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Why sustainability is important for SMEs in the UAE

Why sustainability is important for SMEs in the UAE

Here are some of the most common mistake companies make when they want to embrace sustainability

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.

Marcos Bish is managing director of Summertown Interiors

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