UAE companies on board with sustainability drive

Dubai - Corporate sustainability reporting has increased to 51 per cent in 2020 among the top 100 UAE companies.


Sandhya D'Mello

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The UAE companies have shown steady progress in implementing corporate responsibility practices.
The UAE companies have shown steady progress in implementing corporate responsibility practices.

Published: Sun 20 Dec 2020, 2:17 PM

Last updated: Sat 2 Jan 2021, 10:49 PM

The UAE is striving to establish itself as a global sustainability leader, reflected in several of its national agendas and charters, such as Vision 2021, the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, the UAE Green Agenda 2015-2030 and the National Innovation Strategy.

The UAE government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on a national scale is reflected in the significant increase in companies that have connected their activities to the SDGs in 2020, rising from 37 per cent in 2017 to 49 per cent in 2020.

Corporate sustainability reporting has increased from 44 per cent in 2017 to 51 per cent in 2020 among the top 100 UAE companies. The increase has been driven by a greater commitment to national initiatives and efforts to gain stakeholder confidence by proactively communicating Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) performance. This is one of the key findings of ‘The time has come, the KPMG UAE Survey of Sustainability Reporting 2020’.

The eleventh edition of the global sustainability survey reviewed corporate reporting from 5,200 companies ─ the top 100 companies by revenue in 52 different countries and jurisdictions.

James Babb, partner and IMPACT Champion at KPMG Lower Gulf, said: “Challenges posed by Covid-19 have motivated organisations to re-evaluate priorities and pivot to assess their impact on the economy, environment and society. While UAE companies have shown steady progress in implementing corporate responsibility practices and adopting sustainability as a business initiative, there will always be scope for improvement.”

Since KPMG’s last survey in 2017, there has been a push for UAE-based companies to disclose their environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance, due in part to the implementation of guidelines such as those released by the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange (ADX) and the Dubai Financial Market (DFM).

The KPMG report predicts a rise in the number of companies attaining third-party assurance for their sustainability data in the coming years, driven by growing stakeholder concern, as well as the recent ADX and DFM guidelines.

Unilever — manufacturer of a large portfolio of world renowned brands such as Dove, Lipton, Lifebuoy, Rexona, Sunsilk, Omo and many others — made a pledge to achieve net zero emissions from their products by 2039 – 11 years before the Paris Climate Agreement deadline. And in September 2020, the company’s Home Care division announced that brands such as OMO, Sunlight, Jif, and Domestos will replace 100 per cent of the carbon derived from fossil fuels in its cleaning and laundry product formulations with renewable or recycled carbon.

In the UAE, Unilever over the last few years implemented several projects to achieve a reduction in the environmental impact from their operations in two UAE Factories – Lipton Jebel Ali (LJA) and Dubai Personal Care (DPC) - and also office sites.

Sanjiv Kakkar, EVP Unilever MENA, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus & Turkey, said: “While the world was dealing with the devastating effects of the pandemic, as an organisation we were mindful of the fact that the world continues to face two of the biggest challenges of its time: the climate crisis and growing inequality. Climate crisis, nature degradation, biodiversity decline, water scarcity – all these issues are interconnected, and need to be addressed simultaneously. The climate crisis is not only an environmental emergency, it also has a terrible impact on lives and livelihoods.”

Kakkar further said: “Unilever’s vision is to make sustainable living commonplace. Our roadmap to achieving this is the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) via which we aim to decouple our growth from our environmental footprint, while increasing our positive social impact. We remain committed to further reducing our environmental impact, by expanding the utilization of more sustainable sources of power and saving water. we aim to also use our passion and ambition to work in partnership with multiple stakeholders – regulators, NGOs, Youth and our peer companies - to create a movement away from a business-as-usual model of ‘brown’ growth to one focused on a ‘green’ recovery post-Covid.”

The UAE government has taken several important decisions to set the nation on a sustainable green economy path. Recently, Moro Hub (Data Hub Integrated Solutions LLC), a subsidiary of Digital Dewa, the digital arm of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) as a part of Dubai 10X initiative and Facilio to launch Energy Management and Monitoring Services for commercial and residential buildings in the UAE. The new service aims to reinforce and bring to focus the next level energy-saving strategies of Dubai and the UAE.

Prabhu Ramachandran, founder and chief executive officer of Facilio said: “We are pleased to collaborate with Moro Hub to deliver a single connected operational environment. This cloud-based service will unify disparate building systems and enable a modern, data-driven model of property operations to improve building performance in real-time and meet sustainability goals. We are optimistic that the synergy between Moro Hub’s advanced digital ecosystem and Facilio’s O&M platform will help the industry unlock new potential for renewed operational excellence with greater agility.”

Ramachandran added: “One way in which technology is enabling sustainable growth, is by helping us utilise energy more efficiently. The traditional way to achieve this has involved heavy retrofits and ESCO projects. But where technology can help kickstart sustainability in building operations faster, is through the use of digital solutions based on IoT and AI. In conjunction with portfolio-wide data driven and software-based operations, this will result in immediate energy savings, at a community and city scale.”

The UAE’s innovation-driven approach has led to uptake of market-driven solutions. These affordable and scalable solutions have shown great promise in addressing some of the intrinsic challenges that have plagued the region for long. Sand technology, for instance, has enhanced the scope for desert farming, significantly, enabling individuals and institutions to achieve food and water security at scale. Such concerted efforts will catalyse the UAE’s green economy goals and help the region set the right precedents for the Middle East and the world at large.

Chandra Dake, CEO, Dake Rechsand, said: “Today, there is a broad consensus that tech adoption is key to achieving holistic sustainability, which consolidates social, economic and environmental goals. For UAE’s part, sustainable growth hinges heavily on energy, food and water security. This aspect was accentuated during the pandemic, due to supply-chain and logistic disruptions. As we gear up for life after pandemic, innovative technologies will help UAE localise the supply chains and decentralise production. This will embed resilience and future readiness into the economy, besides creating opportunities for SMEs and capital markets.” —

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