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KHALEEJ TIMES, Tuesday, May 14, 2019 | Ramadan 9, 1440

Bank survey shows UAE firms outpace Mena peers in sustainability plans

Emarties: Organisations in the UAE lead their peers in Middle East and North Africa region in adopting a holistic strategy towards sustainability, according to a study sponsored by Emirates NBD.

The study, which sheds light on the practices of sustainability and corporate responsibility management in the region, found that the UAE has the highest number of respondents claiming that they have a holistic sustainability strategy, with 64 per cent of respondents being based in the UAE.

The study's finding that the UAE is way ahead with its sustainability initiatives is a testimony to the various federal and local strategies that are in place that set clear goals for the country to shape its future to be more sustainable. These sustainability initiatives include the UAE Vision 2021, the UAE Centennial 2071, and the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, which sets a 50 per cent target for clean energy in the country, among others. These have already established several sustainable development goals in the UAE and serve as a guiding principle for most upcoming projects.

According to experts, tackling sustainability-related challenges could save the global economy up to $30 trillion and help prevent millions of people being displaced due to climate change.

The Emirates NBD study, which was conducted by Sustainable Square, a boutique advisory firm specialised in responsible investment, sustainability and social impact, surveyed 638 organisations across 18 Mena countries. Out of all respondents, 31 per cent claimed to have a holistic sustainability strategy including topics related to environmental, social and governance management

While 27 per cent of organizations have only a CSR strategy, focusing mostly on social and local community topics, six per cent of organisations have only an environmental strategy, according to the findings of the survey.

The survey also found that the top drivers for regional firms to invest in sustainability are improving organisational reputation (according to 21 per cent).

Hesham Abdulla Al Qassim, Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Emirates NBD said the bank is firmly committed to embedding a culture of sustainability across its business and inculcating a shared sense of environmental and social responsibility among staff members. "With the launch of this new study looking into the state of sustainability and CSR in the Mena region, we hope to encourage other companies and entities to take on a more proactive role in reporting on sustainability and disclosing their ethical and responsible practices, which will help them benchmark and set regional and global standards."

In terms of focus areas when it comes to local communities, 16 per cent of participating organisations said education was their key focus, while environment came in second, with 11 per cent identifying it as their top priority. Health and youth empowerment came in third, with 9% identifying both of these areas as their key focus.

Monaem Ben Lellahom, Sustainable Square's CEO and Founding Partner, said publishing studies that scan current sustainability practices in the region are crucial to better understand the current achievements and gaps. "This study is very much needed to help organisations in Mena benchmark with each other and to set ambitious targets to operating sustainability, responsibly and ethically."

When asked about success factors that organisations would like to implement in the future in order to boost their sustainability practices, the top factors reported were: aligning sustainability and business strategies (26 per cent) and having mechanisms to track sustainability (26 per cent).

Emirates NBD is well established among peers in the practice of sustainability reporting, with the bank publishing its third annual Sustainability Report in 2018, showcasing its performance across economic, social, governance and environmental practices for the year.

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