Bain & Company, a global consultancy, continues its collaboration with the World Government Summit as a knowledge partner sharing thought leadership with government officials from around the world.

Bain & Company surveyed 100 organizational leaders across 11 countries and 8 industries to learn how the MENA region can advance its sustainability agenda. Bain’s research highlights key challenges, best practices and four essential steps to help organizations take a global LEAD on sustainability.

Samer Bohsali, Senior Partner who leads the Public Sector practice at Bain & Company Middle East, said: “We found that while 70% of organizations in MENA say they integrate sustainability into their business models, only 3% are on track to achieve their sustainability goals.” Bohsali observes: “The gap between ambition and action occurs despite universal agreement on the case for change. More than 90% of executives believe their core business and operating models need to change to operate more sustainably.”

Wissam Yassine, partner and leader in the Sustainability practice at Bain & Company Middle East added that: “As we asked ourselves ‘how do we bridge this massive gap between ambition and action’ we identified 4 things that best-in-class companies are doing differently which we summarized in the ‘LEAD’ framework.” Yassine further elaborated: “L stands for Linking sustainability to strategy. E for Engaging the full organization from the board to the frontline. A is about Activating sustainability through clear implementable missions. And lastly, D encourages Driving innovation.”

Finally, Bain’s research revealed that governments play a key role in enabling the adoption of sustainable practices. Lana Kahaleh, a senior manager at Bain & Company Middle East observed: “The majority organizations surveyed believe government policies and interventions are critical for them to improve their sustainability practices, examples of which include capacity building and training and national standards.”

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Guided by the profound belief that design has the power to shape a better world, Gensler, the world’s largest architectural firm, is leading the industry charge towards a sustainable and climate-resilient future.

“We impact the lives of millions worldwide, influencing how people live, work, and play on a daily basis,” the company’s Co-Chair Andy Cohen told Zawya Projects during an interview on the sidelines of COP28 in Dubai. “As designers and urban planners, fighting climate change is a moral and business imperative of our lifetime,” he underlined.

Operating across 55 offices globally with a workforce of 6,000 employees Gensler regards itself as a force for positive change. “We work with 6,000 clients a year, over a billion square feet of projects. Last year, we worked on projects in over 100 countries,” Cohen said. He pointed out that buildings are at the core of net zero transition since they account for 40 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. “Climate change is a priority for us because buildings can make a difference in the world,” he said.

To address this challenge, Gensler launched the Gensler Cities Climate Challenge (GC3), foreseeing a future where 70 percent of the world’s population resides in cities by 2050.  GC3 aims to help Gensler’s clients reach their carbon targets and the company’s goal of making every building in its portfolio net zero carbon. “As the world’s leading design firm, it’s our responsibility to design net zero projects that give more energy than they take from the grid. By 2030, all Gensler buildings will be net zero or net positive,” said Cohen.

Gensler’s commitment extends to global research, exemplified by the recent Gensler City Pulse of Future of the Central Business District (CBD) study across 53 major cities worldwide to understand the current state of downtowns that were hit hard by the pandemic.

Cohen said: “According to the survey, in addition to resilience and sustainability, people want safety and security in their cities. They want to ensure that the designs of their cities are beautiful and have cultural heritage. The second thing they want is jobs and employment. And the third, which is really important, is affordability. So we’re coming up with concepts that combine all these elements.”

This is exemplified by Gensler’s groundbreaking concept of the 20-minute city, where everything from housing to groceries to retail to restaurants is located within a walkable environment. The concept emerged in response to the challenges people faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cohen explained: “In bigger cities like Dubai or New York or Los Angeles, you might have multiple 20 minute cities, but the idea that you can walk to every amenity that you need and feel the emotional connection of being in your own city or town square or neighbourhood that is diverse and inclusive is really important.”

Excerpts from the interview

Despite the long-term advantages, individuals hesitate to adopt green practices due to perceived higher costs. Is green affordable? Is there alignment between sustainability and affordability in construction?

We incorporate our own standards, called Gensler Product Sustainability (GPS) Standards, into every single project we undertake. The GPS standards establish sustainability performance criteria for the top 12 commonly used, high-impact product categories used in the company’s architecture and interior projects. It’s part of what we do every day.

Since sustainable materials are already built into the design, going green is not an extra cost for our clients. Most of the carbon in buildings is embodied carbon [which refers to the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, transportation, and use of building materials]. Steel and concrete stand out in the construction industry as the two materials with the highest carbon footprint. So, we are working with manufacturers and consultants to ensure that we are using the most environmentally sustainable products in the world. There are different ways to design buildings but what matters in the end is the materials used in their construction.

You have been with Gensler for more than 43 years. What is your perspective on sustainability in design and construction over time?

Over the last five years, sustainability has become mainstream and a priority for the architectural industry. We’re working on projects here in the Middle East that are entirely sustainable. Indeed, clients are increasingly aware of sustainability and the importance of fighting climate change. By 2030, I expect municipalities and governments to implement net zero building codes. Currently, buildings like the one we’re in today are taking energy from the grid. Our goal is to create self-sustaining buildings that are net-positive and do not take power from the grid.

In the face of climate change, how important is adaptive reuse and retrofitting existing buildings compared to constructing new ones?

Adaptive reuse involves re-strategising existing building stock that’s underutilised or empty and is a considerable practice at Gensler. We have created an algorithm that can quickly analyse existing inventory of office buildings to determine their potential for conversion to housing or other uses. Cities worldwide are currently engaging our services to assess entire urban landscapes, identifying buildings suitable for repurposing. [The algorithm was first tested in the City of Calgary in 2020, resulting in projects that will increase the number of residential units in the city’s core by 24 percent]

The algorithm identifies about 10 percent of the building stock out there that can be converted to other uses due to factors such as age, obsolescence, floor plates that are too big, or very low building heights. This 10 percent represents a substantial opportunity when viewed in the context of millions of square metres of existing building stock. Clients are seriously interested in adaptive reuse because it is affordable. You don’t have to build a whole new building. 

Currently, we are converting numerous older office buildings into housing and various other uses. This approach is an incredibly sustainable practice. I believe that all new builds should aim for net zero while existing buildings could look at adaptive reuse.

Extreme and intense climatic events witnessed over the past few years have put the spotlight on resilience. Is this something that needs to be added to building design in the coming years?

I don’t think it is something that needs to be added. As the most prominent architectural firm in the world, we have made it part of the design process. Everything we touch is about climate change and ensuring our buildings are resilient. We are involved in shaping future cities that are resilient. For example, we are working on future cities that aren’t car-centric but will be people-centric. Our goal is to take our city streets back for people. The future with autonomous vehicles and AI is point to point service without the need for traditional street parking. Just consider the multitude of parking structures and street parking spaces that could be transformed into community-oriented dining, cafes, green spaces, parks, and outdoor spaces. Even gas stations that sit on prime properties could be converted into community centres or parks.

We believe in the idea of mixed-use districts that are high-density but not crowded. They foster 24×7 activation, so we’re designing many mixed-use projects with housing, office, retail, and residential components because we’ve observed that the commute time between work and residence is often significant in cities. We can achieve great efficiencies by integrating housing, employment, and entertainment into a single project.

There is also a human tendency to move, aspirations for better lifestyles, upward mobility, etc. Isn’t that a challenge?

That’s why I emphasise the concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods, where you can have a mixed-use centre in one neighbourhood and another centre in another neighbourhood. The crucial element is establishing efficient transportation to connect these hubs, so one of the other key things we’re working on is micro-mobility for last-mile connectivity.

We finished about a year ago Msheireb Downtown Doha in Qatar, a 20-minute city where everything is walkable – housing, retail, restaurants, grocery stores. It’s incredibly successful because it becomes a meeting place where people can connect.

Another great mixed-use project that we designed is The Avenues Mall in Kuwait. It is a massive 7 million square feet retail development designed as a piece of cityscape, with a network of streets and plazas, covered by an ETFE roof for maximum natural sunlight. Because it’s indoor and air-conditioned, people come to stroll or hangout and connect with other people.

In Dubai, we designed the master plan for the Dubai International Financial Centre, the Gate building, all the buildings around it, and the pedestrian area. It’s walkable, sustainable, and resilient.

What are the new technologies that you are excited about?

All the buildings we’re working on right now are smart. They are really based on data, so we’re able to design buildings around the people and experiences and make them as seamless as possible. For example, when you enter a room, the lighting and service levels are all personalised and programmed according to your preferences. We are utilising AI to measure everything in a building, including its carbon level. I think AI is going to revolutionise the building industry and the architectural industry because it will allow us to design cities that are more responsive to people. And it is the youngsters who are institutionalising these technologies. We have about a thousand interns who come in every summer around the world, and they are the most progressive of all when it comes to incorporating innovation and technology into design.

As an architect, what are your expectations of the legacies that will arise from COP28?

Climate change presents both a global and local challenge, but we need global solutions. I’ve consistently emphasised that climate change and global warming are fundamentally design problems, and who better to solve design problems than architects and urban planners? That’s what we do for a living. I think this [COP 28] is important because private and public sector entities are coming together to brainstorm the future and develop the best strategies.

Collaboration with the public sector is vital because building codes and standards must become global. Net zero is not a task or responsibility for a single country. All countries must work towards this common goal collectively.

What are your thoughts on how cities in the Middle East are going to evolve? For example, population dynamics are different, with countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia boasting a majority local population versus the UAE, with a vast expatriate mix from all over the world. Again, affordable housing in Egypt is different from how the UAE would define it.

From my observations, many cities, not only globally but also in the Middle East, have been designed around automobiles. We’re working on projects in Saudi Arabia that are all about net zero and no cars; if there are cars, they are undoubtedly autonomous vehicles. Like I said before, the innovations coming our way will be about making cities people centric. It will be about creating safe, beautiful cities that are about their cultural heritage.

Because fossil fuels are limited and will run out, we must design our world to be sustainable and resilient. I think countries in the Middle East have the opportunity to change the whole paradigm by being all about sustainability and net zero.

Source: ZAWYA Projects (Reporting by Anoop Menon; Editing by Dennis Daniel)

New year business trend predictions reiterate a focus on sustainability, a value that Ariston has espoused for more than four decades and is now central to its business strategy. As the countdown to 2030, the centenary year of the Ariston Group begins and its ESG strategical direction around ‘Building a Sustainable Future’ translates into actions, the company will retain its market leadership by integrating sustainability into its business model.

On the back of recently concluded COP28 Ariston Middle East is looking for an increase in its portfolio of sustainable solutions. By hosting the event, the UAE reiterated its progressive outlook and encouragement to businesses to contribute towards building a green footprint.   

Alberto Torner, Head of Ariston Group in the Middle East, Turkey, and Caucasus says, “Green/Low power features have become a key pillar to design an effective water heating solution according to the new regulations in the UAE. Ariston has already evolved its product range to conform to new regulatory requirements and is pleased to be a part of the progression.”

Recently implemented projects in the UAE reflect the preference for water heating systems that leverage technology to reduce energy consumption. Ariston engineers offer customised recommendations among various products in the company range of heat pumps and solar energy powered systems based on the specific requirements of each project. Heat Pumps embody innovative and environmentally conscious technology as they draw heat from the air to reduce energy consumption by 80% and water heating systems powered by solar energy panels similarly use sunshine to keep power consumption low.

Hotels like Double Tree Hilton in Fujairah, Navita Hotel & Residences and ECOS in Dubai use a combination of Ariston heat pumps to save between Aed 350,000 to 45,000 in their annual energy bills. Complexes that rely on solar powered water heating systems also save up to 76% of their expenditure on power. Golf Link Villas, Mirdif Hills Development and 320 Villas, Ras Al Khaimah are examples of communities that use solar energy systems from Ariston for heating water. Some like Courtyard by Mariott, Dubai use both the technologies to supplement each other with even better results.

The contribution of these solutions is considerable given that 25 to 30% of pollution comes from buildings. Ariston Middle East actively collaborates with entities like DEWA, SEWA, and Dubai Municipality to raise awareness and create a conscientious approach towards energy efficiency at every level.

Reflecting the words of the company founder, Aristide Merloni ‘There is no value in the economic success of any industrial initiative, unless it is accompanied by a commitment to social progress’  Alberto Torner, Head of Ariston Group in the Middle East, Turkey, and Caucasus says,
 “We’ve always aimed to provide something to society, not only in terms of business but also in terms of the social footprint that the group can provide”.

With ‘ethical sourcing’ taking on heightened significance, the jewellery retailer Malabar Gold & Diamonds has signed up with Rand Refinery for its bullion needs.

The ‘RandPure’ branded gold is 100 per cent ethically sourced – which means their origins are certified. These are procured only from South Africa based Rand Refinery’s Securities Exchange listed mines, with the raw materials processed in a segregated production line.

Each RandPure gold batch carries an easily identifiable mark and a ‘Certificate of Assurance’, providing customers with details such as the country of origin, mining period and conflict-free nature.

“Sustainability and responsible business practices have formed the core of our operations at Malabar Gold & Diamonds,” said M. P Ahammed, Chairman of Malabar. “Through our association with Rand Refinery and procurement, we are reaffirming our commitment towards responsible and ethical sourcing by opting for gold that meets the strictest industry norms.”

Ethical sourcing has been a hot topic issue in the global precious metals trade.

The traceability of RandPure Gold is subject to an annual audit that is in adherence to conflict zone regulations and guidance from the World Gold Council, LBMA, and OECD. These guidelines including the ‘Global Precious Metal Code’, which encourage refineries to tackle human rights violations at the mines and avoiding contribution to conflicts in volatile regions. They must also conform to standards on internationally accepted environmental practices, Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) policies.

Outstanding ESG sukuk rose by 66% yoy to reach USD33.3 billion globally as of end-3Q23, and Fitch Ratings expects further growth over the medium term. The segment’s growth is driven primarily by governments’ sustainability initiatives and issuers’ funding diversification goals towards both the sharia and ESG-sensitive investors. ESG sukuk is expected to cross 7.5% of global outstanding sukuk by 2028 (3Q23: 4.1%). However, the segment is not immune from debt capital market (DCM) volatilities.

“DCMs and ESG themes are lacking development in many Muslim-majority countries in general, with gaps in the necessary regulations, infrastructure, and incentives,” said Bashar Al-Natoor, Global Head of Islamic Finance at Fitch. “Sustainability and climate-related issues have a lower government priority in many markets. However, some – like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Indonesia, and Malaysia – have more developed DCMs and a gradually deepening pool of ESG sukuk and bonds. The UAE will also be hosting COP28 in about a month.”

ESG sukuk has not reached its full potential due to hurdles including lack of green assets or projects, extra costs and complexities linked to both sharia-compliance and meeting ESG goals, and longer time-to-market.

Only USD2.3 billion of ESG sukuk were issued in 3Q23, which is a 37% quarterly fall. This is against the backdrop of the general DCM slowdown due to the quieter summer period and higher oil prices reducing the funding needs of some GCC issuers. The rise of geopolitical volatilities in the Middle East, which could affect sentiment, appetite, and pricing, is a risk.

In the GCC, 51% of all outstanding hard-currency ESG debt is in sukuk format, with the rest in bonds. Saudi Arabia has the highest share (48.1%) of Fitch-rated ESG sukuk, followed by the UAE (30.5%), Indonesia (19.6%) and Turkiye (1.8%). Almost all Fitch rated-ESG sukuk are investment-grade.

The combined gross domestic Product (GDP) of the hydrocarbon-rich Gulf countries could more than double from a projected $6 trillion to $13 trillion by 2050, if the countries embrace a green growth strategy, according to a research report.

The report, Gulf Investment Report 2023, published by Century International Holdings, was released at the World Investment Forum 2023 currently underway in Abu Dhabi.

The combined GDP of the GCC countries has already touched the $2 trillion mark. Investment in green and sustainable projects could transform the region into a global economic powerhouse, it said.

“Gulf Investment Report 2023 has been initiated by Century Group as a knowledge series developed through in-depth data compilation for the wider industry stakeholders that will help them chart their future growth strategy and re-adjust their expansion plan as per the ground reality,” Bal Krishen Rathore, Chairman of Century International Holdings (CIHL), said.

However, the economic potential of the Gulf countries is not reflected in the global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) ranking published every year in the annual World Investment Reports released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Total FDI flow into the GCC region declined 17.91 percent to $37.12 billion in 2022, down from $45.22 billion recorded in 2021, despite the UAE recording a 10 percent increase in FDI from $20.66 billion in 2021 to US$22.73 billion in 2022, according to the World Investment Report 2023.

This is lower than the $46.96 billion FDI attracted by Sweden last year and way below that of the $117.73 billion FDI received by Hong Kong or the $141.21 billion FDI attracted by Singapore.

However, the total FDI inflow into the GCC countries has more than doubled in six years, reaching $37.12 billion in 2022, up from $15.52 billion in 2017 – which demonstrates a strong growth in the overall investment landscape, said the report.

GCC region’s inward FDI stock rose to $529.78 billion at the end of 2022. This is at the backdrop of a 12 percent decline in global FDI flow to $1.3 trillion in 2022, according to the Gulf Investment Report 2023.

However, in the GCC, the UAE stands out in terms of attracting investment. FDI inflow of $22.73 billion into the UAE in 2022 represents 61.24 percent of the total FDI inflow of $37.12 billion into the GCC in 2022, the records show. The UAE ranks fourth globally in greenfield investment projects with the number of projects reaching 997 in 2023, according to the World Investment Report 2023.

“The GDP of the GCC region has already touched the $2 trillion mark. If the GCC countries continued business as usual, their combined GDP would grow to an expected US$6 trillion by 2050. However, embracing a green growth strategy could see the GCC GDP grow to over $13 trillion by 2050,” World Bank said in an economic update.

Issam Abou Sleiman, Regional Director of World Bank in the MENA region, said: “The GCC economies have been a bright spot in an otherwise dark economic landscape. Average growth in the GCC surpassed 7 percent in 2022 led by Saudi Arabia, its biggest economy, which was globally the fastest growing large economy.

“The transition to a low-carbon economy has been accelerated by high oil and gas prices and the need for greater energy security in the wake of the war in Ukraine. Renewable energy industries will witness trillions of dollars of new investment as well as opportunities in upstream and downstream industries.

“The region also has the potential to be a lead producer of green and blue hydrogen. With the right regulations, policies, and investments to support the transition, GCC countries can emerge with stronger, more sustainable economies that generate rewarding jobs for their youth while simultaneously protecting the planet.”

Habiba Al Marashi Al Hashimi, Co-Founder & Chairperson of the Emirates Environmental Group and Board Member of Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance, said: “There has been a gap in putting together a comprehensive economic research book on investment across all economic sectors. As the region gains significance in the global community and aligns itself with the global growth and development, it becomes imperative for us to study, analyse and generate conclusion based on real data so that we, the industry stakeholders can map the future direction and trends.

“For example, environment and sustainability has gained momentum now, while some of us have been campaigning for it for the last three decades. I am glad to know that CIHL has undertaken this significant step through Gulf Investment Report 2023 to fill up this important knowledge gap.

“It is heartening to know that Gulf Investment Report 2023 also highlights investment in clean, green energy and environmental sustainability – areas in which the UAE has taken a leadership role in the region and the world – through the launch of Masdar – the world’s first carbon-neutral urban development, the development of the region’s first nuclear power plant, as well as the development of the world’s largest solar park – Mohammed Bin Rashid Solar Park, just to name a few.

“The UAE is investing heavily in clean and renewable energy. Despite being an oil producing country, the UAE has invested more than $40 billion in clean energy over the last 15 years, and has plans to invest an additional $163.5 billion (Dh600 billion) in clean and renewable energy sources over the next three decades on the road to net zero.”

GCC countries can realise up to $300 billion in foreign direct investment if they move quickly to seize the opportunity of becoming a centre for global value chains (GVC) that are being reconfigured towards resilient and sustainable industries, according to a report by Strategy&.

The member countries of the GCC region have been relaxing their investment regime to allow greater foreign investment. Some of the member states including the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar now allow 100 percent foreign ownership in businesses and they have eliminated the mandatory requirement of a local partner in the mainstream on-shore businesses in most categories of businesses.  

Source: Zawya

Arla Foods, recognized as one of Denmark’s largest food producers and a global leader in the industry, aims to bring its transformative initiatives to the forefront of the international stage at COP28 in Dubai.

Emphasizing their main highlights on the COP28, Mr. Kim Villadsen, Senior Vice President and Head of MENA, said, “At Arla, we continuously try to accelerate our sustainability actions and engagements, and for that, we were present at COP27 blue zone and will also be present in COP28 blue zone within the Danish Pavilion. Our main focus areas at COP 28 will revolve around scope three emission reductions in collaboration with key customers, methane emissions, and how the industry is coming together on this, and finally, regenerative farming practices.”

Also, he shed light on Arla’s commendable sustainability initiatives and its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint. 

“We are working across our entire operation to reduce our carbon footprint, and we have ambitious targets in place that are approved by The Science Based Targets Initiative and in line with the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. In our scope 1 and 2, we plan to reduce emissions by 63 % by 2030 (compared to the 2015 baseline). For example, by using renewable energy at sites and offices and switching to fossil-free alternatives in our logistics. In scope 3, which includes on-farm emissions, the target is a 30 % reduction in emissions per kilo of milk by 2030 (also compared to the 2015 baseline). Most recently, we have implemented a point-based model by rewarding farmers who engage the most in sustainable actions on farms and motivating them not just to continue but to accelerate their efforts in creating a better future for the dairy industry.  Arla Foods aims to be carbon net zero by 2050.” Mr. Villadsen stated.

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Arla Foods manufactures 70% of its products within GCC markets, reflecting a strong commitment to localized production. Mr. Villadsen explained, “With the presence of our two Dairy manufacturing sites in Bahrain and Saudi, we are proud to have 70 % of the products we sell in MENA being produced within the GCC markets. MENA as a region stands for approximately 7 % of total Arla group revenue in 2022.”

He added, “In 2022, Arla’s total group revenue was 13.8 billion euros. The Danish market accounted for approximately 8.8 % of that.” As a global leader, Arla Foods is not only contributing to Denmark’s economy but also spearheading sustainability efforts that resonate on a global scale.

As for future expansion, Mr. Kim Villadsen said, “We are continuously monitoring the possibilities and have big growth ambitions for the MENA region. It started with the establishment of our two dairy sites in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, where we are always looking into production line expansion, followed by our recent acquisition of the Kraft cheese portfolio in MENA, which is another good example.”

Arla Foods’ relentless efforts towards sustainability are driven by a dedication to creating a better future for all. The company’s goal to be carbon net zero by 2050 resonates with its commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability on a global scale.

Waste occurs at almost every stage of the global food supply chain, costing money and precious resources, damaging the environment, and unnecessarily adding billions of tons of climate-changing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

If food waste could be represented as its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the US, according to the UN Environment Programme.

Today, up to one-third of the food the world produces is wasted — at a time when 10 percent of the planet’s population is classified as food insecure, meaning they do not have consistent access to sufficiently nutritious food every day.

Looking at the scale of the problem in terms of calories, current global food waste is equivalent to around 400 to 500 calories per person per day in developing countries and as much as 1,500 calories per person in developed countries.

Inefficient harvesting methods and limited access to farming technology, as well as wasteful consumer habits, mean that some 1.3 billion tons of edible food are thrown away each year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Lara Hussein, co-founder of the Dubai-based startup Waste Lab, told Arab News: “When we think of wasted food, we need to talk about both food loss, which occurs across the supply chain from farmer to retailer before it reaches the end consumer, and food waste, which happens at the consumer level.”

Food loss is typically seen in developing countries at the production end of the supply chain, usually at farms where there is poor infrastructure and storage facilities or during transportation to larger markets.

By contrast, the issue in developed countries is found at the retail end of the supply chain, where consumers often indulge in impulsive buying or employ poor storage methods, resulting in food waste.

This is the case in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, where food amounting to 10 million tons is wasted every year.

“In general, the GCC has been experiencing rapid urbanization and population growth, which is resulting in the oversupply and overproduction of food,” Hussein said.

“The improvement of living standards and lack of awareness about the issue and impact of food waste also leads to over-purchasing and wasteful behavior at the consumer level.”

Studies have shown that consumers in rich countries waste approximately 222 million tons of food annually, which is almost equivalent to the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (estimated at 230 million tons per year).

More specifically, consumers in Europe and North America waste approximately 95 to 115 kilograms of food per year per capita. The corresponding figures for sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia are 6-11 kilograms.

GCC countries have some of the highest rates of food wastage in the world, and Waste Lab’s Hussein believes this can be attributed partly to cultural norms.

“Big feasts and large amounts of food on the table are directly associated with good hospitality and generosity,” she said.

During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, for instance, food wastage almost doubles in the UAE.

Daniel Soloman, founder of the UAE-based grocery delivery firm HeroGo, told Arab News that large disposable incomes and affluent lifestyles in the GCC and several other Middle Eastern and North African countries tend to encourage excessive purchasing of food, which in turn aggravates the problem of wastage

“Other contributing factors include overproduction, poor storage, lack of efficient distribution systems, and mismanagement of food resources,” he said.

He pointed out that the region’s harsh climate was another contributing factor. High temperatures and extended supply chains tended to increase the risk of food spoilage in import-reliant Arab countries.

Strict aesthetic standards, especially in relation to fruit and vegetables, often resulted in supermarkets rejecting items that looked ugly despite them being fit for consumption.

Soloman added that many products that did not meet “grocery specifications” were lost long before they even reached the consumer.

“Due to superficial standards, fruit and veggies have to be a specific size, and most produce is considered too small, too big, or ugly, and gets wasted, not reaching the supermarket,” he said.

Unless donated or saved through discount promotions, rejected fruit and vegetables usually ended up in landfills.

To help reduce the volume of food waste, Hussein said that supermarkets and consumers must be encouraged to accept and purchase “imperfect” produce, while retailers should offer discounts or create separate sections for imperfect produce.

Several studies examining the link between hungry shoppers and the number and type of food items purchased have repeatedly confirmed a psychological element behind certain shopping habits.

One study showed that hungry shoppers spent 60 percent more and bought more non-food items than less-hungry customers, while another survey revealed that those shopping while hungry were likely to buy more high-calorie food items.

“When we do not plan our grocery list in advance, we tend to purchase on the spot and in many cases, food items that will just stay in our fridge and cabinet to be forgotten,” Waste Lab’s Hussein said.

Similarly, misunderstanding expiry dates often led people to dispose of food when it was still safe to eat.

“If we do not know how to store our groceries properly in our home, we miss the opportunity of extending its shelf life or sometimes unfortunately accelerate their rotting,” she said.

One school of opinion believes that the problem of food waste is specific to the hospitality sector.

According to the UN Environment Programme’s 2021 Food Waste Index report, it was estimated that waste generated by the food-service sector every year amounted to 25 percent of total global food wastage.

Accordingly, any action by the sector to reduce food wastage would have a significant impact in reversing the situation.

“The hospitality sector contributes significantly to food waste due to over-preparation, buffet excess, and customer plate waste,” HeroGo’s Soloman said.

To mitigate this, businesses could implement better portion control, donate surplus food to charities, and optimize procurement processes to prevent over-ordering.

“They could also train staff on sustainable practices, including recycling, and use technologies to track and analyze food waste patterns,” he said.

Sylvia Matei, cluster hotel manager for InterContinental Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn, and Staybridge Al-Maktoum in Dubai, told Arab News that while the hospitality sector was probably a significant contributor to food waste, business practices were becoming more sustainable.

“We have implemented stringent waste management practices across our properties … and our participation in recycling initiatives, such as converting used oil, corrugated cardboard, and plastic into revenue streams, showcases our commitment to sustainability and aligns us with global standards set by COP28,” she said, referring to the forthcoming UN Climate Change Conference, hosted by Dubai in November.

Matei said composting wet waste and donating it to farmers, and creating partnerships with suppliers to source “imperfect” produce, were other ways the hospitality sector could positively impact both the environment and the community while battling food waste.

“The GCC region, in preparation for COP28, is placing increased emphasis on addressing climate change through sustainable practices across the food ecosystem,” she said.

Partly driven by a quest for food security, several GCC countries are investing in sustainable agricultural practices, such as hydroponics, vertical farming, and aquaponics, to localize and reduce the carbon footprint of food production.

“Some countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also working to improve waste management infrastructure, including recycling and composting facilities, to divert food waste from landfills,” HeroGo’s Soloman said.

Two examples of food-waste reduction initiatives are Saudi Arabia’s Say Yes to Less campaign and the UAE’s Food Waste Pledge.

Food waste is a significant problem in the UAE, costing the country $3.5 billion annually, with around 38 percent of the food prepared inside the country wasted.

In response, the UAE launched a national food loss and waste initiative called Ne’ma, which involves government entities as well as stakeholders from different sectors to cut food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030.

Incentivizing and supporting startups, small- and medium-sized enterprises, and larger organizations that were tackling food waste was another way GCC countries were approaching the issue, according to Waste Lab’s Hussein.

“The GCC is undertaking important and impactful measures to confront the challenges of climate change via the food ecosystem starting from their participation in international climate conferences and agreements, such as the Paris Agreement and having the UAE as the host of COP28 in 2023,” she said.

Source: Jumana Khamis, Arab News

One company’s trash can be another one’s treasure. That’s the premise behind industrial symbiosis, a kind of industrial collaboration that promises environmental, economic, and societal benefits for countries in the Middle East region and beyond.
An industrial model for the circular economy, industrial symbiosis involves exchanging various types of resources between companies located near each other or operating in allied sectors. These resources include energy and water resources as well as industrial by-products, waste and raw material that might normally be imported.
“This kind of exchange makes it financially convenient for the sourcing company and saves the selling company waste management costs,” said Rana Hajirasouli, founder of The Surpluss, an online business-to-business platform that aims to enable such synergies for companies in the UAE. “Sustainability adoption remains critically low regionally and globally. The best way to get it off the ground is to incentivise companies, to enable them to realise a profit as soon as they start collaborating with other industries.”
“The Surpluss helps negate and demystify circular economy adoption gaps and gives companies a payoff for sharing resources,” she added.
The start-up offers a platform where companies can advertise or look for available industrial materials. Members see different kinds of materials on a map, including industrial by-products, waste, surplus resources, and knowledge (such as technical expertise)  and can immediately contact each other.
The company launched in 2021, and the platform went live last October.
In the nine-odd months since, it has diverted one million kilos of all kinds of waste from the landfill, Hajirasouli said.
Its launch follows efforts by the UAE and Saudi Arabia to strengthen non-oil sectors such as manufacturing in attempts to diversify their economies.
Through The Surpluss, UAE manufacturer Al Rawabi offloaded excess stock to companies in the food service industry, reducing dairy waste, and making a profit from savings in waste management costs. Similarly, the retailer Pakistan Supermarket provided surplus fruit and vegetables to a social enterprise serving affordable meals to blue-collar workers.
Hajirasouli believes industrial symbiosis could contribute to the GCC nations’ various targets to achieve net-zero carbon emissions between 2050 and 2070. Noting that the UAE is one of the world’s top 10 aluminium producers, she said.
“Recycling aluminium chips into high-density raw materials known as briquettes can drive gains of up to $33 million per year and reduce thousands of metric tonnes a year in waste.”
Integrating multiple circular business models across several verticals offers a $4.5-trillion dollar opportunity globally, according to Accenture.
According to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation and Swedish sustainability firm Material Economics, transitioning to renewable energy can address 55% of global GHG emissions. Circular economy applications, including industrial symbiosis, in just five industries—cement, aluminium, steel, plastics and food—can eliminate half of the remainder. That’s about 9.3 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2050, the equivalent of cutting current emissions from all transport to zero.
In June, The Surpluss brought together global sustainability leaders at the UAE’s first Industrial Symbiosis Symposium for a discussion of how industrial collaboration and technology can support the circular economy and tackle climate change in the region.

Source: Keith J. Fernandez, Zawya

Following a dip in 2020, tourism globally is again on the rise and is expected to reach $17 trillion in size by 2027, compared to $11 trillion prior to Covid-19. Bain & Company’s new research study, ‘Sustainable Tourism: An Untapped Opportunity for Green Growth’, reveals that there is an increasing appetite for more sustainable tourism among leisure travelers across the globe, who will choose destinations and providers (airlines, hotels, restaurants, and tour companies) based on their sustainability records and are starting to pay a premium for it. On the other hand, research shows that some travelers feel that the travel and tourism sector is making little or no effort to be more sustainable, indicating that there is still much room for the sector to respond and make a difference.
“The uptake in sustainable tourism is driven by an appetite to travel sustainably and make more responsible choices. Bain has developed a framework defining the components of a sustainable tourism experience around three pillars: environmental impact (e.g., eco-friendly transportation and accommodation options), social responsibility (e.g., DEI standards), and community engagement (e.g., contract with locals)” says Karim Henain, Partner at Bain & Company Middle East. 
There is a significant opportunity among the “sustainability enthusiasts” segment of travelers interested in visiting the MENA (Middle East and Northern Africa) region. The study’s aim is to better understand the behaviors and preferences of relevant travelers interested in MENA as a destination. The research covered consumers from six markets: Germany, Italy, France, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and China. 
Overall, more than two-thirds of consumers surveyed in the selected markets consider sustainability aspects to be important or extremely important when traveling for leisure, and 73% expect sustainability to become more important over the next five years. In addition, they state that sustainability considerations influence their choices (64%), are willing to pay extra for more sustainable offerings (66%) and would recommend a holiday destination based on sustainability considerations (57%).  Among the respondents, Bain identified sustainability enthusiasts: those who consider sustainability “extremely important,” both in their daily life and when traveling for leisure (~30% of survey respondents).
Sustainability enthusiasts were found in all markets, but demographics varied by country. For example, sustainability enthusiasts from China and Saudi Arabia were predominantly highly educated millennials, whereas their European counterparts were almost equally spread across age groups, income, and education levels.
Importantly, compared with the rest of the survey respondents, sustainability enthusiasts were:
•    4x more likely to consider sustainability aspects as “extremely important” when choosing a holiday destination
•    7x more likely to recommend a holiday destination driven by sustainability considerations
•    1.6x more willing to pay for more sustainable choices, at a premium of 15 to 20 percentage points compared to non-enthusiasts 
Egypt has several assets to leverage, but still has some work to do 
Egypt has already launched several initiatives to improve the sustainability performance of its travel and tourism sector. Examples include Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Egypt’s Tourism (MBDT), Green Star Hotel (GSH), as well as flagship initiatives promoting Egypt’s holiday destinations across sustainability pillars, such as the town of El Gouna, “the first place in Africa and the Arab region to receive the UN-sponsored Global Green Town award,” which recognizes cities that display “substantial efforts and progress towards environmental sustainability and a greener community.” El Gouna has a zero-waste system where more than 85% of all waste is reused and recycled. 

To evaluate how travelers perceive Egypt’s sustainability efforts, the survey respondents were asked to rank Egypt’s sustainability performance vs. the main competing destinations in MENA (Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, UAE, Morocco). Sustainability enthusiasts perceived Egypt’s sustainability performance more favorably compared to competing destinations as they ranked Egypt 2nd, however, overall survey respondents ranked Egypt 4th.
Balancing the right mix of “bass notes” and “high notes” is important for Egypt’s sustainable tourism. While bass notes broad important topics such as sustainability certificates and green infrastructure are critical, customers tend to follow the high notes, which are topics that create differential competitive advantage. For Egypt, an example of high notes would be to enhance the preservation of its cultural and natural assets across key eco-tourism zones.
The opportunity that sustainable tourism presents to Egypt’s tourism sector is sizable and requires a coordinated effort across the entire ecosystem in order to capitalize on this opportunity. The roadmap should include:

Targeting the sustainability enthusiasts.

Dialing up Egypt’s high notes by repackaging existing tourist offerings to highlight sustainability aspects, defining new sustainable offerings, and launching flagship initiatives to improve the perception of Egypt’s sustainability performance.

Attending to bass notes, including pursuing certificates, enhancing infrastructure, and distributing benefits to local communities.

Nurturing the tourism ecosystem by stimulating businesses and local communities to adopt sustainable practices while securing the necessary funding.
“It is important to go green in the tourism sector as it allows tourism growth, environmental conservation, and social well-being to be mutually reinforcing – green/sustainable tourism will eventually help create jobs, support the local economy, and reduce poverty,” said Jenny Davis-Peccoud, Global Head of Sustainability & Responsibility Practice at Bain & Company.
Source: Zawya