‘We’re going green!’ isn’t just a buzz phrase. More and more companies are adapting their business models, products and marketing tactics to position themselves as champions of sustainability. It’s a smart business strategy in a world where, according to a recent Nielsen research, 81% of consumers feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.
In the Middle East where oil production has long been a mainstay of the local economy, governments, businesses and communities are already looking ahead to a carbon-free future. In the UAE, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) recently launched its #WeAreCommitted campaign, to encourage every resident to adopt sustainable lifestyles that help reduce their carbon footprint and mitigate climate change.
The power of a single, unified message like this one was demonstrated in last year’s ADSW gathering, which was attended by around 30,000 attendees and attracted US$15 billion in commercial deals related to low carbon innovations and renewable energy projects. So what does it really take to become a sustainable business? And how can you effectively communicate your ‘green credentials’ to the people you want to reach?
In the Nielsen study, it was noted that rapid urbanisation and class disparities are creating major concerns about pollution, especially in emerging markets. Few places in the world are more heavily urbanised than the Middle East, where according to World Bank data over 80% of residents across the UAE, KSA and Qatar live in urban areas.
As a result, sustainability has become an opportunity for businesses to connect with consumers who are excited for a greener, more socially responsible future. Another advantage is that it can increase investor confidence that risks are mitigated and long-term profitability is more achievable.
A great example is the SEKEM organisation in Egypt, which achieved success as an organic cotton farm which pioneered sustainable cultivation practices in arid areas. This helped to improve carbon absorption whilst improving yields by 30% and cutting water consumption by 20% to 40%. The company’s combination of quality products, lowered production costs and reduced environmental impact helped it grow into one of the country’s largest organic producers.
As SEKEM demonstrated, cost savings and sustainability in the Middle East go hand in hand. In a region where extreme weather and water scarcity are key concerns, governments, communities and businesses alike are embracing sustainable designs and practices.
In Qatar, for example, MSHEIREB, a local real estate developer is constructing one of the world’s largest clusters of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings for an urban renewal project. The development is angled to capture a cool northwest breeze, with a 32% energy reduction goal. Solar panels are employed to generate electricity and heat water, and the urban landscape is designed to encourage cycling and walking.
Smart connected technology – particularly the Internet of Things (IoT) – is also playing a key role in helping to drive sustainability and cost savings. Commercial buildings fitted out with IoT sensors are able to ‘self-monitor’ for energy consumption and air quality, allowing site managers to optimise them for cost and tenant usage. Devices such as smart thermostats and digital power meters can send reports via the internet, helping maintenance engineers pinpoint problems and address issues quickly – potentially increasing the building’s lifespan by years.