Perennial sustainability

As I woke up to my 37th birthday and hugged my boys, my modest ambition of wanting to live until my 120th birthday came back, nagging…

Nagging and knocking for action. For sustainability.

As we were heading to the school bus stop, I took a closer look to my neighbours and realised that for years, these people have been doing the same exact thing every morning.

Recurrent patterns…

Reassuring sequence…

The “system’s sustainability”. Keep everything and everyone in order, stay in line, we’ll take care of you. And while you stand in line, the system feeds you with Marketing messages, making you believe what you never did, need what you don’t, and flock with other million people. You are safe, just stay in line and smile. You are conned to take up a life you are not sure is yours.


As I look at my boys running around, climbing sign poles and fooling about while everyone is standing in line, I wonder what system they will fit in… If any, if ever!


Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Governance, …am I missing another savvy definition? I have recently attended a summit where these serious matters were “discussed”. Where the major players who promote and spread the use of renewable energy in the region patted themselves in the back and congratulated each other for that amazing initiative of forming one in another thousand forum/group/discussion platforms.

As the system gets busy designing, discussing, arguing, reviewing, perusing, implementing, assessing new sustainability measures, procedures, policies, rules, regulations, “we” end up staying in line and sleep walking through our lives waiting for guidance.

What if a black sheep broke through that system? And what if true sustainability stemmed from tuning in with what’s around you, understanding the real power of what made “planet universe” sustainable for million years before we eruditely started designing our own set of rules? 

A back to basics? A daily recall of what consideration means?

The best Sustainability practices and lessons are around us, in nature’s perfection and beauty, in children’s laughter, in our internal sparkle that the smart “system’s sustainability” works hard to switch off… 

At least, that’s my thought of the day

Happy birthday LIFE!

17 Responses to Perennial sustainability

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Sustainability and environmental awareness through gratefulness

Whether a corporation or an individual, I believe we are all drifting towards a comfortable numbness that makes us take for granted some vital elements.

The end of the year always comes with its share of reflection.

And what has been irking me these past few celebrations, is an over-indulging attitude we all adopt during the end of year festivities: too many gifts, too much food, too much… of it all!

Think about it: “Less than 3% of the throughput of the entire industrial system has any value six months afterward”

Yet, how many corporate gifts do we order, knowing that the receiver will at best pile it on top of other ones?

How many gourmet baskets do we happily receive, conscious that most of the items will expire before we get the chance to taste them or to share them?

How much food do we lay on the table on Christmas and New Year, “just to celebrate”?

This over-abundance, over-indulging, is a form of self-reassurance. We feel powerful, with in hand the power of acquisition that defines our social stature.



Where does sustainability lies in all of the above?

“Sustainability:  relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged”

Stretching the definition further… I would say sustainability also applies to a human consciousness, a global willingness to educate ourselves and our direct environment to be grateful for life’s gift. Although this may sound as a broken record, this comfortable numbness we are settling into tends to wrap us up in a smooth belief of easiness, endlessness. Consumer marketing has never been stronger in making us need things we didn’t even know existed!

Sustainability needs our qualms of conscious and a constant reminder that “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” (Ancient Indian Proverb)

As we step into 2013, I feel the urge of sharing what defines a personal and corporate, responsible approach to sustainability. As we step into 2013, let us pause for a second and think about the incredible amounts of resources we use up for things that may not outlive our whim.

One Response to Sustainability and environmental awareness through gratefulness

  1. Hassan says:

    Hi Zeina,

    First of all, let me congratulate you for the good job and great efforts you are putting in CSR.
    Through my litte experience, I believe that most of the people in “poor/emergent” countries need food but what they need most is a higher level of education (whatever the current level is): building libraries are a first step, giving means to learn international languages (English, German, Chinese…), access to computers…

    Do you have any plans in this direction? I would love to have your thoughts.

    Best regards,


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How to learn CSR lessons through your life experiences…?

Recently, I had set off on an attempt to climb Mt Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe, to raise awareness about glaciers receding and water scarcity in the UAE. On a tight schedule, I had planned just a window of opportunity for my climb. The date was set: July 21st at 1am.

A week before my scheduled climb, just as I was all prepped up and ready to embark on an exciting mission, a major avalanche took the life of 9 mountaineers away in less than few seconds… Gets you thinking: on life and its unpredictable events, on nature and its supremacy, on our responsibility towards ourselves and others as citizens of this world.


Experiencing a memorable moutaineering experience

And what have I learned?

My guide, speaking in the name of his colleagues, brought up this fact: as divers, we all have a logbook that tracks our achievements and allows us to dive deeper. As mountaineers, all we have is a conscious to act responsibly. To assess our environment, its condition, before we take for granted a “successful summit”.
What does summitting mean anyway? How many times have we experienced our own summits, pushed the boundaries and looked back saying “I did it”. Why do we lose track of it when it comes to mountaineering and focus on A specific summit?
Again, my guide mentioned that the current summer weather made them lose “a lot of business” by not being able to take their clients up to Mt Blanc. Is this what mountaineering drills down to? “A business”…?

What was initially a hobby, a challenge in communion with nature, has become a trophy to exhibit. Where is the social responsibility here?

In the new trend of business, we talk about “ethical business”. How ethical is it to force the law of nature…

Was I disappointed?

Not even close to it. I met a famous glaciologist and talked at length about the receding of glaciers. Clearly, our comfortable lives are impacting this phenomenon. Yes I did offset my trip by buying carbon credits, and this made me feel good… the time of the transaction. Then you think. It is beyond offsetting carbon credits. It is about my own audit. How do I consume energy? What do I really do to contribute and make a difference? Yes I reduce, reuse and recycle, use eco products, am changing my car to a hybrid, use my feet more than my wheels. And I am going out there, arguing in favor of renewable energy, looking at ways how we, as normal, plain citizens, can change our habits to contribute to a social conscious and awareness.

Change starts at your doorstep, in your garden, in your mind and heart. What I had known before leaving to Mt Blanc only got reinforced as I got back: Corporate Social Responsibility is not only the business of corporations, it is written in every citizens’ responsibility towards his environment, society, children, present and future.

To know more about how we can individually “Be the change” sign up below and let’s get the ball rolling

4 Responses to How to learn CSR lessons through your life experiences…?

  1. First of all I want to say wonderful blog! I had a quick
    question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was curious to find out how you center yourself
    and clear your thoughts prior to writing.

    I have had trouble clearing my mind in getting
    my ideas out there. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the
    first 10 to 15 minutes are wasted just trying to figure out how
    to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Cheers!

    • Zeina says:

      Thank you for your comments! As for the writing tips, all I could say is… “Don’t try, just share what you have to say, with an open mind. The words will follow”. And… only write when you really have something to share.

  2. Great blog Zeina! Really like what you are doing! All the best for 2013!

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How can Corporate Social Responsibility positively impact your bottom line?

Social responsibility and profitability are not mutually exclusive. If anything, Corporate Social Responsibility has repeatedly proven to positively impact your P&L, or  bottom line if so to speak. However, start by binning any preconceived ideas and take a fresh outlook on your CSR intentions.


Just the definition of CSR by itself is a challenge:

- Corporate:

Corporations look after their benefit, and ultimately, what other benefit than impacting the bottom line are we talking about?

- Social:

Well yes, is everything about social “free” and “giving” ?

A Corporate Social Responsibility endorsement can be about just allocating a certain amount to a charity and clearing your conscious. Which has a negative impact on your revenue and little contribution to your society.


A mutual benefit

While the common way of doing business is looking at your bottom line, integrating Corporate Social Responsibility into your “business way of life” makes you consider what we call a “Triple Bottom Line”. It goes beyond the traditional measures of profits, return on investment, and shareholder value to include environmental and social dimensions.


There are still a lot of question marks around costs incurred by a CSR strategy, and that’s mainly because traditionally we look at it as “support a charity/organisation/cause”. Yet, notch it up a little bit, spice it up with innovation and your CSR becomes an ally in energy saving, waste reduction, and streamlined processes, to name a few.

Let’s explore how to create a positive outcome with your Corporate Social Strategy practice!


So how do you positively impact your bottom line through your CSR strategy?

Mirror your Corporate Social Responsibility activity to your business’ best practices and achievements.

Think of integrating all the success factors: a collective endorsement (HR), an understanding of your environment (marketing), an audit of your upstream and downstream operations, and most importantly, align your values. Then, tag to it all the fancy business acronyms such as KPIs, SFI and ROI and positively impacting your bottom line will naturally follow.

Assess your production process, your supplies, your stocks, your employees, your clients. A 360 degrees audit of the way you run your business will help you determine the pertinent approach. Just plan your CSR strategy the way you would plan your business. Make it efficient, relevant, tangible, marketable, attractive.

Can you recycle and reuse your products?

Can you source your supplies sustainably, from your local community?

Oh! And how about creating strategic alliances to benefit both parties’ bottom lines and at the same time have a big outreach?

“Statu quos are comfortable nests, helping people resist change. Yet we can make change happen, by just innovating and acting upon our beliefs.”

Now let’s take a step back and understand what Corporate Social Responsibility truly means to me, my CEO, CFO, clients, shareholders, and more.

Social responsibility and sustainability are not only about environment or charity. They also are about merging your profitability and your values. They are about positive results, shareholders satisfaction and success. Some well thought programmes have seen companies reduce their costs for up to 25% by just implementing sustainable practices.

Even luxury groups such as LVMH are now fully embracing the sustainability and social responsibility business practice. From ensuring the sourcing of their raw material, to streamlining their supply and distribution chain, they also impose some strict “adherence to business ethics” on their partners. Thanks to a full audit of their carbon footprint and the understanding of their impact at each level, they took measures that reflected 15% energy saving in just a year. Finally, they foster a collective commitment by their staff.

With well thought and rounded strategies, you will save on costs, and even create new revenue streams. Your shareholders will be satisfied, and your customer base will reward you by investing their loyalty and $ in an ethical brand that defines business the way they define life: safe, sustainable, profitable and fun.

To know more how to positively impact your bottom line through creative, meaningful CSR initiatives, and tag to it some feel good and successful returns, sign-up below


11 Responses to How can Corporate Social Responsibility positively impact your bottom line?

  1. Nene Amen says:

    Would appreciate learning from best practices

  2. Richard says:

    Hello Zeina,
    i have a paper that says?
    Discuss and debate the ability of supply chain managers to ensure CSR shared values are established throughout a global supply chain. please advice how sheared values can affect a global supply chain.

    Thanks for your time and assistance

    • Zeina says:

      Hi Richard,
      Operation performance is closely intertwined with sustainability. It is by improving both that you create shared value.
      To establish shared value throughout a global supply chain, you need to look at each stage of the process: from sourcing the natural resource to selling the finished product, each step becomes an opportunity to encourage sustainable production while having a positive, long-term social impact.

      • Richard says:

        Thank you Zeina , actually got good ideas from you blog as I started writing my essay

        Thanks for such a simplified and understanding blog


  3. Eric Masters says:

    Hi Zeina,
    I ran across your site while researching CSR for a paper I have been asked to give here in Australia regarding Human Right and Child Labour and I am making an argument for CSR. I also detail it in my thesis I am finalising relating to TNCs, the race to the bottom in labour relations in the Philippines. That’s the gist of it anyway. I just wanted to say I had no idea there was someone focusing on this out there that is as clever as you appear to be ! Ever need any help, let me know. Thanks for the information and I will of course ensure they know who you are!

  4. NNADI NGOZI says:

    hi Zeina,
    pls my project topic is the effect of corporate social responsibility on organisational performance. pls i need your help on how to go about it and time is no longer on my side. i only have one month left to complete it but am still on chapter one.
    pls i need your help.

  5. ekumah angel says:

    Hi Zenna, pls what are the duties of an auditor as regards ethics and social responsibility in an organization

  6. Shahzad Zeb says:

    Is CSR a part of company’s HR or Marketing?

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Corporations: time to step up your Corporate Social Responsibility commitment!

Corporate Social Responsibility OR Commitment to Sustainability and Respect?

Picture this: a construction company wins a big project in a foreign market.

When CSR is just a facade

To execute it, brings along its employee, its know-how, and even its screw-drivers. Completes the project to success, cashes in the big cheque, and leaves, priding itself of having accomplished a major project.What about the transfer of know-how? What about stimulating the local community and society by engaging it in the project? By creating jobs?  Ultimately, what was their impact?

In whatever way we engage with a society, I believe there should always be a consideration that goes beyond simple operational efficiency.

Why your business should already be investing in “Corporate Social Responsibility”?

As a “Weber Shandwick Social Impact” survey conducted in 2010 reveals, the main drive behind Corporations investing in CSR is to have an impact on critical issues and seeing their values in action.

The time when businesses lived and operated in vacuum is well behind us.

Clearly, globalization impacted our social interaction. There is now a common consciousness, a general sense of belonging:  to our workplace, our community, our society.  We can no longer be oblivious to the fact that demographic change, natural resources scarcity, technology acceleration and health challenges are now trendsetters businesses have to obey by.

We look out to our future yet dig into our past. We strive to become global citizens yet fight to preserve our national identity, our immediate environment.

Corporations can no longer pump resources, be them human or natural, for the sake of a positive bottom line. Simply put, businesses need to create value that contributes to economic, societal and environmental progress.

By definition, CSR should reflect a balanced equation, a win-win outcome: companies make profits and society benefits.

Rio+20 aftermath

Rio+20 generated a lot of controversy. No matter what the outcome was, there was a clear message that “civil society actors play an essential role in the change the world wants to see”.

Businesses are the detonators of future progress. Their engagement will push and prepare the ground for political decisions and thus their implementations. The way we do business today should transform our economy and lifestyle into sustainable ones.

As Paul Polman – CEO of Unilever – points out at the closure of Rio+20, governments have demonstrated an unfortunate coldness in tackling major issues. This is where the corporate world can and should step in.

We are entering a very interesting period of history where the responsible business world is running ahead of the politicians. The political climate is very difficult and to some extent paralysed.”

Whether it is about “green-washing” their conscious or truly wanting to live their values, companies are starting to feel the constant and underlying pressure of improving their presence and impact on their employees, bottom lines, environment and society.

PR stunt OR act of altruism?

Many argue that CSR enhances a “feel good” factor for the company embracing it. Yet, if you look at Vodafone’s example, it simply excells in its CSR practice.

Vodafone fosters positive relationships with the communities it serves by proactively addressing concerns and implementing standardized practices among its operating companies.

By making its products more accessible through introducing low cost, easy-to-use phones, Vodafone demonstrates its commitment to society. Through their supply chain management ethics, they serve to eliminate forced and child labor as well discriminatory practices. Good wages and hours for employees at every level of the supply chain completes the programme. At last, they run a phone recycling program by re-using and recycling old phones. All proceeds from this campaign are donated to the YMCA.

On a regional scale, Vodafone understood that one of the main barriers of immigrants is speaking the language of

Social integration through education

their host countries, thus allowing them to carve themselves a new life in a new environment. Under the umbrella of their “World of Difference program” Vodafone offered free basic English literacy courses for migrant workers in Qatar. Around 100 learners of 6 nationalities (Sri Lankan, Nepali, Filipino, Indian, Bangladeshi, Egyptian) successfully completed the program in 2011. The initiative is in its second year. As mentioned in my previous blog, what is CSR,  Vodafone’s program demonstrates a company’s clear understanding of its environment, society and implications.

No doubt that these practices enhanced the company’s image by directly contributing to positive public relations. Nevertheless, the outcome on the market was positive. It is a clear example of the win-win situation aforementioned.

Why your society needs your Corporate Social Responsibility commitment?

Basically, asides from sounding good and making a company “look good” , corporations should adopt CSR because they have the economical and social power to shape the future. RIO+20 proved that the governments aren’t there yet while businesses have demonstrated a greater commitment, for they realise it is vital to their sustainability. Furthermore, they have in hand the power and tools to drive change simply by adapting their business practices to the needs of the society they operate it.

Think about it this way: what greater achievement than topping your financial success with employee satisfaction, environment preservation and social enhancement?


Sign in below and let’s step it up together

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My Manifesto

  1. I am about bridging gaps, uniting people of different walks of life towards the same goal. A catalyst by nature, a go getter with in my heart the drive to let love rule
  1. I believe help should be extended to anyone and everyone, regardless of nationality, religion or beliefs. No boundaries for a united humanity
  1. We live in a very hopeful world, and there is so much to achieve. Together. As one
  1. It is time to stop using our resources as if they were endless and start thinking about solutions to preserve our environment, our society, our life. The future lies in our present
  1. Women foster hopes and shape the future… I want to give them the tools to believe in their power, their mission, their actions
  1. By acting at grass roots and empowering teenagers, I believe in leading youth towards a future they deserve.  By touching reality with their senses, they realise they have the power to make a difference, to shape their world,
  1. We are actors, not spectators of our life. Lead by example
  1. Feel, touch, hear, smell the reality by being on the ground. Giving back, changing the world doesn’t happen through savant words and polished strategies. It is about getting your hands dirty, your heart squeezy and your eyes watery
  1. We live in a global world but let’s start acting local. By creating little foyers, we will spread the wind of change
  1. It is time we start living our life as a gift, not as a grant.


2 Responses to My Manifesto

  1. Love this Zeina, I think everyone should have one, even they aren’t a business.
    Clear, strong, beautiful.

  2. Zeina says:

    Thank you John. Nothing like having your words out there

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Why invest in CSR when the economy is slow?

In Sri Lanka, living the wildlife the wild way

Just the other day someone asked me “Why should I invest in CSR when the economy is slow?”

The only constant in life is perpetual change.
I previously defined that Corporate Social Responsibility is:
  • about responsibility
  • about society in general

Responsibility towards your society is a real commitment and a serious engagement.

It isn’t about a budget or a trend.

Do you invest in CSR because it is trendy?

Then you will fail in your mission. People won’t trust you.

In times of recession, your audience needs to feel they can rely on you.

That your intentions are set, that the consideration towards your society, your environment, your employees and your stakeholders, withstands crisis.

It is your opportunity as a leader to show that you are not just motivated by short-termism.

Use your CSR engagement as a management tool under constant renovation which will last throughout time.

Clean-up, streamline your strategy, sharpen your vision, and prune initiatives that have lost their relevance and leverage. But no matter what, don’t hamper your ability to leverage your reputation the day the recession turns around.

Building loyalty is about walking your talk. In the long run. Not when optimal economic, social and environmental conditions are there. How can you be trusted if you only show a human face when you consider that the time is right?

Don’t we say we know who our true friends are in times of trouble?

Investing in CSR is good for your business

A recent study shows that “75% of those who have read about a company’s CSR agenda on its website made them more likely to purchase products or services from that company” (Burson-Marstteller- 2010).

What’s more, 70% are willing to pay a premium for goods produced by socially responsible firms.

If you look at CSR from a very business oriented perspective, and consider the pyramid of Maslow, you will realise that through CSR you can answer these needs.

Your CSR now becomes a marketing and business tool, enhancing the elements of a successful, visionary and innovative business.

Also CSR is fun. CSR is fulfilling. Positively rewarding with an “infallible” win-win scenario.

The greatest satisfaction in giving is when the receiver can’t pay you back!

Live your vision! – Sign up below and join my weekly newsletter

2 Responses to Why invest in CSR when the economy is slow?

  1. Adrian Nichol says:

    Hi Zeina

    This looks great. As part of my preparation for the Antarctica project, I think I am going to find your blogs really useful. Keep them coming.


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What is CSR?

I often get asked this question “what is CSR?”

“Corporate Social Responsibility”

Three words that resonate well.

Three very serious, committing words. Three words that everybody uses, but not everybody embraces.

Three very serious words that should translate into fulfilling, engaging and meaningful actions.


CSR is about meaningful actions

What are meaningful actions?

From Nepal to Antarctica, from Europe to the Middle East and beyond, no stone should be left un-turned, no corner un-reached to.

From developing youth programs, to raising awareness about a healthy life style

From engaging on pediatric cancer issues to embarking on environmental expeditions

From installing solar panels in the desert to empowering women on environmental issues and the urge to stand up and act.

CSR isn’t just about writing a big cheque. CSR is a source of opportunity, innovation and competitive advantage.


A real CSR strategy

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.

Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” - Sun Tzu

To some corporations, CSR is a way of washing off their conscious, of offsetting activities that impact negatively the environment and society they operate in.

So they embrace this attractive concept.

Develop brilliant strategies, write reports and then… once presented to the board, wonder where to start, what to do, whom to do with and how?

To some corporations, CSR is a way of life.

To all corporations, CSR is becoming inevitable.


Does your CSR strategy look like this?








Random and scattershot intentions to engage?

A well thought out CSR strategy is not a random mishmash of disparate, feel good initiatives.

A CSR strategy is about positively impacting your bottom line, boosting your employees’ moral and engagement, fostering brand loyalty, and much more.

However, to be effective in your CSR efforts and to reap all the benefits, you will need to do more than simply doing good in your community .

You will need to approach CSR strategically, as a viable component of your overall business strategy, along with marketing, branding, innovation, talent management, and operations.

And you will have to effectively tell your CSR story.


What are innovative and powerful CSR strategies?

They align your business objectives to the needs of your environment

Is your main focus promoting renewable energy? Or creating a healthy environment for your employees?

I am currently working with schools on the implementation of a “Healthy Living” programme, encompassing the importance of nutrition and physical exercise to teach students and parents alike the basics of a healthy lifestyle. Alongside this initiative, based on the “BE THE CHANGE” hashtag, the program aims to empower youth to take leadership in their communities and create a better world.

Start today. Contact me, share your ideas and concerns, and let’s make it happen!


Join the movement, subscribe below to receive tips and insights

on how to integrate CSR to your company


27 Responses to What is CSR?

  1. Mabrouk Zeina! I’m so happy and proud of you. You did it, now the journey truly begins :)

  2. Rouba says:

    Zeinaaaaa!! So proud of you babe! you are just glowing… that’s how beautiful it is to find yourself!! BRAVOOOOO

  3. Reem says:

    OH…MY…GOD! i am so proud of u…no words can describe how happy i am at this moment! i have always told u how extraordinary i think you are…and now this is jst the beginning…i remembered a quote jst now: When you reach the highest mountain, only then you shall begin to climb” and Babe u are on the right path! i am sooooo happy we r meeting in a few hours!!!!! love you! xxxx

  4. robert swan says:

    Totally brilliant, so impressed and ready to support in any way we can at 2041
    Rob Swan
    Founder 2041

  5. Caroline says:

    Amazing job nanou, i’m so proud of you !
    Love you <3

  6. Chris says:

    Beautiful website, Zen, great job!!! All the best for all your project, you can be proud of you!

  7. Eric says:

    Hi Zeina,
    Well this is a extraordinary journey indeed!

    Hope you all the best,


  8. Virginie says:

    Tout cela semble passionnant; J’aimerai beaucoup échanger avec toi à ce sujet… A notre prochaine rencontre!

  9. Claus Frimand says:

    Hi Zeina,
    Good for you – well done.
    Keep on conquering!

  10. Ilona says:

    Zeina: WOW!
    I M SOOO PROUD what you are doing with your life! beijos

  11. Zeina says:

    It is just the beginning of the journey… join me!

  12. Nicole says:

    Amazing, so proud of you sister. We believe in you.

  13. Heather says:

    You are such an inspiration Zeina and I am so happy to be connected with such a strong and incredible woman who walks the walk!

  14. Zeina says:

    Heather… we will have our deck 5 everywhere in the world and surely run the walk together!

  15. Salima says:

    Yeaaaaa! That s my Zeinanou:)
    Amazing work habebti!
    We are all proud of you!
    Make your dreams come true yalla:)

  16. Noticeably enjoyable data you’ll have said, say thanks a lot for putting up.

  17. Pretty enlightening details that you have mentioned, warm regards for adding.

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