Earth Day 2021: Sustainability is key to our recovery
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Earth Day 2021: Sustainability is key to our recovery

Earth Day 2021: Sustainability is key to our recovery

We must ensure how our organisations run are as environmentally friendly and energy efficient as possible

Half a century ago, a movement was born to promote the idea that our environment and its protection were fundamental to the wellbeing of our planet and humanity. That movement is today marked by Earth Day, an occasion that is marked by over a billion people around the world. This grassroots campaign has led to some of the greatest developments in climate protection, including the signing of the Paris Agreement by most of the world’s countries, including the UAE.

Today, we’re marking Earth Day once again. And, the theme for this year is Restore Our Earth, which is understandably shaped by the events of the past year. I want to share our view on how we best do this, whilst also helping communities recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, which has and continues to hurt businesses of all sizes and the hopes for creating jobs and providing people with the means to provide for themselves and their families.

If we’ve learned anything from 2020 and this year, it’s the importance of interconnectedness. As lockdowns were introduced across the world, we saw how nature responded and how the environment recovered from the impact of human activity.

As we now hope to recover, we have two paths we can take. One to return to how we lived and worked before the pandemic. The other is to build sustainable recoveries, that focus both on economic growth and a green revival.

So, where do we begin? First of all, businesses need to step up and make sustainability a boardroom issue. Decisions must be taken with a view to how actions will impact the environment. Going beyond that, we’ve got to ask ourselves how can we embed sustainability in our operations? How can we grow economies whilst using fewer resources?

Let’s begin with how businesses operate. We must ensure how our organisations run are as environmentally friendly and energy efficient as possible. Cutting-edge technologies and effective environmental management measures can help to minimise the resources needed. A simple example of this could be agritech-managed plant farms, which require 95 per cent less water and 99 per cent less land than conventional farms. The farms are monitored by software and don’t use pesticides. Another example could be retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient – smart technologies can reduce a building’s energy usage by up to 40 per cent.

Secondly, we need to reward businesses that are becoming more sustainable. We need role models, examples of businesses that are examples of how sustainability is both good for the planet as well as economic growth. There are many firms out there who are leading the way when it comes to making a positive social and environmental impact, and research has already shown that consumers will reward these companies with their loyalty. Progressive governments are doing the same when it comes to rewarding businesses who are investing in technologies and processes that make their operations more sustainable.

Thirdly, we must focus on our people and help employees and management see how they can contribute to making their firms greener through awareness and training programmes. In addition, regular refresher courses should be conducted on environmental management that enable participants to share ideas and experiences.

The fourth and final step is to look outside of our own organizations and see how we can amplify these changes. Increasingly, we and other companies are working with our suppliers to make them more efficient. By casting a wider net, we can influence changes in our products, our people, our policies, our operations, our supply chains, and our customer.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change course. By investing in green technology and developing new, forward-looking industries, we can create hundreds of thousands of jobs here in the region and realise tens of billions of dollars in economic value.

We can also develop our own brands and companies to export green innovations and technologies around the world. Most importantly, we’ll be safeguarding the environment’s future for our children and their legacies. To invest in a long-term recovery that will benefit everyone, we must go green.

Let’s make this our focus for this year’s Earth Day in the UAE.

Natalja Kissina is the HR VP Gulf Countries at Schneider Electric

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