By Marwa Kaabour, group head of marketing and corporate communication, Al Masaood
It is no surprise that our planet is reaching a tipping point with factors such as the ever-growing population, depletion of natural resources and rising temperatures fuelling environmental degradation. The Earth is struggling to sustain us and itself and sustainability plays an increasingly important role. If we do not make tangible changes now, 2023 could easily spell disaster for people and the environment.
The latest UN climate report paints a grim picture: without taking immediate and uncompromising action to reduce emissions, by 2015, global warming will be felt, with the temperature exceeding the 1.5C limit set in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change – an outcome that will have lasting repercussions around the world. Inaction will result in creating irreversible consequences that our planet cannot withstand.
As governments, businesses and consumers become more conscious of their footprints, 2023 will bring an exciting wave of sustainability developments. Let us explore some of the trends ahead and look at ways in which we can make positive contributions to help protect our planet.
TAKEAWAYS FROM COP27: GLOBAL CLIMATE ACTION ACCELERATES THE DRIVE FOR POSITIVE CHANGE
At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop27) held in Egypt last year, hundreds of delegates convened to discuss ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The primary focus of the conference was to finalise the implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement. The participants also discussed the support required for countries grappling with vulnerable climates as well as financial commitments from all nations, availability of sustainable energy and resources and ways to strengthen carbon markets around the world. Overall, Cop27 reaffirmed previous global pledges in relation to climate change and provided a roadmap for all nations to reach the emissions reduction goals set forth in Paris. Through partnerships across governments, international organisations and the private sector, it is possible to make progress towards achieving these goals. It is up to all of us now to take a proactive stance and implement the plans outlined at Cop27.
COP28: PROTECTING NATURE AND HUMANITY THROUGH ECOSYSTEM-BASED MITIGATION
This year, countries all over the world will be represented at Expo City Dubai to assess existing commitments and make new ones to protect the environment. These include reducing methane emissions, halting deforestation and ceasing fossil fuel financing. The hardest mitigation challenges in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) reside within the region’s most vital industries such as agriculture, aviation and shipping. Steel and cement production sectors also face daunting obstacles when it comes to reducing their environmental impact.
CUT DOWN EMISSIONS
To avoid the potentially devastating consequences of exceeding a global temperature rise of 1.5C, it is essential that greenhouse gas emissions are urgently reduced before 2025 and by as much as 48 per cent over the next decade. The UAE government has already started taking action to address this growing concern. The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) recently launched the National Carbon Sequestration Project, which seeks to plant 100 million mangroves by 2030 as part of the nation’s journey towards net zero emissions by 2050.
CURB METHANE EMISSIONS
Cop28 will be an opportunity to further address methane as a major contributing factor in climate change. The upcoming conference aims to develop strategies for further mitigating and adapting to global warming due to rising concentrations of this troublesome greenhouse gas. With the potential to reduce global warming by up to 25 per cent, curbing methane emissions could be a game changer. The International Energy Agency (IEA) suggests that current technologies can achieve an impressive 75 per cent of industry-produced methane using technologies available today. The potential reduction in one of our most menacing pollutants is too great an opportunity for us not to take advantage of. Methane is believed to have 84 times greater effects than carbon dioxide. Taking measures now to reduce our impact will ensure that future generations will not be adversely affected by climate change.
PHASE OUT FOSSIL FUELS
To uphold sustainable energy practices, there is a need for active measures
aimed at reducing our reliance on inefficient fossil fuels such as coal. This commitment paves the way towards
an infinitely more efficient and greener future.
RENEW COMMITMENT TO CLIMATE FINANCE
Despite declaring their commitment to providing $100bn to yearly climate finance, developed nations have only managed to partially live up to that promise. The good news is that green tech is gaining momentum globally. According to a PwC report, the Middle East alone invested $1.6bn in climate technology during the first half of 2022.
EMERGING POSSIBILITIES FOR TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE: WHAT COMES AFTER COP28
Beyond CopP28, we will see other developments in the climate change space emerge and offer new possibilities to address this pressing global challenge.
UNLOCK SUSTAINABLE OPPORTUNITIES WITH GREEN FINANCE
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is calling for much greater investment in renewable energy than currently observed with a halt to funding fossil fuels. Their aim is to limit global warming over the next decade and ultimately hit 1.5C by 2030. However, investments are still considerably behind what is needed to achieve this goal. This shift towards sustainable finance presents both investors and companies with an important opportunity, one that could have profound implications if acted upon appropriately.
Water scarcity: About two-thirds of the world’s population is enduring water scarcity. A meager 3 per cent of the Earth’s vast water reserves provides freshwater, of which only 1.2 per cent is drinking water. In many countries, water is becoming a scarce resource. The average yearly renewable freshwater provision per person in water-stressed nations hovers between 1,000 and 1,700 cubic meters. Unfortunately for Arabs, this figure is only 500 in MENA, making access to clean drinking water increasingly difficult. This challenge is growing starker in the MENA region, which is home to 6.3 per cent of the global population. The Arab world’s total population, which currently stands at approximately 436 million, is expected to almost double by 2050, only adding fuel to the flames.
Harsh drought: 80 per cent of agricultural land across the Arab world suffers from extreme drought conditions due to low levels of rainfall, an alarming situation that is quickly turning oceans into salt-sea wasteland with dire consequences to overall health standards.
More poverty: Covid-19 has taken a tremendous toll on humanity, affecting developed and developing nations alike. According to the latest United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) report for 2022, four years of progress against poverty are now in peril, with an additional 94 million people living below extreme levels of deprivation. Furthermore, malnutrition is ravaging the lives of 150 million children worldwide, resulting in stunted growth, all while one out every 10 people goes without food at night. Now more than ever, it is critical that climate actions go hand-in-hand when addressing these issues, so as to ensure everyone can realise their basic human rights, moving into our shared future together.
TURNING AWARENESS INTO ACTION: THE ROLE OF MARKETERS
Capitalising on sustainability trends can give marketers a distinct advantage. By understanding key consumer preferences, companies have an opportunity to increase their brand visibility and differentiate themselves from competitors. An ESG-based strategy could prove invaluable for organisations seeking unique ways to add value and sustain long-term business growth.
SHIFT TO SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING
Packaging presents an opportunity for companies to stand out beyond brand aesthetics and unique selling propositions. Adopting sustainable practices in packaging sends a powerful message about corporate values and can favourably affect consumer purchase decisions.
By transitioning away from plastic in production and value chains, including marketing, we can take a proactive step towards creating a sustainable future for all.
BRING GREENWASHING UNDER CONTROL
Through data-driven decisions and eliminating the practice of unsubstantiated claims, we can remain authentic and truly contribute to the sustainability movement. It is time we ethically and consistently promoted environmentalism and social work –saying what we do and, most importantly, doing what we say.
PRIORITISING ESG DISCLOSURES AND REPORTING
Greater transparency and reporting on sustainability practices can help us demonstrate our commitments realistically. A green future is only attainable when we openly, genuinely and systemically provide all stakeholders with truthful insights into the impact of our operations.
COMMITTING TO NET-ZERO BY 2050
As the world starts to embrace sustainability more pervasively, it is essential for brands to be equipped with solutions that help them meet their net-zero targets. Marketing professionals have a responsibility to educate their colleagues and others through conferences and communications focused on sustainability strategies.
CREATING A SUSTAINABILITY ROADMAP
Marketing departments are playing an increasingly important role in creating long-term plans that align with sustainable practices. Such plans must be farsighted, focusing on the next five, 10 or 15 years. By taking a forward-thinking approach, brands can lay the foundation to bring about a positive change far into the future.
INSTILLING A SUSTAINABILITY MINDSET
As guardians of brands, marketers can create a conducive learning environment within their organisations and among their audience, while holding everyone accountable for their words and actions and ensuring all stakeholders play their part in social development and environmental stewardship.
BUILDING A GREEN BUDGET
Maximising the efficiency of your marketing efforts means investigating how much you can invest in green marketing solutions. Digital, paperless approaches and strategies that produce less emissions or waste are becoming more widespread, significantly reducing costs while preserving our environment.