Saba Hassan Interview
Please tell us about yourself? What inspired you to join MCR as head of CSR?
I am the head of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at MCR. MCR is the franchisee of Pizza Hut, Burger King and TGI Fridays in Pakistan. In collaboration with MCR, I also head an NGO called Hassan Trust through which MCR implements its CSR activities. I read Natural Sciences at Cambridge for my undergraduate degree, but moved onto the development field and studied Gender, Development and Globalisation from London School of Economics for my postgraduate.
I’m passionate about human rights and see my role as split into two: improve internal policies of MCR and engage with external NGOs to make social impact.
MCR is my family business. I’ve worked in the development sector before but have been disappointed with the impact it can make. So I moved into CSR and surprisingly, I was happy with the results. If CSR policies are aligned with the vision and core activities of the company, it can make great social impact as well as boost the economy in an ethical and sustainable way.
What initiatives have you spearheaded since joining MCR? Are you satisfied with your performance in the organization?
MCR is great at doing quite a few things, most of which are obvious to an outside observer: we employ more than 3000 people all across Pakistan and, of course, we are good at feeding people.
Keeping these in mind, in the past two years we have implemented initiatives that tap into these strengths. One of our projects has been Mainstreaming Disabilities. This project is three-pronged and targets employing people with disabilities, making our workspaces and restaurants accessible, and sensitizing people to disability. It was very successful – within a few months we were able to fulfill and exceed the 2% quota set by the government for hiring disabled people. Sensitizing co-workers to disability was also a hugely important discussion to initiate and I could go on and on about this, but I will aim to keep this short. This project has evolved and now aims to target employment of all people who are underprivileged.
I also took over the food kitchen that has been operational for the past three years. In January this year we started sending free school meals to underprivileged schools in Korangi. These meals are designed by a nutritionist and cooked using international food safety standards. With malnourishment a rampant problem, and children dropping out of school, we hope that this initiative will bring children to school and keep them there. The food kitchen is also making positive impact on needy people who live close-by.
MCR is also passionate about regular blood donations. We encourage our team to donate regularly and hold blood drives 3-4 months apart. For the year 2014, we have nearly reached our target of 1000 pints!
MCR, alongside Hassan Trust, is also incubating a social enterprise that aims to train and employ underprivileged people to make cane products. Currently this workshop has trained 18 people including men with visual impairment and women from underprivileged backgrounds. The workshop also offers soft skills training. Currently the furniture the workshop has produced is being used in TGIF Karachi and our Pizza Hut outlet on Saba Avenue, Karachi.
Alongside internal practices, we also engage with NGOs on projects including better healthcare, sports events and sponsorships.
What is your future vision?
I see MCR as having great potential. We are constantly growing and can use this momentum to maximize social impact. Our projects aim to change mindsets which last even after the team member has left the organization. With this kind of impact, our initiatives will have a ripple effect in society.
We welcome other organizations to contact us if they are interested in implementing similar initiatives. We are very open to sharing knowledge and expertise.
Please tell us about opportunities available to women in Pakistan? Do you think women enjoy equal opportunities of progress and prosperity?
Women are distinctly marginalized in society. They face discrimination on many fronts and have harsh working conditions. Often times the culture of workplaces is such that it fosters distinctly masculine behaviors and sexual harassment. There are examples of women being able to prosper but often because of privilege they are already entitled to, and these women are exceptions.
MCR has taken action to combat these norms by having a zero tolerance to sexual harassment and giving sensitizations alongside tools on how to report such incidents. This has improved working conditions for women and men. MCR provides equal opportunity to people without regard to sex, disability, caste, or religion and we strive to keep challenging our policies such that there is increasing transparency within the system.