Socially responsible investing, which takes into account social, environmental and governance risks, is arguably still in its infancy in the Gulf, where the enormous wealth created by hydrocarbons sometimes flows into extravagant projects like an indoor ski resort.
But Mustafa Abdel-Wadood, managing director of Abraaj Capital -- the Middle East's biggest private equity firm -- sees SRI as enlightened self interest and the firm puts its own money where its mouth is.
Fred Sicre, executive director of Abraaj, told us the firm -- which signs up to United Nations Principles for Responsible Investing (UNPRI) -- has a 5+5+5 plan, where it encourages employees to donate 5% of bonuses to a charitable pool, 5 days for community/charitable work and the firm itself gives 5% of net revenues to a charity. Sicre himself taught at the first class yesterday on entrepreneureship.
"When we invest for pure business reasons into an education business or a hospital group, in a certain sense, we are looking at this also from a sustainable investment (point of view) for this region because the competitiveness of a country is directly linked to the health of the population," Sicre says.
"We feel we have great opportunities and responsibilities to bring portfolio companies to adhere to sustainble investment practices, whether its security or health standards... It's just about being good human beings and doing good practical businesses."