• Bader Al-Kharafi: “Now more than ever, the need for a fundamental systemic change is central to the region’s transformation and growth”

• Zain Group included in FTSE4Good Index Series, recognizing company’s ESG

•Report focuses on providing Meaningful Connectivity through digitalization, whereby Zain aims to unlock the opportunities of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Zain Vice-Chairman and Group CEO, Bader Al-Kharafi

KUWAIT: Zain Group, the leading mobile telecom innovator in eight markets across the Middle East and Africa, announces the publication of its ninth annual sustainability report, entitled “The Road to the Future”.  Embedding sustainability in every aspect of its business, Zain is dedicated to its digital strategy of consistently working towards developing the mobile telecommunications ecosystem centered on a vision of inclusive development that leads to socio-economic growth.

In this consolidated Group-wide report, the company focuses on the concept of providing Meaningful Connectivity which triggers systemic change, ultimately creating room for development and growth, aiming to address the company’s social, economic and environmental impacts. Noteworthy, is the FTSE Russell’s inclusion of Zain Group in its FTSE4Good Index Series, the world’s leading Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) index, a key indicator to help investors identify companies that meet globally recognized sustainability standards.

‘The Road to the Future” report includes Zain’s key ESG indicators which is primarily based on the company’s sustainability strategy and initiatives, established on six main pillars with its activities driven by the following imperatives:  Creating shared value; Promoting social innovation; Inclusivity and leaving no one behind; Addressing Sustainable Development Goals; Tackling climate change; and Youth empowerment.

Zain Vice-Chairman and Group CEO, Bader Al-Kharafi commented: “Now more than ever, the need for a fundamental systemic change is central to the region’s transformation and growth. In our world, digital and technological advancements offer endless opportunities to not only address negative impacts but create positive ones. Through digitization, our wide range of services, and reach, Zain aims to unlock the possibilities that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer and the publication of this report is testament to our ongoing efforts and resolve.” Kharafi continued, “FTSE Russell’s inclusion of Zain Group in its FTSE4Good Index Series reconfirms our commitment to embedding ESG principles in every operational aspect of the company.”

On her part, Zain Group’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Jennifer Suleiman said, “In an era of rapid change and disruption, having a forward-thinking vision is an essential aspect of our sustainability strategy. At Zain, we welcome the tides of disruption as they often provide us the chance to evolve in a positive manner.” Suleiman added, “It is short-sighted for a company not to consider what the impact of its operations are on the environment and adjust its way of doing business accordingly. The reason we remain so committed to publishing our sustainability reports is to be extremely forthcoming of our own experiences in this area, and to inspire others to follow suit and have real conversations and implement real solutions in the pursuit of truly sustainable programs.”

Action in motion

Internal and external stakeholders alike are at heart of Zain’s sustainability activities. Throughout 2019, some of the significant developments undertaken by Zain and its operations include: 

1. Regarding the universally important issue of climate change, Zain became a member of the GSMA Climate Action Task Force with the objective to play a more strategic role in addressing the company’s environmental footprint. By becoming a member of the Carbon Disclosure Project, which provides a reporting framework and guidance to address climate change, Zain also installed 849 outdoor (base station/power) solutions and 91 small shelters across its operations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, while deploying 25 solar and hybrid base solutions. These actions symbolize a firm step by Zain in the fight against climate change.

2. Zain continued to solidify its supply chain process through implementing initiatives such as the Supplier Assessment Questionnaire; joining up to the Supplier Code of Conduct; alignment to international best practices through Zain’s ESMP Guidelines; and supporting two audit visits per year on selected suppliers on social and environmental criteria.

3. From an economic perspective, the company has expanded its life-enhancing digital financial services available in Jordan and Iraq under the Zain Cash brand, to now include Saudi Arabia, under the brand name Tamam, an end-to-end digital microlending platform offering micro-loans to vulnerable communities in the Kingdom. 52 percent of men, and 35 percent of women possess a bank account in the Kingdom, though among the unbanked population, 86 percent men and 75 percent of women own a mobile phone. Moreover, Zain Kuwait and Boubyan Bank announced plans for the development of the first digital platform for Islamic banking services, marking the first digital partnership of this nature in the region made between one of the biggest regional telecom entities. This encourages the development of digital banking services helping support startups and emerging enterprises and contribute to the incredible digital innovation taking place across the region.

4. With respect to the people at Zain, who are the heart of the organization, the company further enhanced its Gender Diversity and Inclusion program building its Women Empowerment initiative aiming to develop and increase female leadership. Furthermore, Zain launched its WE ABLE program to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace aiming to become Disability Inclusive by 2022 and became a signatory to the International Labor Organization (ILO) Global Business and Disability Network Charter. Zain firmly believes it is important that the contributions that people with disabilities can make in our workforce and in society in general are given ample opportunity to be recognized.

5. Moreover, Zain’s Youth (ZY) Empowerment Program plays an instrumental role in empowering youth in the region. Initiatives launched under ZY include Generation Z; a year-long graduate program in Kuwait that enhances digital and behavioral skills preparing them for future employment and contributing to society at large; Zainiac, an internal e-platform that aims to encourage intrapreneurship within the organization and thereafter support in the incubation process and developing the business idea, noting the initiative has received over 700 unique ideas; and Reverse Mentoring, aiming to improve diversity and inclusion by reducing gaps between younger and senior employees, whereby youth act as a sounding board for new product launches and initiatives, better understanding one another’s perspectives.

6. Engaging with its teams across the region, Zain organized several forums to align departmental strategies and objectives with the main aim of sharing best practices and scaling the opportunities of Meaningful Connectivity that empower the communities Zain serves. Functions included Regulatory, Digital, Risk Management, Commercial, Legal, Procurement and Technology.

7. From a products and customer perspective, Zain launched 5G networks in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, expanded much needed 4G networks across other key markets and continued to expand its B2B presence expanding its reach by including SoHo (small and home offices) and SMEs segments. Furthermore, the company is moving forward in its plans to set up a centralized ICT and Digital professional services hub that serves Zain’s operations and other business entities across Zain’s footprint and beyond. This hub will provide Cloud and Cybersecurity services, IoT, Big Data and Analytics as well as a wider spectrum of new technologies covering areas related to Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Drone solutions to name a few. It is through these key steps that exemplify the efforts that the connectivity Zain provides takes a life of its own, and embodies the true meaning of Meaningful Connectivity, further accelerating much needed systemic change.

 8. The company also scaled its Zain Group API, growing it exponentially in products offered and customer usage in Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and expanding it during the year to Bahrain, Iraq and Oman. The social ambition is to open some of Zain’s assets to emerging developers both regionally and internationally with the aim of creating new opportunities for young entrepreneurs to partner with Zain. This will allow the company to provide their services to our customers therefore expanding their reach ultimately creating shared value for both the company and the entrepreneurs. One relevant example that had multiple benefits, is Zain’s launch of the Zain Kids application offering educational games and videos that can be managed by parents.

9. Safeguarding future generations and mitigating negative impacts of broadband connectivity is an especially important part of Zain’s sustainability agenda, and the company reinforced its commitment to protecting children, publishing a report titled “Child Online Safety: Minimizing the Risk of Violence, Abuse and Exploitation” online under the Broadband Commission Working Group: Child Online Safety.

The above are just a few examples of the many initiatives outlined in the Report. With the MENA region undergoing drastic changes, Zain’s sustainability agenda will continuously evolve so that the company remains of value to all our stakeholders.

The “The Road to the Future” report is aligned with the United Nations Guiding Principles adhering to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards reporting guidelines. In accordance with Zain’s sustainability agenda, the 2019 sustainability report is available only in digital format and can be downloaded for free by visiting: https://zain.com/en/sustainability/sustainability-report/