PAGE 54 Why sus­tain­abil­ity is im­por­tant to SMEs

Marcos Bish, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Sum­mer­town In­te­ri­ors, re­veals why SMEs should take the lead in green ini­tia­tives

Gulf Business - - CONTENTS -

Since Dubai pledged to make Expo 2020 the first sus­tain­able expo ever, the UAE’s sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment agenda has been thrust into the global spot­light.

The gov­ern­ment has made very clear its in­ten­tion to be­come a suc­cess­ful model of a sus­tain­able econ­omy and has put in place some am­bi­tious tar­gets to make this vi­sion a re­al­ity.

Through its di­verse strate­gies and in­vest­ments in clean and re­new­able en­ergy, the UAE is lead­ing global ef­forts in this area, de­spite hav­ing one of the largest oil re­serves in the world. Much ef­fort is be­ing placed into di­ver­si­fy­ing the coun­try’s econ­omy away from oil by 2021 to cre­ate a busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment that en­sures eco­nomic and so­cial sta­bil­ity.

In Fe­bru­ary, the Dubai Supreme Coun­cil of En­ergy an­nounced the launch of the pri­vate sec­tor plat­form of the World Green Econ­omy Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WGEO). The plat­form aims to es­tab­lish part­ner­ships, en­able dia­logue and knowl­edge ex­change among coun­tries, pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors, UN Agen­cies, fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and civil or­gan­i­sa­tions, to ac­cel­er­ate the coun­try’s tran­si­tion to a green econ­omy.

Ac­cord­ing to WGEO, Dubai’s lead­ing po­si­tion as a global hub will fur­ther open doors for pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships for green econ­omy so­lu­tions, low car­bon tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tion, in­te­gra­tion of green so­lu­tions in sup­ply chains and im­por­tantly, sup­port for green mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties for small and medium sized en­ter­prises.

Sus­tain­abil­ity and SMEs

In the UAE, SMEs can con­trib­ute greatly to the coun­try’s sus­tain­abil­ity goals. Re­garded as the econ­omy’s en­gine of growth and em­ploy­ment, they ac­count for 95 per cent of the en­ter­prise pop­u­la­tion and are re­spon­si­ble for 43 per cent of the to­tal work­force. A com­pany that fol­lows green prin­ci­ples will cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that can in­spire and mo­ti­vate work­ers, and this has a ma­jor im­pact on pro­duc­tiv­ity lev­els.

Tar­get­ing this sec­tor, of­fer­ing sup­port and ad­vice to smaller com­pa­nies will make a huge im­pact on the UAE’s green econ­omy vi­sion – the Dubai Cham­ber of Com­merce Sus­tain­abil­ity Net­work has been pi­o­neer­ing this with var­i­ous sup­port sys­tems in­clud­ing its pub­li­ca­tion The How To Guide Book on CSR for

SMEs, which aims to help SMEs in­te­grate strate­gic CSR prac­tices within their or­gan­i­sa­tions.

In ad­di­tion to gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives, pub­lic pres­sure and em­ployee ex­pec­ta­tions are push­ing the cor­po­rate world to ‘ think green’. To­day, ‘millennials’ or ‘Gen Y’ con­sti­tute ap­prox­i­mately 36 per cent of the global work­force and are pre­dicted to com­prise 50 per cent by 2020. Those who make up Gen Y have grown up acutely aware of the en­vi­ron­ment and the need to pro­tect it. For them, ‘ green’ fea­tures such as re­cy­cling bins, or en­ergy ef­fi­cient light­ing are ex­pected as a given.

From our own ex­pe­ri­ence, the most com­mon mis­take com­pa­nies make when they want to em­brace sus­tain­abil­ity is hav­ing too nar­row a vi­sion: set­ting just a few goals and met­rics for mea­sure­ment, and then fol­low­ing those with­out look­ing at the big pic­ture.

Be­ing green is a life­style choice and a busi­ness strat­egy, which, if done well, pos­i­tively im­pacts the com­pany’s bot­tom line. Em­ploy­ees will be more en­gaged and work bet­ter to­gether, costs will be man­aged more ef­fi­ciently, and the com­pany will gain cred­i­bil­ity in the mar­ket. It is im­por­tant to note that to­day em­ploy­ees spend more than 30 per cent of their lives in the of­fice – the workspace has be­come more of a se­cond home, so it needs to pro­vide ad­e­quate con­di­tions for work but also for men­tal calm­ness and re­lax­ation.

Promis­ingly, green build­ing codes, ef­fi­ciency stan­dards and in­no­va­tive mea­sures con­tinue to be in­tro­duced – last year the Dubai Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in­tro­duced the Al Safat Sys­tem, which means that new build­ings in Dubai will only re­ceive per­mits if they ad­here to the green build­ing stan­dards. Mas­dar City in Abu Dhabi and Sus­tain­able City in Dubai are ex­am­ples of green ur­ban de­vel­op­ment in the re­gion.

For com­pa­nies such as ours that has al­ways had sus­tain­abil­ity at the fore­front of op­er­a­tions, it is im­por­tant to con­tinue pi­o­neer­ing the ‘green’ move­ment here in the UAE.

We look to in­spire and help both SMEs and larger cor­po­ra­tions to in­te­grate ‘green’ prac­tices into their busi­ness strat­egy to help sus­tain­abil­ity be­come the stan­dard modus operandi, both in the UAE and world­wide.

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