In recent years, the private sector’s approach to sustainability has evolved markedly

Ahead of Cop28, it isn’t just another line item on the agenda – it is the agenda


Volunteers set up a 20mx20m light installation, comprised of 2,000 solar lanterns, arranged to reveal the Zayed Sustainability Prize logo.

Following a month-long, five-country, transcontinental journey, the Zayed Sustainability Prizes Guiding Light campaign arrived to Abu Dhabi today. 

(Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National)

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As we approach Cop28, it is evident that the private sector plays a significant role in driving global climate goals forward.

The UAE, the host nation, has already set the tone by declaring 2023 as the “Year of Sustainability”. This is a call to action to the world, emphasising the urgency of the climate crisis. However, the journey ahead is challenging. The primary objective is accelerating the transition to sustainable practices, notably reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing resource efficiency across various value chains.

The private sector’s approach to sustainability has witnessed a significant evolution in recent years. A number of factors have fuelled this transformation. Rising awareness of climate change and a change in consumer demand have played an instrumental role. Additionally, regulatory shifts within the UAE and globally have provided incentives to support the transformation.

Companies are increasingly viewing sustainability as an integral part of their core strategies.

Adopting circular practices and aggressive measures to reduce GHG emissions, and developing partnerships to drive positive environmental and social impacts are among the key actions to pursue this ambition. This evolving approach reflects a growing recognition of sustainability as a moral duty and a business opportunity. Additionally, companies realise that sustainability is a crucial driver of long-term value, resilience and growth.

The fast-moving consumer goods industry, worth more than $1.5 billion in the UAE, is critical for this transformation. It faces the monumental task of rethinking business models with these environmental and social impacts in mind.

The journey of a product is complex. Every step offers an opportunity to make a sustainable difference

Collaboration is key to this journey. The private and public sectors must build and adjust partnerships, frameworks and systems to make the green transition more attractive for businesses than holding back. The focus now needs to shift to innovation, creating synergies, investment in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and a shift towards a circular economy. By strategically aligning with Cop28’s agenda, we can drive transformative change, strengthen resilience, and accelerate sustainable growth, addressing the pressing climate crisis head-on.

With its vast reach and influence on daily consumer choices, the FMCG sector mirrors the broader shifts in sustainability trends; stakeholders’ expectations are changing accordingly.

According to a Bloomberg report, a heightened awareness of climate crisis hotspots has intensified the focus on ESG investments, which are expected to reach an astounding $50 trillion by 2025. A PwC study also reports that over 72 per cent of companies now mention their sustainability targets in annual corporate reports.

As consumers, especially the younger generation, become more aware, showing a preference for more sustainable products, there is also a growing demand for clarity on transparency of ingredients and materials sourcing and the overall development journey from source to product and packaging end-of-life phase. This is not just about recyclable packaging or organic ingredients, for example, but about a much deeper alignment, system change, holistic approach, and unlearning and relearning all processes from a product design to its disposal.

Another transformative shift is the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices.

As the world grapples with food security and climate change challenges, there is a growing understanding of the need to rethink our food systems. This encompasses a shift to more sustainable diets, emphasising climate-efficient solutions, plant-based options, and minimising waste, which companies should recognise as a strategic ambition, corporate priority and an immediate call to action.

Thus, to effectively meet the goals of a successful transformation, certain factors must be considered. The integration of sustainability into day-to-day business operations is no longer optional. This isn’t just another line item on the agenda; it is the agenda. Sustainability is the guiding principle that should influence every decision, from product development to daily operations.

Businesses need to embed sustainability into their core strategies, and this approach should be defined at the top. This means that companies’ leaders must be the engine of this change, both within and beyond their organisations and ensure that every business move is aligned with both local and global sustainability goals, creating a ripple effect of positive impact to ensure the planet’s well-being and its people.

Moreover, as the sustainability landscape continues to evolve, static strategies are bound to become obsolete. Continuous innovation is the key. Businesses must foster a culture of innovation to create sustainable products and services. It’s about reimagining processes, adopting cutting-edge technologies, and constantly seeking ways to minimise environmental impact. Businesses, including the food industry and agriculture, can only cap global warming at the needed 1.5°C level with an urgent priority on scalable breakthrough innovations.

Finally, collective action is key. The journey of a product, from its source to the consumer’s hands, is complex. Every step in this journey offers an opportunity to make a sustainable difference. Businesses must collaborate closely with their suppliers, ensuring that sustainability is a shared mindset and goal.

The UAE is an excellent example of synergistic collaborations across the supply chain that are building a solid ground for a significant step-change ahead. With vast and diverse supply chains, the country can make a profound global contribution to a better future by ensuring that sustainability is a consistent thread running through every link in the chain.

The private sector has a critical role to play in shaping a sustainable future. The future is not just sustainable; it’s inclusive and ensures supply chain resilience and business growth in the new reality.

The clock is ticking, and we need to take robust and immediate actions, as we cannot afford to wait. And it starts with the small and big choices each of us makes today.

Published: October 05, 2023, 7:00 AM
Updated: October 11, 2023, 10:53 AM