Founded in 1983 as Mobile Telecommunications Company, Zain was the first mobile telecommunications operator in the Middle East. Today, the Kuwaiti-headquartered group provides telecommunication services across seven countries – Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and South Sudan – and has close to 49 million active customers.
Zain contributes to the digital inclusivity of women and girls through various initiatives. It has provided free Wi-Fi connectivity to ten refugee centres across Jordan, with 4,012 new users in 2021. It has also launched a programme that teaches girls coding, computational thinking and computer science. The company is also committed to integrating accessibility features, as evidenced by its products offered in Jordan, which are specifically designed for people with hearing impairments. Further, the company demonstrates leading practice in disclosing how it distributes the value it generates among its stakeholders, and in disclosing the taxes it pays and employment across the markets where it operates.
Zain promotes digital skills development through its programmes for advancing basic and intermediate digital skills. It also partners on a programme with the company Alphabet, teaching digital marketing skills to youth in Kuwait. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Zain offered free remote learning and access to educational platforms in Bahrain, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Zain discloses the number of data breaches it experiences. The company also demonstrates leading practice by recognising child online safety as one of the main priorities in its human rights policy. Zain demonstrates this commitment through its partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and GSMA’s Mobile Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Content. Furthermore, the company offers a service for parents to control the content their children can access online.
Zain has an opportunity to improve its performance by supporting digital opportunities for women and girls. Although the company describes how it accommodates the needs of people with disabilities, it can also disclose the number of people with disabilities it employs. The company discloses how the economic value it generates is distributed among stakeholders, but it can go a step further by calculating the indirect impact of its operations across the markets where it operates.
Zain has an opportunity to continue offering free remote learning and access to educational platforms to students on an ongoing basis, ever after the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the company can support programmes that advance technical digital skills. It can further disclose its financial and in-kind contributions to its current programmes for advancing digital skills and report on programme impacts.
Besides its support for the tech start-up ecosystem, little evidence was found of Zain’s support for open, sustainable, inclusive and ethical innovation. The company can support research on technology and sustainability topics carried out by universities or non-profit organisations. It can also expand its support for the start-up community through activities such as organising events or through accelerators and incubators. Additionally, the company has an opportunity to report the number of women it employs in research and development (R&D) roles as well as how it applies ethics in its R&D activities.
Core Social Assessment
The core social indicators assess societal expectations of business conduct that companies should meet if they aspire to be part of a system transformation that leaves no one behind.
Zain commits to respecting human rights and the ILO core labour rights. It also has a publicly available policy statement that expects its business relationships to commit to respecting the ILO core labour rights. The company discloses a process to identify, assess and act on human rights risks in its own operations. However, it does not disclose a process to identify human rights risks in its business relationships. Zain has a grievance mechanism to raise human rights concerns and complaints, but it is unclear if the mechanism is accessible to all stakeholders. Furthermore, it is unclear if the mechanism allows complainants to remain anonymous.
Zain publicly commits to respecting worker health and safety, and it places health and safety expectations on its business relationships and monitors their performance. The company also discloses the proportion of its employees covered by collective bargaining agreements in Iraq and Sudan. However, it does not disclose this figure for its entire workforce. It also does not disclose whether it requires its workers to work more than the regular work and overtime hours. The company has committed to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, and it discloses the ratio of basic salary and remuneration of women to men in each employee category. Zain has an opportunity to disclose employee breakdowns for other indicators of diversity.
Zain discloses the taxes it pays in its main markets, but it does not disclose a global tax strategy. Further, the company states that it does not make political contributions. However, it does not have a publicly available policy statement detailing its overarching approach to lobbying and political engagement, and it does not make its lobbying expenditures public. Zain does have a policy prohibiting bribery and corruption, and it includes anti-bribery and anti-corruption clauses in its business relationship contracts. But it does not describe how it identifies bribery and corruption.