Business leaders from the Arab world have agreed on staunch commitment to advance and adhere to the principles of environmental responsibility and cleaner production, and set a target to reduce the consumption of energy and water in their operations by 20% by the year 2012. This was announced in a declaration they issued at the end of the Corporate Environmental Responsibility Summit, which convened in Abu Dhabi on 29 November, attended by over 120 chief executives representing major business sectors from across the region. The Summit was organized by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), and hosted by Environment Agency, under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. The initiative was also supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
During the one-day high-level meeting, business leaders debated means of integrating environmental considerations into their operations, and shared views and experiences about corporate environmental policies, in view of advancing adequate programmes to ensure sustainable business practices.
Beyond discussing the concept, necessity and mechanism of Corporate Environmental Responsibility, the Summit debated successful regional experiences, based on presentations delivered by CEOs of six major corporations. Those included: Aluminium Bahrain (ALBA), Saudi Aramco, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), Etisalat Telecom of UAE, the Beirut-based real estate giant SOLIDERE, and Dolphin Energy. Executives who joined the discussions came from a wide spectrum of trades, including Qatar Petroleum, Averda/Sukleen Waste Management, General Electric Middle East and Africa, Petrofac International, Crescent Petroleum, Al-Turki Group, Kharafi National, Dubai Aluminium (DUBAL), General Motors ME, Electro Industries, among others. This was followed by round table discussions, covering four topics: Energy efficiency and climate change, No water no business, international standards and interaction among business, governments and society.
The plenary was chaired by Dr. Mostafa Kamal Tolba, President of AFED Executive Board and former Executive Director of UNEP. Among the prominent international and regional figures who addressed the Summit were Shafqat Kakahhel, UN Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of UNEP, Mohammad Said Al-Kindi, UAE’s Minister of Environment and Water, Juerg Gerber, WBCSD’s Chief Operations Officer, along with CEOs from regional companies including Ahmad Al-Noaimi, Ali Al-Jarwan, Ahmed Al-Sayegh and Abdulrahman Al-Wuhaib.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) actively participated in the meetings, through the regional director Dr. Habib Al-Habr, who moderated a round table on water, and his deputy Dr. Basel Alyousfi, who presented a paper on cleaner productiom.
“The Summit launches AFED’s activities aiming at building a strong Corporate Environmental Responsibility and Cleaner Production programmes among corporations active in the Arab region, harmonizing environmental measures and promoting the creation of a common market for environmentally–friendly products,” said Najib Saab, Secretary General of AFED. He explained that this will also “help Arab corporations to face global and regional challenges and compete in markets with fast-evolving environmental standards.”
The Summit came at a critical time, less than two weeks after H.R.H. King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia announced an initiative at the OPEC Summit in Riyadh to create a fund to finance research on Energy, Environment and Climate Change. His initiative was immediately supported by the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar. Participants to the corporate summit thought that such initiatives represented yet another challenge before the Arab business community to join the global environmental drive.
AFED is a regional pan-Arab non-governmental, not-for-profit organization, founded by a group of leading personalities active in the fields of environment and sustainable development. Other than its corporate programme, the organization is active in environmental awareness, education and governance. AFED has also initiated, in cooperation with UNEP, a capacity building prgramme for environmental NGOs. AFED will issue during the second half of 2008 a comprehensive policy report tracking environmental performance in the Arab region, under the title Arab Environment: Future Challenges.
Abu Dhabi Declaration on Corporate Environmental Responsibility and Cleaner Production
Business leaders, meeting at the Arab Corporate Responsibility Summit in Abu Dhabi on 29 November 2007, at the invitation of Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), hosted by Environment Agency under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
Being aware of the magnitude of environmental challenges facing the Arab region and the world;
Realizing that low-carbon technology will be the driver of economic change;
Recognizing that taking the environment fully into account is key to achieving sustainable development and regarding it as a fundamental prerequisite for sound business management;
Further recognizing that achieving sustainable development is a collective responsibility of government, business and the civil society;
Believing that environmental responsibility should be a corporate commitment and an integral part of our pursuit of good corporate citizenship,
1- Eco-efficiency, Cleaner Production and Green Production methods will be our preferred options, as they are fundamental to our competitiveness locally, regionally and internationally.
2- We commit ourselves to integrating environmental considerations in our internal and external operations and adopt preventive environmental strategies at all levels of business.
3- We are committed to adopting innovative solutions that shift the priority from end-of-pipe to preventive strategies and supporting the provision of products and services that meet environmental and health standards.
4- We commit our selves to setting a target of 20% reduction in the use of energy and water in the production of our products per unit by the year 2012 from base year 2002, and strive to compete actively in the growing global environmental industries.
5- We are also committed to complying with national and international environmental regulations applicable to our operations and business. Beyond compliance, we shall strive to develop and adopt voluntary targets and encourage our clients, partners and suppliers to do likewise.
6- We will conduct internal environmental reviews, and periodically report on the results.
7- We recommend that all corporations in the Arab World develop and publish statements of their environmental policies and the steps they have taken to promote the integration of environmental considerations into their operations.
8- We request the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) to assist corporations operating in the Arab region to further the principles and goals of this declaration, through providing technical assistance, training and relevant information relating to best practices in achieving corporate environmental responsibility.