The UAE currently leads the MENA region in organisations adopting a holistic strategy towards sustainability, according to astudy sponsored by Emirates NBD that sheds light on the practices of sustainability and Corporate Responsibility management in the region.
The 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% claimed to have a holistic sustainability strategy including topics related to environmental, social and governance management. The UAE was the country with the highest number of respondents claiming that they have a holistic sustainability strategy, with 64% of respondents being based in the UAE. Meanwhile, 27% of organisations have only a CSR strategy, focusing mostly on social and local community topics, while 6% of organisations have only an environmental strategy.
The survey also found that the top drivers for regional firms to invest in sustainability are improving organisational reputation (according to 21% of respondents) and a sense of responsibility (19%).
Looking ahead, the majority of participants see 2019 as a time to increase external communications regarding their sustainability practices. However, many predict that budgets for sustainability will not increase. The intention to increase external communications when it comes to sustainability aligns with the fact that organisations reported “reputational improvement” as one of the key drivers of their investment in sustainability.
Commenting on the findings, Hesham Abdulla Al Qassim, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Emirates NBD said: “Emirates NBD 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% of participating organisations said education was their key focus, while environment came in second, with 11% identifying it as their top priority. Health and youth empowerment came in third, with 9% identifying both of these areas as their key focus.
According to findings from the study, out of all organisations that reported having an environmental strategy in place, 79% reported having initiatives related to managing energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across operations. Moreover, 38% reported initiatives which engage customers on environmental practices, while 34% reported initiatives to manage energy use and GHG emissions across supply chains.
Monaem Ben Lellahom, Sustainable Square’s CEO and Founding Partner, commented on the study saying “Publishing such 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%) and having mechanisms to track sustainability (26%).
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. The positive implications of disclosure and transparency have led the bank to increase the scope of the report each year since 2016, with Tanfeeth included in the report in 2017, and Emirates Islamic in 2018. As a result of its annual reporting, sustainability has become embedded in all key departments at the bank, which continues to operate its business in alignment with international sustainability guidelines, industry best practice and the national vision.
The bank will host a panel discussing findings from the study on May 14 at 1pm. The discussion will be streamed live on Emirates NBD’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and the panellists will take questions during the session.