UAE organisations reaffirm commitment to environment

Companies across various sectors share details about their sustainable practices and how technology will play a key role in reducing our impact on the environment

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Experts believe that technology has a critical role to play to create better products and processes that will minimise the impact of business and prosperity on the environment - KT file
Experts believe that technology has a critical role to play to create better products and processes that will minimise the impact of business and prosperity on the environment - KT file

Rohma Sadaqat

Published: Sat 4 Jun 2022, 5:38 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Jun 2022, 5:42 PM

Organisations need to take a firmer stance when it comes to incorporating sustainable practices that reduce their impact on the environment, experts have stated.

Speaking to Khaleej Times ahead of World Environment Day which is being held this year under the theme ‘Only One Earth’, several experts across various fields noted how our environment has faced challenges of “epic proportions” in recent years.

Air and water quality

Alexander Provins, director for the EMEA region at Blueair, said that World Environment Day is a reminder to join hands to “give back to our planet and forge a sustainable future for us and our upcoming generations.”

One of the most significant issues impacting our planet and health today, he said, is plastics. “It’s widely known that the lifespan of plastics can last from 10 years through to 5,000 years. We have seen that the UAE has made enormous strides in fostering a sustainable environment through innovation, some of which include initiatives to reduce plastic waste and pollution to protect our planet.”

Case in point is Abu Dhabi’s recent announcement banning single-use plastic bags as of June 1, 2022.

“That being said, as we work towards minimising plastic waste outdoors, we should also remember to bear in mind the effects of our indoor surroundings,” he cautioned. “The matter of quality of air in our homes might not seem like an apparent risk, but over time, it can affect our health and hurt the planet; especially in the Middle East region, where the average person spends a large portion of their time in air-conditioned spaces due to the nature of the hot and sandy climate.”

According to World Health Organization, indoor air is five times more polluted than outdoor air – indoor pollution consists of dust, dirt, gases, microplastics, and more.

“The good news is that we already have innovative technologies to advance environmental and societal progress,” said Provins. “One such technology is air purifiers, which can do wonders for indoor air quality and combat pollution. Our air purifiers are built with Blueair’s energy-efficient HEPASilent technology, which can remove up to 99.97 per cent of airborne pollutants, including microplastics and in return, have a long-lasting, sustainable impact on the health and all those who inhabit it.”

Similarly, Edurne Gil de San Vicente, programme director at Water Alliance, highlighted how clean water, as a vital resource, is also facing several challenges. “Water is the backbone of our planet but in recent years, we have seen the exacerbation of a silent global water crisis due to climate change, increasing freshwater withdrawals and pollution. Today, one in three people lack access to safe drinking water, and deteriorating water quality is impacting populations all around the world. We are at the brink of running out of this precious resource.”

It is important, she said, to remember just how impactful we can be when we come together to make a difference. “Together and in line with the sustainability vision of the UAE government, the aim of our local non-profit organisation is to create a culture that cares about its natural resources, feels responsible and practices daily habits to preserve water resources.”

One of the key steps to do this, she explained, is to empower individuals and businesses to lower their water footprint, which is essentially the amount of water used and polluted during the production of the goods and services we use and the food we eat.

“Your water footprint can be measured from the daily cup of coffee you drink or the new jeans you buy; and understanding the impacts of overconsumption enables us to make conscious decisions that will positively affect our economy and the environment,” she said. “Some simple ways to reduce your water footprint is to take shorter showers, fix leaking taps and recycle more often, but also by preferring a plant-base diet, getting away from fast-fashion and prolonging the life of your garments and electronic devices.”

Partnerships and technology

Naji Attalah, head of Construction and Manufacturing at Autodesk Middle East, feels that it is more important than ever today for the private and public sectors to join hands, connect data, and innovate solutions for challenges that threaten our progress in saving our planet.

“At Autodesk, we believe technology has a critical role to play to create better products and processes that will minimise the impact of business and prosperity on the environment,” he said. “For example, it is known that infrastructure and buildings exacerbate GHG emissions with the built environment generating an estimate of 40 per cent of annual global CO2 emissions.”

He explained that by leveraging the power of design and automation technologies in the construction process from digital design to documentation, firms can measure, manage, and reduce the total carbon impact of a building lifecycle.

“If construction and manufacturing companies automate processes more effectively, they will be able to build more sustainably,” he promised. “Today, robotics applied to the construction process helps to reuse materials from existing buildings and infrastructure. This circularity will have huge savings in material usage and environmental impact. As with other industries, digital transformation of construction will create positive outcomes for our environment. What is unique about now is that construction firms are aware of their environmental impact and they responsibility to do things better.”

Mayur Bommai, co-founder and chief of Logistics at Laundryheap, noted that the GCC region has seen great progress in making sustainable changes, including government initiatives such as Vision 2030 KSA and the UAE 2030 Agenda For Sustainable Development. “Supporting these ambitions should be at the forefront of any business, as it is more than just about recycling and solar power.”

“Building a greener future is the responsibility of all corporations and at Laundryheap, we have played a vital role in pushing green initiatives throughout with our partners across the globe,” he said. “As per the Dubai Ministry of Technology, water from laundry businesses is not allowed to be drained without treatment. It ensures that most of the harmful chemicals, detergents, and suds are removed from wastewater, something residential washing machines are not currently able to do. Facility processes also ensure that each step allows for optimisation of all machines involved, including temperature of the water and central boilers to control the heat and steam to be able to reuse when drying, dry cleaning and ironing.”

Aside from water waste, sustainable vehicle options need to be further developed, he added. In 2020, it was estimated that there were 3.5 million vehicles in the UAE for a then population of 9.89 million residents. That is around a staggering 2.8 residents to one car. Also, this doesn’t take into account the number of delivery bikes that are driving through the emirates. The UAE is renowned for its delivery service offerings, from food to laundry, and even at home spas, but this comes at a cost to the environment.

“Looking for sustainable alternatives, such as the Laundryheap electric bike, could be a key change to the impact on the environment,” Bommai said. “Logistics support teams and state of the art routing technology also allows for route optimisation allowing for better fuel consumption. No matter how big or small of an organisation – and even as individuals ourselves – every action towards a more sustainable future is another step to healing our environment for the future generations to come.”

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