Dubai: Committed to creating positive change in the world, around 100 business and government leaders as well as dignitaries and diplomats took part in the inaugural World Sustainable Business Forum (WSBF) at Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai on Monday.
The exclusive closed-door event — a joint initiative by Gulf News, the leading English-language news source in the UAE, and International Federation of Indo-Israel Chambers of Commerce (IFIICC), a global organisation committed to empowering trusted sustainable strategic partnerships — discussed issues and topics that are shaping the national, regional and global sustainability landscape.
Top on the agenda were future-proofing the health sector and enabling sustainable health care for all; the UAE’s circular economy and sustainability in the global energy sector; how buildings of the future are taking shape; best practices, sustainability and innovation in Nordic countries, and where the travel industry is headed beyond the pandemic.
Building long-term resilience
Welcoming the participants, David George, Gulf News Publisher, said: “The foundations of our world have been shaken to the core by COVID-19. The pandemic has pushed us towards the worst recession in decades, with terrible consequences for the most vulnerable. Societies and citizens are reeling from widespread disruptions. Fiscal resources are plunging; biodiversity is disappearing and greenhouse gases at record levels.”
Committed to sustainable development
Merzi Sodawaterwala, founder and chairman of IFIICC, added: “WSBF is committed to empowering the sustainable development of the world by mobilising the collaborative and collective action of all global stakeholders.”
He noted that sustainability is not a perceived threat or a new way of doing business in the future — it is the future. “Sustainability will influence the way governments act, industries function, businesses perform, people behave and will govern future investments. It is perhaps the greatest investment opportunity in modern history,” Sodawaterwala underlined.
Protecting the health of nations
Taking spotlight at WSBF was a discussion on future-proofing the health of nations through innovation and sustainable solutions. Speakers and subject experts talked about improving health care systems and services that improve people’s health.
Healthcare for all
Niyaz Mohamad, Head of Sales, Lower Gulf, Siemens Healthineers, one of the principal sponsors of WSBF, earlier commented: “The world around is changing rapidly, the population is growing, and ageing, we therefore have a pressing need to deploy efficient and effective solutions. These solutions need to increase availability, improve accessibility, and should be affordable to ensure the large populous truly benefits from it.”
Benefits of circular economy
Also discussed at WSBF was the UAE’s circular economy. Madhumohan S., chief innovation officer for environment solutions at Dulsco, share his insights on how the transition to a circular economy has enabled the UAE to unlock new economic opportunities.
He noted circular economy is about “doing more and better with less.” The transition to a circular economy will result in multiple economic, environmental, and social benefits, such as increased disposable income through lower cost of products and services and higher productivity.
Safe and sustainable air travel
As airlines around the world are rethinking about their post-pandemic recovery strategies, Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO of flydubai, noted the UAE’s airline industry is showing signs of recovery, ahead of the world. “We are very proud of what we’ve done in the UAE — we’ve opened up our market as early as possible. The UAE, being of the first countries in the world to open up for air travel, has helped the airline companies in the country,” he explained.
Hydrogen and decarbonisation
Bernard Dagher, President & CEO, Grid Solutions at GE Renewable Energy (Middle East, Turkey & Africa), talked about sustainability in the energy sector next. He noted hydrogen has a vital role in decarbonising the global economy. Hydrogen burns like natural gas without the carbon dioxide emissions and can be produced by separating water molecules using electricity. “The imperative for combating climate change is to curb emissions rapidly and if one cannot avoid the use of carbon-emitting energy, the next important steps are to reduce and capture carbon emission,” he added.
Nordic diplomats share best practices
At WSBF, best practices, sustainability and innovation in Nordic countries were discussed by Denmark Ambassador Franz-Michael Skjold Mellbin, Norway Ambassador Sten Arne Rosnes, Filand Chargé d’Affaires Marjaana Ettala, and Jan Thesleff, Commissioner General — Swedish, Committee for Participation at Expo 2020 Dubai.
The Nordic region, consisting of the five sovereign states Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, plus the three autonomous territories connected to these states, including the Faroe Islands and Greenland (Denmark) and Åland (Finland), is synonymous with sustainability. According to the Global 100 Index in 2020 by Corporate Knights, the world’s most sustainable businesses are usually Nordic.
See you at the Expo
After the forum, Rosnes invited the public to visit the pavilions at Expo 2020 Dubai to learn more about sustainability. He noted visitors to the Norway Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will see and learn how the maritime country is leading the world in protecting the oceans.
Israeli Consul-General Ilan Sztulman Starosta also shared his views on Expo 2020. He noted the Expor is about technology, multicultural inclusiveness and commitment to share knowledge and innovation. “We invite people to come and cooperate as we work to have a better world,” he added.