Sustainability and the Need for Institutionalisation in KSA

Imad Adileh
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Sustainability has become an increasingly important topic of conversation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in recent years and with good reason. As one of the world's highest-carbon emitters, its commitment to reduce emissions and transition to a low-carbon economy is critical for global climate change efforts.

Saudi Arabia has since taken steps to institutionalise sustainability, acknowledging that it is not just an environmental issue but also a socio-economic one. As part of its National Transformation Program, the government has stated its aims for the Kingdom to reach Net-Zero by 2060. While this may seem like a distant goal, it still requires businesses to start taking action now in order to meet this target.

In this article, we will explore the importance of sustainability for Saudi Arabia and how businesses can take the right steps to becoming more sustainable.

Why Sustainability is a Critical Concern for Saudi Businesses

Depending on who you ask, you will get a wide variety of answers to the question, "why is sustainability important?". Ranging from moral imperatives and philosophical considerations to the potential for economic gain and everything in between, sustainability is a multifaceted issue.

In Saudi Arabia, however, the need to address sustainability is becoming increasingly urgent from purely an existential perspective. If businesses want to survive in a global economy, they must strive to reduce their carbon footprint and increase their sustainability performance. Failing to do so, not only damages the environment but also puts businesses at risk of becoming obsolete in a world that is moving towards cleaner, more sustainable solutions.

In addition to this, the Saudi government itself has centred their vision of the future on a commitment to sustainability. The Saudi Vision 2030 states that the Kingdom will become "a green economy" with a focus on reducing emissions, preserving natural resources, and developing renewable energy sources. This means that businesses don’t only have an ethical or economic incentive to become more sustainable but also a legal imperative, as the government is encouraging and incentivising companies to reduce their carbon footprint.

How Can Saudi Businesses Become More Sustainable?

One of the first steps towards greater sustainability is monitoring and measuring your carbon footprint. This involves making an accurate assessment of how much energy, water, and other resources your business is using, and what emissions it is producing. There are some simple steps you can take to begin this process as shown below.

Step 1: Appoint a sustainability manager

Having a dedicated staff member who is responsible for the company's sustainability goals can help ensure that everyone involved in the process has a clear understanding of the objectives and is actively working towards them.

Step 2: Set clear sustainability goals

It's important to have a clearly defined plan of action for reducing emissions, increasing resource efficiency, and setting sustainability targets so that everyone in the company is on the same page.

Step 3: Monitor and measure progress

It's important to check in regularly on how your business is progressing towards its sustainability goals. This can be done by keeping track of resource use, emissions, and other relevant metrics.

Step 4: Make changes as needed

Identifying areas for improvement and taking steps to address them is key to making real progress.

Implementing Change in Your Business

Egypt's COP 27 acknowledged that access to financial resources is one of the main barriers to sustainability. Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund announced that the introduction of green bonds will help provide more accessible sources of capital for businesses that are looking to start sustainable projects. But even without access to additional financing, businesses can still make steps towards reducing their environmental impact.

Here are some examples of simple initiatives that can be implemented with minimal financial investment:

  • Replacing single-use plastics and disposable items with reusable or recycled alternatives.
  • Reducing water usage by investing in efficient fixtures and fittings.
  • Encouraging employee carpooling and promoting the use of public transport.
  • Using energy-efficient lighting and appliances in the workplace.
  • Investing in renewable energy sources, such as solar panels.
  • Switching to a paperless office.

In the future, it will be essential for all businesses to have sustainability at the heart of their operations. Saudi Arabia's commitment to prioritising this in its Vision 2030 is likely to bring about significant changes for businesses in the country, and it's important that companies start taking steps now to ensure they can meet these new standards in the future.