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The best Environmental Social Governance practices take into play communities they are a part of. Corporate houses should not miss the this bigger picture. Image Credit: Shutterstock

With the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 27th Conference of the Parties (COP 27) approaching, nations are focused on advancing their commitments to net zero emissions. Last year, the UAE and Saudi Arabia were the first in the region to announce their decarbonization strategies.

Corporate entities responded to this shift positively. Increasingly, companies are adopting a strong Environment, Social Governance (ESG) strategy that goes beyond the conventional norms of corporate social responsibility (CSR) to integrate three core commitments – environmental sustainability, social purpose, and stronger governance.

Why is this shift a strategic imperative? For one, a strong direction with clear action plans highlights a deeper organizational purpose – the reason why they exist. It articulates a level of commitment that transcends profits – and places equal importance on people and the planet.

This is further underpinned by the lessons from the pandemic. At no time in recent history has the need for organizations to prioritize the wellbeing of employees and the community been more important and will continue to be central in the new reality.

A public-private sector melding

Today, with environmental sustainability being high on national agendas, companies must demonstrate their resolve to move the needle to a greener world. According to a report by PwC Middle East, three critical areas need to be addressed to unlock the potential of ESG in the region: strategic alignment, readiness to change and adapt, and the need for greater government direction and more extensive collaboration with the private sector.

Alongside, priorities promoting a culture of inclusivity, diversity and equality are important, and driving this forward is part of a broader mandate. Most importantly, integrating ESG commitments as part of an organization’s ethos is important to attract young talent, who increasingly favor companies that are environment conscious.

A recent study in the Arab world revealed that more than half of youth are concerned about climate change and a similar number would boycott a brand that is seen to be operating in a manner that damages the environment.

Climate change is everyone’s business

Young Arabs want governments and businesses to act responsibly to address climate change, while a global Gallup poll conducted last year identified that Gen Z and Millennials want to work for an employer who genuinely cares for their wellbeing as well as expect them to be ethical.

Employee wellbeing, being ethical in one’s operations, promoting transparency, ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion, and respecting the planet are all at the core of ESG – and are very much what young talent aspire for at their workplace. To demonstrate commitments in this space, companies must set meaningful and measurable goals.

For example, our sustainability framework directs efforts toward priority pillars where we can make the greatest impact on the world. We design solutions that do more with less material to accelerate a global circular economy through our commitment that requires new products to embed and drive sustainability.

We reduced our absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 72 per cent and are approaching our goal of 50 per cent renewable electricity at all global sites by 2025 in addition to investing $1 billion over 20 years to accelerate air and water stewardship and reduce our use of plastics.

Bring in the community

To increase social impact and work towards an equitable, inclusive world, it is crucial to support initiatives that foster sustainable communities, help local economies, and promote science-based environmental education.

We create a more positive world through science and inspire people to join us by supporting STEM education and investing in the education of our future through a variety of programs, including Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA)’s Dubai Saturday Clubs, where we hosted our Science at Home Program for 20 children from different schools across Dubai.

More than ever before, it is clear that businesses need to serve the interests of multiple stakeholder groups to balance their different objectives and achieve desired outcomes. Having a strong purpose that brings all stakeholders together under one goal could be one other way to create meaningful impact.

By setting strong criteria for ESG, organizations can be more resilient, sustainable and purposeful entities that serve as talent magnets and also contribute to a greener future.