Stock - ESG Investing
Private sector enterprises in the Gulf are good with the ESG talk, but the walk part is where they lag. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: There is the big talk about playing their part in helping the environment – but 60 per cent of businesses in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are yet to have a framework to manage their ESG (environment social governance) standards. Just as damaging, half of these companies are not sure whether their employees get it about what ESG should be.

Of 200 opinion elites interviewed, 41 per cent said their business already had an ESG framework in place, and a third said they were developing one. A quarter admitted their company had no ESG policy. Over half said their company had introduced an ESG framework – but that they did not fully understand it.

These disappointing feedback – based on a survey by OnePoint5, a dedicated ESG consultancy – comes against a backdrop of the UAE setting clear benchmarks on its environmental goals. It also arrives as Egypt prepares to host the UN Climate Conference, COP27, in November, and followed by COP28 in the UAE in 2023.

ESG framework
Image Credit: Supplied

OnePoint5 can help client develop a strong ESG proposition to deliver greater value for their shareholders and stakeholders.

- Sunil John, President – MENA of BCW and founder of Asda’a BCW, under which the new ESG advisory operates

Apart from advice and counsel, OnePoint5’s portfolio will cover auditing and gap analysis to understand a client’s sustainability impact; design operational plans to help integrate best practices; and communications strategies to help clients inform and motivate employees and internal stakeholders.

“The gap between awareness of the acute need to advance sustainable development and action on the ground by much of the business community needs closing,” said John. “Consultancies can help clients address this so-called ‘say-do’ gap, by combining the skills of experienced communicators with the technical abilities of sustainability specialists.

“The UAE, Saudi Arabia and several other countries in MENA have pledged to go Net Zero and are enacting a wave of reforms aimed at raising the bar for transparency, good governance and sustainability. The message is clear: all of us need to raise our game”

Climate and corruption

The survey also showed gaps in how businesses are responding to climate action, with 61 per cent of decision-makers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia saying global warming was already having an impact on the way their business operates. While governance standards show room for improvement, 40 per cent of respondents ‘claim to have robust policies to combat bribery, corruption and unethical behaviour’. Forty-six per cent of respondents in the UAE and 43 per cent in Saudi Arabia said they had a whistle-blower policy in place to expose corruption.

The survey was conducted by PSB Middle East from May 22 to 29, 2022. The interview sample, comprising decision makers directly involved in ESG affairs, was split evenly between Saudi Arabia and the UAE.