Net Zero
Image Credit: Supplied

As the world reaches a climate emergency, achieving net-zero decarbonisation is vital. However, whilst companies from across the globe are seeking ways to reduce emissions, there is still some way to go.

According to a 2023 Global Energy Review on CO2 emissions by the International Energy Agency, Global CO2 emissions from industry declined by 1.7 per cent in 2022. The report touted the global decline as being due to a reduction in China’s industrial emissions, which reflected a 10 per cent decrease in cement production and a rate of 2 per cent less in steel production. Meanwhile, the European Union saw a 2.5 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions as building sector emissions fell. However, overall, the report suggests that global CO2 emissions from energy combustion and industrial processes grew by 0.9 % in 2022.

Sahil Gandhi, CEO of Subsea technology company, Unique Group

Although industries are tackling sustainability, more needs to be done. Therefore, throughout free zone entities across the world, corporations are prioritising sustainability within their business plans.

“Today’s responsible business models are all about sustainability and reducing the footprint they leave behind,” says Sahil Gandhi, CEO of Subsea technology company, Unique Group, which is based at Hamriyah Free Zone in Sharjah.

“Decarbonisation is a crucial goal that all companies can and should include in their business practices to promote sustainability and address climate change. It is critical to understand that we are all in this together, and no single company can address climate change on its own. Therefore, it is essential that all companies strive towards net-zero decarbonisation. By doing so, we can all contribute to the collective effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainability while also learning from each other’s efforts.”

Unique Group has already succeeded in reducing its carbon footprint.

Gandhi says, “Currently, we have been able to achieve a 14 per cent net reduction in our carbon footprint year on year globally as a result of our continuing efforts towards our four UN Sustainable Development Goals – Climate Action, Responsible Consumption and Production, Reduced Inequalities and Good Health and Well-being.”

Decarbonising business models

With a game plan firmly in place, Unique Group is working towards a better future for the planet.

“Our game plan includes adopting eco-friendly practices and implementing multiple initiatives, including eliminating single-use plastic within the workplace, renting electric vans, and introducing a global paperless mandate amongst several others,” says Ghandi.

“With the industry moving towards energy transition, we are focusing our research and development team on creating solutions that decarbonise the ecosystem for our key stakeholders. Our autonomous solutions are contributing to reducing the environmental impact of survey operations globally by up to 75 per cent versus currently used conventional methodologies. We continue to innovate our products and services to support the subsea and energy sectors thus enabling clients to reduce the carbon footprint of their projects as well.”

Despite companies such as Unique Group doing their part, a collaborative effort is required all around the world. At Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, the free zone is attempting to pave the way and are keen to lead by example.

“Masdar City’s vision is to be a catalyst and a reference point for cities around the world that want to be part of a more sustainable future. We started working on sustainability 15 years ago, long before it was in vogue,” says Steve Severance, Director of Growth, at Masdar City.

Steve Severance, Director of Growth, at Masdar City

“Other developments have followed our lead, and we’re incredibly excited about the rise and the importance of sustainability in the MENA region, and about the UAE’s incredible leadership in this area, because we can’t create a brighter future alone. Sustainability isn’t a Masdar City need or an Abu Dhabi need. It’s a global need. All free zones and developers need to determine that sustainability is a vital component of their business.”

In 2021, the UAE government announced their roadmap to reach net-zero by 2050, followed by the signing of an agreement at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). At Masdar City, reaching the 2050 Net Zero strategy is at the core of the business.

“Masdar City is playing a vital role in the UAE’s Net Zero 2050 strategy, both in creating net-zero energy buildings, and in acting as a catalyst for other cities and developers to do the same. Each of our projects is more ambitious and energy-efficient than the last. Ten years ago, our buildings were 40 per cent more water and energy-efficient than traditional buildings. Today, we have no fewer than three net-zero energy buildings in progress. Abu Dhabi’s first net-zero energy office building will be complete at the end of 2023. Masdar City Square, which is in progress, will feature Abu Dhabi’s first net-zero energy corporate HQ building. The Link, which we broke ground on earlier this year, will feature the region’s first net-zero energy shared working and living space.”

Whether a local or global company, it seems that industries are starting to make an impact on the world with their ambitious net-zero plans.

As a world leader in food processing and packaging, Tetra Pak services hundreds of millions of people in over 160 countries. The food processing giant is now focusing on innovative solutions to reach net-zero.

Progress to net zero

“At Tetra Pak, we have a clear and ambitious target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across our value chain by 2050,” says Marcelo Piva, Regional Sustainability Director - Middle East and Africa, Tetra Pak.

“To achieve this, we have developed a comprehensive strategy that focuses on reducing emissions from our operations and throughout our value chain. Our approach involves investing in renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, using low-carbon materials, and working closely with our suppliers and customers to reduce emissions. We are also exploring innovative solutions, such as using sustainable materials and developing circular systems to further reduce our carbon footprint. As per our sustainability report of 2022, we have reached 80 per cent renewable electricity in our operations by doubling solar photovoltaic capacity and reduced 36% of GHG emissions in our operations compared to the 2019 baseline.”

Tetra pak

Marcelo Piva, Regional Sustainability Director - Middle East and Africa, Tetra Pak

Every change adds up, but it also adds to the costs for businesses to enable them to tackle this transformation. One Mckinsey report suggests that the global transformation needed to achieve net-zero by 2050 would require $9.2 trillion in annual average spending on physical assets. Although, whilst this transition is priceless and crucial for the planet, it could also bring growth opportunities.

Piva says, “The transition to net-zero decarbonisation will undoubtedly have economic implications for all companies, including those within free zones. However, we believe that the long-term benefits of achieving a net-zero carbon economy, such as reduced energy costs, increased resilience to climate change, and improved public health, will outweigh the short-term costs.

“Moreover, we see opportunities for companies to innovate and develop new business models that can help them reduce their carbon footprint and create value in a sustainable manner.”

With global free zone companies seeking ways to reach net-zero, there is certainly hope for a cleaner future. However, the fact remains that for a worldwide net-zero game plan to be successful, it has to be a concerted effort.■