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Social Entrepreneurship Has A Key Role To Play Enabling Our Business Ecosystem's Recovery After COVID-19 The way we do business has changed, and it has accelerated the need of sustainability becoming the core of company strategy, with direct impact on employees, customers, and suppliers.

By Dominique Ghazar

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Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been slowly making its way up the strategic priorities in corporates over the past decades. But many companies still approach CSR as a "nice to have," rather than "a must-have." But as awareness grows over the impact of CSR on the bottom line of successful businesses, the evolution is becoming a necessity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for all of us. It has been humbling to witness how this microscopic virus has disrupted our daily routines and businesses, but it has also shed a light on the harm modern life has put on our planet through pollution and loss of natural habitats. Now, the well-being of people, society, and our planet is at the forefront of everyday practices. The way we do business has changed, and it has accelerated the need of sustainability becoming the core of company strategy, with direct impact on employees, customers, and suppliers.

As a result, corporate sustainability teams are leading the effort to improve internal procedures and operations, as well as think about how organizations can have a positive impact on their surroundings.

At my company, HSBC, we have taken the lead in sustainable financing, where we use our core business to amplify the sustainability efforts of our clients and fund environmentally-friendly projects. However, beyond our core business functions, we have been investing in many programs over the years that help enable the communities around us to create a brighter future for themselves.

These initiatives, which focus on the development of future skills, social entrepreneurship, and providing opportunities to disadvantaged communities, have become even more essential during the outbreak. As many jobs were lost and the pace of digitization was ramped up, billions of people need to be empowered with new skills to succeed. In turn, corporates can play a very important role in supporting communities to recover from COVID-19 through impactful sustainability initiatives.

Related: Listen Up, Corporates: Working With Startups Is Not Your CSR

One example of such an initiative is Tatawwar, meaning "To Develop" in Arabic. It is an exciting, interactive program brought to you by HSBC in partnership with, which brings together students, teachers, parents, schools, and the business community to help innovate for a shared future. It allows students to showcase their innovative ideas that need to address one of three United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, which are Climate Action, Human Health and Well-Being, and Clean Water and Sanitation.

It also gives students the chance to practice important social business skills, understand sustainable commitments, connect with the corporate world, and hear from some extraordinary professionals along the way. The winners will get the once in a lifetime chance to showcase their innovative ideas at Expo 2020, which will be held in Dubai next year. By providing the youth with an opportunity to learn the end-to-end process of starting up a social business, and by giving them the tools to launch social enterprises, we can empower them and help shift the mindset from educating job seekers to educating job makers.

At HSBC, we are big believers that social entrepreneurship would present millions of opportunities and jobs around the world. We have supported many other programs that aim to develop sustainable business skills not just in youth but in existing businesses.

Through our partnership with Consult and Coach for a Cause(C3), we have launched the Social Impact Accelerator to help established entrepreneurs align their business models with sustainability opportunities. We have also supported TiE, which fosters entrepreneurship globally, to mentor sustainable businesses so they are ready to make use of the new market realities.

The disruption caused by COVID-19 has only reinforced and strengthened our efforts to develop the next generation of social enterprises. These enterprises will create jobs, come up with solutions to global challenges, and accelerate a new era of sustainable business practices. With all the pressure the pandemic has caused, we now have an opportunity to use it as an incentive to come together, and build a brighter and more sustainable future.

Related: Dubai Chamber: Prioritizing CSR Initatives Made Businesses Respond Better To The COVID-19 Crisis

Dominique Ghazar

Manager - Corporate Sustainability, HSBC

Dominique Ghazar is Manager - Corporate Sustainability at HSBC.

Dominique joined HSBC in 2009, and the Sustainability function at HSBC Bank Middle East in 2013.  Dominique has been responsible for the development, planning, delivery, and implementation of major sustainability projects in accordance with HSBC’s standards across the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey. As of 2018, Dominique began to lead the implementation of the global strategy to support the development of future skills and entrepreneurship across the Middle East region.

Previously, Dominique has worked for the UN with the Italian contingent in Lebanon where she supported the community development team in their mandate. It was during this time she developed her passion for community development.

Dominique holds a certificate in Sustainability Business Management and a postgraduate certificate in Sustainability in The  Value Chains from the University of Cambridge.

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