The Sustainable City – Yas Island will have its homes and farm land too. Aldar is getting into its sustainability stride at a brisk pace. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Abu Dhabi’s Aldar Properties isn’t just about talking up green.

In January, the mega-developer came up with one of the most exhaustive set of targets – and the timelines to go about achieving them. Aldar is into as much of the walking as it does the talking.

But the ADX-listed company isn’t heading into this journey on its own. It wants all of the suppliers, other business partners, contractors and tenants to take the green ride along side. That’s where real gains are made towards aligning with the bigger goal – contribute to making the UAE Net Zero by 2050.

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In an interview, Salwa Al Maflahi, Director of Sustainability and CSR, spells out the Aldar way of making things happen on green.

A key part of Aldar’s sustainability program includes suppliers and contractors to raise their game. Aren’t your targets going to place a cost add on for these companies?

There has been a substantial shift in the global landscape around decarbonisation - and the UAE has adopted a leading role in addressing climate change in the region. In 2021, the UAE became the first GCC country to commit to Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 and to achieve this target, the private sector is going to have to play its part.

As a first step, we will have targeted engagements with our supply chain encouraging them to set their own decarbonisation targets. This will ensure that our suppliers are able to enhance their profitability and resilience as demand for sustainable products is growing at a rapid pace.

Salwa Al Maflahi, Director of Sustainability and CSR
"Through strategic investments in innovations, we will lead the supply chain on the path to Net Zero, creating shared value for all stakeholders," said Al Maflahi.

Decarbonising the real estate sector will be challenging in the short run, but through thoughtful collaborations and innovation, the right incentives and mutual action towards a shared goal, we are confident that we can deliver on our targets in a commercially viable way.

Does Aldar plan to partner with select suppliers or contractors to step up Net Zero applications?

The global construction industry needs to build more responsibly. Partnerships and cooperation with suppliers are fundamental to reducing emissions in construction.

Throughout the supply chain, we need to decarbonise materials and operational emissions. This means using sustainable materials that are low carbon, durable, reusable or recyclable. It’s also important to source materials that are as local as possible - this is not only to reduce transport emissions, but ensure that we create opportunities for our suppliers to improve their sustainability and grow their business while contributing to the local economy.

While government policies and regulations will support the shift to more sustainable practice and products across supply chains, companies must also use incentives to aid the transition.

Aldar is actively engaging its supply chains to enhance sustainability criteria during supplier selection – this includes setting out environmental performance specifications that require emissions data to be disclosed, with contractors scored accordingly.

We will launch supply chain net zero program to accelerate the supply chain Net Zero transition and encourage innovation of materials and building practices.

Just last month, alongside the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE), Aldar co-hosted the ninth National Dialogue for Climate Ambition, which was held under the theme ‘Decarbonising the Buildings Sector’. There, 29 real estate and construction companies from across the UAE signed Aldar and MOCCAE’s Real Estate Climate Pledge, which commits the signatories to publishing their own decarbonisation targets before COP 28 in November 2023, and to share emissions data to improve carbon accounting and reporting.

Through both soft communication and contractual updates, Aldar will make clear that reducing carbon emissions is a priority for suppliers to deliver on. Collaboration, co-investment and incentives will then drive delivery forward.

Do you have a likely dateline to reach Step 1 of your Net Zero journey?

Our Net Zero Plan includes Aldar’s direct emissions and the emissions from our purchased energy and cooling – known as Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions – as well as emissions associated with our tenants and supply chain – known as Scope 3 emissions. By 2050, we aim to be Net Zero across all three Scopes.

For our Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, we have set an interim target to achieve Net Zero by 2030. By the same date, we are also targeting a 45 per cent reduction in the intensity of Scope 3 emissions relative to our 2021 baseline.

Getting to Net Zero in our Scope 3 emissions is more complicated as it includes emissions that are not necessarily within our direct control, which is why the transition to Scope 3 Net Zero will take longer.

Aldar is committed to share its progress on its Net Zero targets annually in Aldar’s Sustainability Report. The company will also periodically review its targets for relevance to its business and best practice alignment while any technical challenges related to issues such as neutralisation residual emissions will be fully disclosed.

Stock - Aldar
Aldar is intent on creating clear and defined reduction in carbon emissions. Carbon offsets will not be its priority.

Will projects to tap carbon offsets and reduction be done with retrospective effect at existing projects?

Offsets are not a core part of our plan in the short-term as we will be focused on cementing the decarbonisation practices within our core business activities to drive genuine emissions reduction.

We will only consider offsets if we have unavoidable residual emissions from our wider value chain, and we will use the most credible offsetting and market-based decarbonisation tools.

If there was one defining project that would be the launch moment for Aldar’s Net Zero, which would be it?

It would be our drive to develop communities such as Sustainable City – Yas Island, which we launched shortly after announcing our Net Zero action plan. Sustainable City - Yas Island is a partnership between Aldar and Diamond Developers that is offering a new way of life for residents in the UAE with a walkable community surrounded by open green spaces, leisurely walkways and community farming plots.

The project is underpinned by a central green spine that runs the length of the community, featuring parks, lakes, and biodomes where vegetables will be grown and distributed throughout the community.

Sustainable City – Yas Island will be powered by clean renewable energy, including solar panels embedded on all parking structures, enabling residents to save up to 50 per cent on energy bills.