Articulating Sustainable Actions

Sunil JohnPresident MENA, BCW GlobalFounder, ASDA’A BCW
Sunil JohnPresident MENA, BCW GlobalFounder, ASDA’A BCW

Published: Mon 15 Aug 2022, 12:00 AM

With OnePoint5 we will help clients deliver their ESG mandate, says Sunil John

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ASDA’A BCW, the region’s leading PR consultancy, has launched its own dedicated Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) advisory, OnePoint5, its name inspired by the world’s most important sustainability goal — limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels

To mark the launch, the agency conducted an exclusive survey among decision makers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia to understand their perceptions of ESG. In an interview, Sunil John, President – MENA of BCW Global and Founder of ASDA’A BCW, explains the rationale for a specialist ESG advisory and the key findings from the research.

Why have you launched a specialist advisory for ESG?

Today, there is an urgent need to address the climate and environmental emergency we all face. In the Middle East, the UAE has taken the lead by pledging to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also have committed to go Net Zero by 2060.

Best practice on environmental, social and governance issues is interlinked, hence, the rise of the term ‘ESG’ in business discourse. The most successful companies over the long term will be those that are responsible, ethical and sustainable.

Crucially, the stakeholders upon whom our clients depend increasingly expect them to set a high ESG benchmark, particularly the youth. Last year, our annual Arab Youth Survey found that more than half of young Arabs are prepared to boycott brands that damage the environment. Compliance with ESG standards is therefore no longer a nice-to-have, it is a must.

The challenge of course is how to bridge the gap between expressing a willingness or commitment to advance sustainable development and changing the reality on the ground. This is where a consultancy like OnePoint5 comes in: to help clients in the MENA market articulate their sustainability strategies in a way that is authentic, while providing them the technical know-how to effect true change. Traditional PR agencies tend to do the former, while management consultancies often focus on the latter. It is high time we bridged this gap – the so-called ‘say-do’ gap. That is what OnePoint5 aims to do by bringing together the skills of experienced communicators and the technical expertise of sustainability specialists.

What will be the value-added through OnePoint5?

OnePoint5 aims to strengthen the voice of the MENA region on ESG issues, while helping clients adopt more sustainable business practices. The world is off track in limiting global warming. At the same time, corporate conduct is being scrutinised more intensely than ever before. The time to act is now. Many clients, be they governments or businesses, are committed to adopting more sustainable practices, but they need help, firstly to communicate the benefits of these practices to their employees and external stakeholders, then to implement them.

How will OnePoint5 approach ESG consultancy differently, given the importance that corporates and governments place on promoting sustainable growth?

At OnePoint5, we have developed a proprietary methodology called Purposeful™. This breaks down into four essential services. We provide advice and counsel to ensure sustainability thinking is central to the business planning and disclosure of client decision makers. Secondly, we perform auditing and gap analysis to help clients better understand their sustainability impacts. Thirdly, we design operational plans to help integrate recommended best practices. The fourth key service is developing compelling communication strategies to help clients motivate their employees, as well as increase external stakeholder awareness of their sustainability commitments.

You also commissioned research in the UAE and Saudi Arabia on perceptions of ESG. What were the outcomes of the study?

We believe in evidence-based communications and accordingly, we conducted a study of 200 decision makers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE prior to launching OnePoint5. The findings certainly reinforced the need for raising awareness of the benefits of ESG standards. In fact, one of the key findings was that nearly two-thirds of businesses in the two countries have no ESG framework in place, and around half (52 per cent) of those that do say they don’t fully understand it. In the UAE, specifically, 39 per cent of business decision makers said their company had an ESG policy in place, while the same percentage said they were developing one. Around a quarter (22 per cent) admitted to having no ESG framework.

Do you see a strong correlation between the introduction of ESG and an increased acceptance of the impact of climate change on businesses?

Absolutely. More than a quarter of respondents in Saudi Arabia and the UAE said climate change was already having a ‘big impact’ on the way their business operates, while more than eight in 10 said it was at least having a ‘small impact’. Many public and private sector organisations are enacting mission statements and codes of conduct on ESG issues, but the high stakes we are confronting today show they must do considerably more to meet the expectations of their national leadership.

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