Planning for COP28: What businesses in the UAE should be doing

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Getting Ready for COP28: A Comprehensive Guide to ESG for Corporations in the UAE

The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) will be hosted at the Expo City, Dubai from the 30th of November. 

This is a massive milestone for sustainability in the UAE.

It’s a chance to show the world that the region is serious about tackling climate change, and for corporations in the UAE to demonstrate their commitment to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies, initiatives, and above all, action.

If you’re wondering what you can do to prepare for COP28, here’s a comprehensive guide to ESG for corporations in the UAE.

1. Understand Your Impact

Understanding your impact on the environment and stakeholders is a crucial first step in taking action. 

Analyze the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) effects of your operations. This could include things like: 

  • energy use
  • resource consumption
  • waste management policies
  • labor practices
  • customer service standards

If you’re not sure where to start, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a great resource. The organization has compiled comprehensive guidelines for ESG reporting that will help you understand the issues your business should be looking into.

Start with the Universal Standards—these are standards that apply to all businesses regardless of sector. There are also Sector Standards if your business operates in:

  • oil & gas
  • coal
  • mining
  • agriculture
  • textiles & fabric
  • financial services

2. Set Realistic Targets

Once you have a baseline understanding of your impacts, you can start to formulate targets and goals.

The process will likely vary based on factors like industry, budget, and resources. But a generalized target-setting process might look something like this:

  • Identify Priorities: Determine which sustainability aspects are most relevant to your organization, considering environmental, social, and economic factors.
  • Gather Data: Collect data on your current resource consumption, emissions, waste generation, and other relevant metrics.
  • Benchmark: Examine comparable organizations, both within and outside your industry, to understand what “best in class” performance looks like.
  • Engage Stakeholders: Involve key stakeholders to gain diverse perspectives and ensure alignment with the organization’s goals.
  • Set SMART Goals: Synthesize the respective data and feedback into a set of specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) sustainability targets.

3. Implement ESG initiatives

With targets set, it’s time to plan ESG initiatives that will help you meet them.

There are countless kinds of initiatives you can take across a wide range of ESG issues, including:

Energy Efficiency

  • Upgrade equipment and appliances to more energy-efficient models
  • Install motion sensors to optimize office lighting and climate control
  • Install solar panels on roofs and in car parks
Guide to ESG for Corporations in the UAE
Guide to ESG for Corporations in the UAE

  • Explore alternative cooling solutions (e.g., geothermal energy)
  • Explore hybrid or remote work models

Procurement

  • Work with suppliers who meet certain sustainability standards
  • Optimize purchase timings to minimize deliveries
  • Minimize paper usage

Employee Engagement

  • Offer free training and professional development courses
  • Offer employee health perks (e.g., gym memberships)
  • Implement leadership programs for underrepresented groups

Community Engagement

  • Developing partnerships with local NGOs
  • Implement employee volunteering events
  • Investing in education initiatives
  • Sponsor local events and groups

The possibilities are endless.

Take some time to think about what your company can do to reduce its impact on the environment. As always, be sure to balance your efforts with your budget—sustainability initiatives come with costs. With the right strategies in place, you can create a business that is both successful and sustainable.

4. Communicate With Stakeholders

Finally, once you’ve implemented your sustainability initiative and see data on your progress rolling in, it’s time to communicate your progress with stakeholders.

There are a few ways to do this:

Sustainability reports are the most comprehensive option. They represent a complete stakeholder guide to your organization’s impact on ESG issues and the steps you’re taking to improve.

5 point summary

As the United Arab Emirates (UAE) prepares to host the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in November 2023. Companies operating in the UAE are expected to take a leading role in addressing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues, and preparing for COP28 is a crucial step in showcasing their commitment to sustainability. Here are some steps you can take to get ready for COP28 with a focus on ESG:

  1. Assess Your ESG Impact: Start by evaluating your company’s ESG impact. Analyze your environmental practices, such as carbon footprint, energy consumption, water usage, and waste generation. Also, assess your social practices, including labor practices, human rights, and diversity, as well as your governance practices. Understanding your ESG impact will help you identify areas for improvement and develop strategies to enhance your performance. Utilize frameworks like the GRI Framework, which provides guidelines for ESG analysis and reporting.
  2. Set ESG Targets: Once you have assessed your ESG impact, set specific ESG targets. These goals should be tailored to reducing your environmental impact, improving social practices, and enhancing governance. Align your targets with global sustainability initiatives like the Paris Agreement and UN Sustainable Development Goals. Make sure your targets are ambitious yet achievable and align with your company’s values and purpose.
  3. Implement ESG Initiatives: Take action by implementing ESG initiatives to achieve your targets. Consider investing in renewable energy, adopting energy efficiency measures, reducing waste, promoting sustainable labor practices, and enhancing diversity and inclusion. Ensure governance plays a crucial role in guiding and overseeing these initiatives, whether it’s through top-down focus, mandating KPIs, or aligning budgets accordingly.
  4. Collaborate on ESG Initiatives: Foster collaboration with other stakeholders, including other companies, governments, NGOs, and community organizations. Working together on ESG initiatives allows you to share best practices, identify new opportunities, and leverage resources effectively. Keep an eye out for events and knowledge sources that highlight successful sustainability practices, especially given the UAE’s focus on sustainability this year.
  5. Communicate Your ESG Efforts: Effective communication of your ESG efforts is vital. Share your progress towards ESG targets, showcase your initiatives, and demonstrate your commitment to sustainability and ESG. Transparent communication builds trust with stakeholders, enhances your reputation, and positions your company as a leader in ESG. Involve your employees in understanding the relevance and importance of these initiatives, and encourage every department to reflect on their practices to contribute to the company’s overall ESG goals.

By assessing your ESG impact, setting realistic targets, implementing initiatives, collaborating with stakeholders, and communicating your efforts, you can demonstrate your dedication to sustainability and ESG. This not only contributes to the global fight against climate change but also promotes sustainable development and positions your company as a responsible and forward-thinking organization. COP28 hosted in the UAE represents ideal timing and opportunity for businesses to either introduce or enhance their existing sustainability activities.

 

Data can be leveraged
Data can be leveraged

At Sandpaper, we’ve helped companies around the UAE and MENA region transform their sustainability data into reports that inspire, inform, and improve their public image and brand.

We believe that organizations have a responsibility to use data to ensure they’re making the right decisions for people, the planet, and prosperity—and you can use our services to make sure you do exactly that.

Contact us today to take the first steps.