innovative ways of how to promote these issues. Formed by Queen Rania earlier this year, the group is open to all organizations based in the Arab region that are committed to the principles of sustainability. Members agree to work towards the goals of ASLG, including adopting a strategy to implement sustainability management within their organizations, and having a plan in place to produce sustainability reports within a reasonable timeframe.During the meeting the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia launched its first Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) checked sustainability report, making it the first financial institution and bank to release this mid-year report in the Middle East. Sustainability reports provide institutions with the means to prove they are being responsible, accountable and transparent. Companies and organizations are encouraged to balance profit with environmental protection and equal opportunity. Earlier this year, Queen Rania urged companies to chart progress and outline their goals in a sustainability report for all concerned stakeholders Launched by Her Majesty, the Arab Sustainability Leadership Group is the first of its kind from the region to commit to sustainability and reporting. During Monday’s discussion, the group noted the value of including government partners to the group. By combining government, private sector and civil society, it becomes easier to cut through bureaucracy and red tape and create a more business-friendly environment for corporations.