World Environment Day – good for the world, good for your company

‘I’d love to save the planet but the health of my business comes first.’

If that is your response to the proposition of taking sustainability seriously, you’re not alone. However, lowering your company’s carbon footprint, reducing waste and encouraging sustainable good practice among your workforce and suppliers can reap significant economic benefits.

Added to that, with governments pushing hard to hit sustainability targets, it means businesses can align themselves with some very good PR, not to mention financial rewards.

With World Environment Day (WED) fast approaching on June 5, sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are firmly on the agenda for many businesses in the UAE.

For their part, the UAE government is investing in a green future and companies that fall in line with their initiatives will benefit from the increased spend. So let’s look at how you can make your business more environmentally friendly without threatening the bottom line.

5 steps to sustainable success

Sustainability, like charity, should begin at home with the way you run your business, but the most effective sustainability strategies involve a certain degree of outreach. These six steps will enable you to make your business more environmentally friendly and to reap the benefits from contributing to the social and economic prosperity of the UAE.

Sustainability, like charity, should begin at home with the way you run your business, but the most effective sustainability strategies involve a certain degree of outreach.

1. Lower consumption: The less you consume, the lower your costs. Items like paper and toner ink can be used in smaller quantities by making more use of digital applications and going paperless. The same is true of more fundamental consumables like water and energy. Look at ways of cutting the amount of energy you consume (and pollution you create) in heating/cooling, lighting and powering machinery. Encourage employees to turn things off when they’re not in use. That includes taps. And look at your supply chain: could you source items more locally to reduce the environmental impact of transportation.

2. Reduce waste: Educate your employees to raise consciousness about keeping waste to a minimum. High waste items include paper, food and plastic packaging. Implement a culture of recycling and repurposing by making your employees aware of the impact of waste. You could offer a monthly reward for the employee or department that produces the least waste pro rata. Waste creates cost for your business and for the wider society. By working to reduce waste, you will inevitably reduce consumption as well.

3. Switch to renewables: Renewable energy is high on the government agenda in the UAE. Massive solar parks in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are contributing to the push towards the government goals of 44% renewable energy and a 70% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. With 350 days of sunshine per year, businesses in the UAE are well place to make the most of clean, renewable energy, ultimately reducing fuel costs and pollution.

4. Share assets and knowledge: The drive for sustainability is bringing about a change in tactics among business leaders. Competition is being replaced with collaboration, as companies recognise the benefits in sharing assets and working together to implement sustainability programmes. If you have an asset that needs to be kept running 24 hours a day, even when your business is not working, why not offer it to another business after hours so those resources aren’t wasted? Similarly, by working in collaboration and sharing knowledge, you can make sustainability programmes more efficient and cost-effective.

5. Spread the word: Don’t hide your sustainable light under a bushel. Taking your programmes out into the community will not only widen the benefit of your initiatives, it will greatly enhance your company’s reputation as well. Communication plays a major part in any sustainability programme, helping to bring your employees, clients and suppliers along with you, promoting the wider cause of sustainability and raising awareness of your good work. That sort of PR is priceless and you can get it while actually saving money.

UAE government incentives

As part of Vision 2021, which drives development and innovation in the UAE, the government has invested in and supported green initiatives on an unprecedented scale. The wider topic of sustainable development and environmental preservation is broken down in Vision 2021 to include specific targets such as cleaner air, preservation of water and the stimulation of green growth plans.

This strategy is important for any business that is considering its eco-impact and the possibility of a greater level of CSR, as it offers a supporting and sustaining environment for such activities. That support ranges from valuable PR and brand recognition to financial backing through a growing number of eco-friendly incentives.

Government support for sustainability programmes includes information resources, PR and brand enhancement, and networking opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing.

CSR Smart Platform: You can keep track of UAE government initiatives by registering on the CSR Smart Platform. This online portal is operated by the UAE Ministry of Economy and provides information on all UAE CSR and sustainable development projects, forming a convenient one-stop location for business leaders and entrepreneurs. It is important to note that the CSR Mandatory Disclosure feature (requiring full disclosure of CSR activities to the government) applies to large corporations that make voluntary contributions in the UAE as part of their CSR activities. Smaller businesses and startups should be exempt from this requirement.

CSR Label: While CSR initiatives should be implemented for the benefit of the community and society at large, it would be disingenuous not to acknowledge the reputational benefit of a CSR programme for your business. Should you choose to invest in this area in the UAE, the CSR Label awards are a fantastic headline opportunity. They are a respected method for showcasing your company’s contributions to UAE welfare and environmental causes.

Centre for Responsible Business (CRB): The CRB was established in 2004 to promote and support CSR and sustainability within Dubai, by engaging with the business community. It’s a valuable resource for the entrepreneur and business owner looking to expand their CSR and eco-friendly efforts. The CRB offers a range of research studies, toolkits, guidebooks, training workshops and courses that cover the full CSR and sustainability spectrum.

Not only does the CRB add value to companies as a training and informational tool, it also holds the potential for eco-related networking. The many courses available are attended by like-minded business owners who are increasingly prioritising their CSR activities.

Yes, you should care about sustainability

Already the UAE has increased its share of non-oil GDP to 68.8% – one of many impressive statistics that show no sign of decreasing in the years ahead. Meanwhile, 2018 is set to be a year where further incentives are rolled out, such as the creation of a CSR fund that aims to regulate and stimulate CSR at company and corporate level. This drive towards redefining CSR in the UAE is set to establish sustainable development projects and a greater focus on humanitarian, social and environmental activities.

We live in a world that is increasingly aware of environmental issues. The UAE government is building an economy that protects the environment and protects the economy. It’s time all businesses followed suit.

We live in a world that is increasingly aware of environmental issues. The UAE government is building an economy that protects the environment and protects the economy. It’s time all businesses followed suit.

As the UAE and global business communities approach World Environment Day, the spotlight will be on those companies that have excelled in their CSR activities and done the most for the environment. With that spotlight will come significant boosts to those businesses’ long-term brand image, with more demand coming in as a result.

Whether your interest in CSR is driven by long-term growth and profitability or by pure altruism, the fundamental truth is that good ethics and good business go hand in hand. The newly emerging culture in the UAE and wider business community has provided an ideal landscape for building a business that is competitive, socially responsible and part of a better future for our planet.

Setting up your own business has never been easier. Virtuzone takes care of it all so you can focus on what matters – building your business. For more information about company formation in the UAE mainland or free zones, please call us on +971 4 457 8200, send an email to info@vz.ae, or click here.

About the author: Neil Petch, Chairman at Virtugroup
About the author: Neil Petch, Chairman at Virtugroup

With a history of business successes, Neil Petch is well known in the UAE and beyond as a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for helping others establish and grow their own businesses. Neil founded Virtuzone in 2009 and quickly established it as the region’s leading company formation expert, before launching Virtugroup, a holding company that has a wider mandate of supporting startups from establishment; to successful market entry; and all the way through to exit.