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The impact of CSR on our region – an expert’s perspective

Tuesday, 13 December, 2016

Marcos Bish, Managing Director of Summertown Interiors, recently visited the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) and provided a guest lecture to a cohort of ethics students on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The lecture was organised by Dr Zeenath Reza Khan, Assistant Professor at UOWD in collaboration with Centre for Responsible Business, Dubai Chamber of Commerce.

Mr Bish provided the students with a thorough understanding about the components of CSR, what it entails and how companies are moving forward to CSR as part of their strategic plan. During his talk he focussed intensively on sustainability, its meaning and its impact on a company.

Legislation is becoming a key driver behind sustainability with new buildings needing to comply with environmental standards that meet Dubai’s new Green Building Regulations.  We are also seeing companies taking the additional step in their bid to be more environmentally friendly and undergoing LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

During his lecture Mr Bish explained LEED which is one of the most popular green building certification programs used globally. It is a rating system devised by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to evaluate the environmental performance of a building and encourage market transformation towards sustainable design.

He mentioned that Dubai aims to become the most sustainable city in the world. The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy aims to provide 7 per cent of Dubai’s energy from clean energy sources by 2020. It will increase this target to 25 per cent by 2030 and 75 per cent by 2050. With the energy and water consumption in the UAE being very high (water consumption is about 50 per cent higher than the global average), the government has started to take some impressive steps towards energy and water conservation. Water consumption could be minimised through various options such as low-flow taps etc. Day light can also be used to our advantage and preventative maintenance also plays a vital role in energy savings.

One of the best examples of a LEED certified project in the UAE is the Dubai Chamber of Commerce which proves that a high energy and water consuming building can be transformed into a healthier, greener work environment.  It achieved an energy star label of the most efficient rating of 91. This means that that it consumes less energy and water compared to 91% of similar buildings in the US. Another great example is that of Bloomberg which allows for open spaces and plenty of natural light to name a few. It received LEED Gold certification in 2011.

Why are so many of the leading companies in the UAE choosing to certify their buildings and operations? Mr Bish also said that as part of the holistic approach to CSR companies are not only ensuring that their offices are meeting the working environment needs of their employees but they are also looking at how to go about their business as efficiently as possible. Sustainability is not only about protecting the environment but also about saving operational costs. In the UAE more companies are designing and building their own offices instead of leasing and are therefore keen to maximise their ROI by using high quality materials and to focus on operational effectiveness to keep running costs low. Think about it: the less you spend on energy and water bills, the higher the profits will be.

Corporate Social Responsibility does not end with being green but it also has an impact in the workplace, marketplace, local communities and the wider environment. This includes the health, safety and wellbeing of employees, helping clients to make informed sustainable decisions and to engage with the supply chain for sustainable product selections, volunteering opportunities, knowledge sharing and going beyond LEED certification to embed sustainability in our daily lives. Mr Bish also referred to a couple of impressive examples to explain these concepts - Coca-Cola and The Edge building (Deloitte in Amsterdam).

“Corporate Social Responsibility is a journey not a project. Every company is different and through trial and error, they find their way to be efficient and successful”, he concluded.

Summertown Interiors is the first fit out contractor in the UAE to occupy LEED* Gold Certified interiors, and has firsthand experience at executing green interior projects for its clients.

Visit the following links to view the videos of The Edge (Deloitte in Amsterdam) and Coca-Cola

The Edge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSzko-K7dzo

Coca-Cola:

Sustainability report

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByHcNZ2c8Mo

Spread a little happiness - UAE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlA9tXYxD8g