As Dubai emerges as a top destination where high networth individuals are making the city their new home, the real estate sector needs to rise to this surging demand. Such opportunities to create spaces to live, do business and enjoy life for billionaires present a unique challenge.
How do we sustainably align Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles with property development? These individuals are not only rich but socially conscious, respectful to the environment they plan to live in, and aware of all the evolving social and regulatory norms guiding a sustainable life.
Such global citizens are not buying an asset, but investing in an experience to shape the future of generations yet to come. According to the Global Alliance of Buildings and Construction - founded at COP21 and hosted by the United Nations’ Environment Programme - the construction and operations of real estate properties generate 37 per cent of energy-related carbon emissions. Developers and other stakeholders, including architects and consultants, now need to incorporate sustainability requirements into property designs, pre-construction processes, construction guidelines, material usage and handling, as well as all related activities.
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To ensure such efforts are not compromised despite cost pressures, guidelines and directives must be followed and communicated with everybody associated with the project on-ground and regular check-ups and audits must be committed. The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) has been engaging with industry stakeholders from the UAE’s priority sectors, such as cement, manufacturing, waste, transport, and energy, through monthly stakeholder assemblies to chalk out the National Dialogue for Climate Ambition (NDCA) as a fundamental step of the UAE Net Zero by 2050 Strategic Initiative.
As part of the process, the MOCCAE rolled out the UAE Climate-Responsible Companies Pledge in August to increase the engagement of the private sector in the decarbonisation drive, attracting the involvement of more than 21 companies across key sectors, like cement, aluminium and steel. Needless to say, the real estate ecosystem embodies all these core sectors, including energy, and the pathway they opt for towards sustainability will define how the real estate sector will perform on the sustainability front.
True transparency on sustainability
Dubai’s real estate players should keep existing and potential customers informed of all these developments at a sectorial and project level so that they are also involved in this major initiative to fulfil the country’s climate commitments. Apart from reaching out to individual customers, real estate companies should adopt the growing practice of coming out with annual sustainability reports in conjunction with performance statements.
Pursuant to the construction phase, efficient consumption of energy and treatment of discharges are two of the major parameters on which the sustainability of a project would be assessed. Here, too, communication with property owners and other stakeholders should be maintained transparently so that customers feel proud of their ownership.
After all, sustainability is not following some norms or ticking some boxes: it’s a way of life.
The wider acceptability of such a life would largely depend on how it is promoted and communicated.