KUWAIT: Zain Group, the leading mobile telecom innovator in seven markets across the Middle East and Africa, announces the publication of its consecutive 10th annual sustainability report, entitled ‘The Ten-Year Journey’, which charts the sustainability agenda the company has undertaken in this area across its footprint over the last decade.
During this decade, Zain has evolved its operations by becoming a digital lifestyle service provider, establishing value-driven and purposeful activities, building resilience, adapting to market changes, addressing societal deficits, and establishing purpose driven activities centered on Meaningful Connectivity.
The 10th edition showcases how Zain continued to improve and adapt its activities to align to international best practices and report on its activities following the GRI Standards Framework. Moreover, for first time Zain also adopted the Sustainability Accounting Standard Board framework (SASB) for Telecommunications Services. Both standards were externally assured by Ernst & Young (Al-Aiban, Al-Osaimi and Partners) providing limited assurance.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated and further pronounced the huge societal discrepancies exposed in many areas of life across the globe. Zain’s latest report demonstrates the company’s firm commitment to creating positive, long-lasting systemic change to better address the socio-economic and environmental impacts across its operating markets and to facilitate socio-economic growth.
This is achieved by building relationships based on transparency and trust with all stakeholders, setting meaningful goals, and placing sustainability at the core of Zain’s business activities. The company’s earlier development of digitalization and sustainability programs placed it in a good position to react quickly to the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with operations in each market playing pivotal roles in support of their local communities.
Zain Vice-Chairman and Group CEO Bader Al-Kharafi commented, “Publishing our 10th sustainability report is a significant achievement, and along with over 7,500 Zainers, we are extremely proud of the programs and initiatives we have implemented, and all the lives we have impacted for the better. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought the meaning of that mission sharply into focus and offers a profound reminder that beyond our commercial activities and providing essential connectivity, vitally important as they are, there are lives at stake, requiring all our best efforts to protect and save.”
Al-Kharafi continued, “I extend my thanks to all the sustainability teams across our operations for working so tirelessly over the years in establishing Zain as the regional leader in this important area. We have a mission to work to leave the world a better place than we found it and leave no one behind.”
A new five-year corporate sustainability strategy (2020-2025)
Zain’s newly-established corporate sustainability strategy is centered on four pillars which are: Climate Change, Social Business, Inclusion and Generation Youth. The strategy was created by assessing the materiality of sustainability-related topics on the business and the value it creates for society.
By balancing financial returns and social values, this strategic approach aims to establish purpose driven activities centered on Meaningful Connectivity. Qualitative and quantitative targets have been embedded to ensure measurable metrics are set to assess and track the progress of Zain’s sustainability-related activities.
Examples of some of Zain’s 2020-2025 targets include:
* Empower 16 million children and youth across Zain’s footprint
* Foster women in STEM-related fields
* Supporting people with disabilities and increase access
* Equip 943,000 children with digital literacy skills
* Reach 891,000 unemployed youth
* Target 70% of Group Suppliers and 50% of local suppliers to complete Zain’s social and environmental related sell-assessment questionnaire
During 2020, Zain Group’s Chief Sustainability Officer Jennifer Suleiman set the foundation in establishing the company’s new 2020-2025 Corporate Sustainability strategy. She elaborated, “This five-year strategy is based on providing access to Meaningful Connectivity to all the communities Zain serves, that ultimately leads to equitable systemic change grounded on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, ultimately creating room for development and growth.”
Suleiman added, “2020 was a significant year for sustainability at Zain, but we made it even more through the COVID-19 initiatives we introduced during the course of the year. Notably, our ‘B’ scoring from the Carbon Disclosure Project, (the highest among all regional telcos) highlighted our leadership in addressing climate change in the industry. We continue to closely monitor the impacts of our activities on climate change and set goals to reduce negative impacts over time. In the years ahead, we shall continue being a force for good and look forward to being an even greater champion of the issues that affect our communities the most.”
Supporting the new five-year corporate sustainability strategy, in partnership with the GSMA’s Mobile for Development Assistive Technologies team, Zain held two-day workshop where 70 employees from its operations were further trained on how to better create more inclusive products and services.
Furthermore, to raise awareness and better educate individuals on the importance of child online safety, Zain launched a social media campaign and an internal announcement promoting tools and resources that offer tips and advice on how they can keep their children safe online. This campaign was also extended internally to over 7,500 employees across Zain’s operations.
Some highlights from Zain’s 2020 sustainability initiatives
To counteract the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zain formulated a Group Crisis Response Committee led by executive management to ensure all country operations implemented appropriate measures to rapidly respond to the evolving situation. Each Zain operation created a similar committee, which then identified a unified strategy that guided the company in navigating its response to the pandemic.
Some examples of COVID-19 actions from each Zain operation
* In Kuwait, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Central Agency for Information Technology, Zain launched the Shlonik app, utilizing the latest tech solutions to monitor the compliance for all residents who recently returned to Kuwait with self-quarantine directives.
* In Saudi Arabia, Zain zero-rated all the websites of the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Information, as well as official educational platforms, to enable customers to access important information and services free-of-charge. This service was applicable to all Zain customers across the Kingdom. Around 6.5 million students have subscribed to the service.
* In Bahrain, Zain provided an educational package to students for free access to all educational platforms used to complete schoolwork online.
* Zain Iraq donated 750 million Iraqi dinars ($630,000) in support of the health care sector
* Zain Jordan offered 6,000 free lines with 200 free calling minutes and 20GB data to people returning to the Kingdom and were subject to precautionary quarantine.
* Zain Sudan provided 50,000 liters of sanitizer to hospitals across the country and public places
* Under Zain South Sudan’s e-health portal, the company developed a management system that provided customers with information on COVID-19 from credible sources such as WHO, local government entities, and international medical agencies.
Examples of other sustainability initiatives
Zain’s sustainability programs continue to adapt to address the challenges resulted from the pandemic, in which the company conducted the follow activities: Further enhancing its digital financial services in Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia reaching an accumulative customer base of 312,665 active customers.
* Improving its supply chain process by updating its supplier code of conduct and increasing the completion rate of the supplier self-assessment questionnaire to reach 156 suppliers across all operations in 2020.
* 100 female employees were certified in data science and 42 participated in a data analytics competition under Zain’s WE program.
* The company continued to provide its Basma Line+ service in Jordan, which offers a mobile package developed for the deaf/hearing impaired community to 353 customers.
* The Zain Kids application was provided in six of Zain’s markets, and witnessed a 298% increase in the number of children subscribing to it because of the rise of online education and engagement in 2020.
* In 2020, Zain took major steps in reducing its emissions by installing a total of 370 outdoor (base station/power) solutions, 54 smaller sized generators, and upgraded 266 sites to use more efficient DC power solutions across all markets.
* Products and Customers Table
More detailed information and highlights of Zain’s 2020 sustainability initiatives and ’10-year Journey’ can be downloaded by visiting https://zain.com/en/sustainability/sustainability-report/ .