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Setting the benchmark

Keen hiker Rania Tayeh has an ambition to make EGA a CSR role model for the region by tying into EGA’s bold aspiration of ‘embedding sustainability in everything we do’

When Rania Tayeh describes corporate social responsibility at Emirates Global Aluminium in the years to come, what she envisages is a company setting a benchmark for others to follow.

“If we reach a point where we can be a role model for other corporates in the region in how we embed sustainability in everything we do and, particularly for me, in the quality and impact of our voluntary contributions to local society, then this is a success,” says the Senior Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility, EGA.

It’s an ambition that Rania, who was employed at EGA for 14 years before “leaving for another journey” in April 2019 and then rejoining the company at the end of 2021, is relishing putting in motion.

Since coming back, Rania has set a new strategy for CSR at EGA, with the company’s voluntary contributions focused on its own broader goals for the future, EGA’s competencies, and society’s needs.

Under Rania’s stewardship, voluntary contributions at EGA in the UAE are now clearly focused in four key areas.

These include enhancing science, technology, engineering and mathematics education at schools, as a major employer of professionals in these fields, which are essential to the UAE’s national ambitions.

The company is also promoting entrepreneurship, to support the further diversification of the UAE economy and ultimately support EGA’s local procurement.

Aluminium recycling is an important area of growth for the industry and EGA. Rania is working with can-makers, drinks companies and waste management companies to promote a culture of aluminium recycling in the UAE.

And finally, Rania is leading public advocacy for greater gender diversity in society, in line with EGA’s own ambitions to grow the role of women at the company itself.

What Rania particularly finds “beautiful” about this work is that it goes beyond using financial resources, with the most impact created by connecting with other organisations and individuals who share these goals.

“It has a social impact and I really enjoy this because I feel it solves not just a business-related issue, but a social issue that aligns with EGA’s bold aspirations and those of the government, country, or community. My role is to help build a better future for the people in whose communities we operate.”

Rania graduated with a Master’s Degree in Green Economy in 2016 from Bournemouth University in England, after several years juggling remote study and her work.  

During this period, she also kept up her favourite hobby of hiking. She is part of a hiking group in Lebanon called Vamos Todos, which explores the nation’s mountain ranges, and has also brought this hobby to EGA.  

She led an epic trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa and the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. The climb in 2017 saw 10 employees from EGA raise funds through their endeavours for the Dubai-based Al Jalila Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to transforming lives through medical research, education and treatment in the UAE.

“I recall the first day looking up at Mount Kilimanjaro and I said ‘Oh, that's doable’,” Rania remembers. “But then you put your backpack on and start and you think ‘Oops, I'm not sure if I'm gonna make it’. We did though, and it was great journey during which we learned a lot about teamwork and how to overcome challenges.”  

Fluent in Arabic, English and French, Rania’s backpack was also recently utilised when her travels took her on a work trip to Guinea Alumina Corporation, the bauxite mining subsidiary of EGA in West Africa. The CSR teams in the two countries talk frequently to learn from each other, but this was the first time they met in person.  

“There is a big difference between the community needs in the  UAE and in Guinea,” says Rania. “But in both countries, our voluntary contributions must focus on what we are aiming to achieve more broadly as a company, what we have the competency to do, and what communities believe their own actually needs are.”

What attracted Rania’s attention in Guinea was the role of women in local villages.  

“I believe women are the core,” she says. “They are the ones providing not only for themselves, but also for their families and their children. Projects that benefit women are often the most successful, and provide the most benefits to the community more broadly.”

For Rania, contributing positively to local communities is not just a role for her department, but for everyone at EGA. Volunteering provides benefits to employees too, both in giving fresh perspectives and in promoting mental wellbeing. Recently EGA volunteers under Rania’s supervision distributed water and dates at mosques near EGA’s operations during  the Holy Month of Ramadan. EGA engineers mentor students in the company’s STEM education programme.  

“CSR is our voluntary commitment to support community needs  beyond our legal obligations or our narrow commercial interest,” says Rania. “It is inspiring to work in a company that knows that long-term this will deliver value to our society and to our company. Quite simply, this is just the right thing to do.”