GN Focus | Green Initiatives

Painting the town green

As the case for going green continues to grow, companies and individuals alike are embracing the ethos

  • By Iona Stanley | Special to GN Focus
  • Published: 00:00 January 15, 2013
  • GN Focus

  • Image Credit: Corbis
  • Steady progress : Solar panels in Abu Dhabi. Organisations in the region have been initiating various policies towards a greener future
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First came proof that green buildings command higher rents while carrying lower risks. Then there was evidence that energy efficiency could increase cash flow and improve public perception. Now there is proof that green companies actually increase productivity.

A study conducted by UCLA’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability, the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and France’s University Paris–Dauphine, has proven that companies which adopt green practices and standards have employees who are 16 per cent more productive than others. The study was based on an interview pool of 10,000 employees in 5,220 companies that had voluntarily adopted international standards or eco-labels such as fair trade and organic.

“Employees in green firms are more motivated, receive more training, and benefit from better interpersonal relationships, and are therefore more productive than employees in more conventional firms,” UCLA researcher Professor Magali Delmas explains in the report.

Whatever the motivation — profit, publicity or productivity — companies around the world are initiating and inventing meaningful changes, from reducing energy use and cutting operational costs to enhancing employee health, improving community welfare, protecting natural resources and minimising environmental impact.

In the UAE, it is not easy to track and trace companies that have adopted green policies. Often, information is limited to annual reports, and at other times, communication is riddled with jargon. Occasionally, there is publicity about something as plebeian as planting a tree. There are no official watchdogs to monitor green companies or agencies to report on consistent consumer behaviour.

In this milieu, there is a call for organisations to be more proactive and productive in explaining why and how they are green. But some of them are already painting the town with shades of green, even if it is with small strokes.

Local initiatives

A new concept in the Middle East is the Green Car Rental, which gives drivers the opportunity to rent or lease hybrid and full-electric luxury vehicles. Based in Dubai, the Green Car Rental is fully committed to promoting the move towards renewable sustainable energy, actively helping to lower the region’s carbon emissions levels.

The Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) plans to turn both its campuses and its curricula green. The new Ras Al Khaimah Women’s College and the expansion of the Fujairah Women’s College are designed to incorporate sustainable development. The women’s campus at the UAE University has installed a cloud network that allows one computer server to replace 12, and plans are afoot to duplicate the efforts. A five-year agreement between Abu Dhabi’s education and environmental authorities aims at integrating lessons on sustainability into the curriculum, while Sharjah University now offers a Bachelor of Science programme in renewable and sustainable energy. A solar farm at the UAE University in Al Ain, for instance, will serve as a living, learning laboratory for young engineers.

Starting green education even earlier is the Dubai’s Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery. The nursery’s integrated approach focuses on instilling in little children respect and awareness for themselves, others and the planet. Everyday activities at the nursery include nature walks in the garden, playtime in sand pits, gardening in an organic patch, and sitting outdoors.

Hospitality sector

As a concept, greening can go everywhere, and especially to places that people visit frequently. In November, Green Globe announced re-certification of the Mövenpick Hotel Deira in Dubai for demonstrating outstanding efforts and innovation in operational efficiency and corporate responsibility. The hotel reached 90 per cent of the stringent but prestigious Green Globe certification criteria for the second time in a row. General Manager Michael Nugent says, “This demonstrates our success in educating our employees and partners, and our commitment to ensure an ongoing responsible practice towards sustaining the environment.” Mövenpick joins a small list of other green hotels in Dubai, such as Emaar Hospitality Group’s Al Manzil and Qamardeen Hotels, and Jumeirah Group’s Emirates Towers.

The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has been assisting the emirate’s hotels and hotel apartments in reducing the consumption of electricity and water, and presenting themselves as environment-friendly properties to international guests, with a slew of green tourism initiatives and environmentally sustainable tourism. In a notable example, DTCM’s Dubai Green Tourism Award, which was launched in 2009, encourages them to reduce hotel carbon emissions by 20 per cent.

Online directory

For those who are willing but unsure where to make a green start, Goumbook’s Green Directory is a great place. As the UAE’s only online source on greening, the website provides details of environmentally conscious businesses in the country.

Among environmentally conscious companies, Bambootique at The Walk in Jumeirah Beach Residence sells clothes made from natural bamboo fibre. The durable, sustainable and eco-friendly range is not just stylish, but also makes a positive impact on the environment. Another example is Wild Planet Productions, listed as the region’s only dedicated natural history production company.

Residents of The Palm Jumeirah have been enjoying the Ittihad Park launched in November, but few may realise that it is green in more ways than one. With a marked absence of green grass and flowering bougainvillea that is ubiquitous in other parks, Ittihad Park has an excavation site at its centre that resembles a wadi bed, and acts as a drainage system for the park. The 1.1-million-square-feet communal space is the first of its kind, featuring no less than 60 species of indigenous trees and plants. Many have medicinal uses, and all need minimal water to thrive — thus having a smaller ecological footprint than conventional parks.

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