Restocking the Seas around Bahrain through Fish Farming

The marine waters around Bahrain have been showing a decline in fish stock for several decades. But in the first decade of this millenium, restocking has become a routine practice endorsed by the former Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife (now the Supreme Council for the Environment). In recent years, the fishing industry in the Kingdom of Bahrain is starting to really look up with the restocking of the waters from farmed fish.

Requirements of a Fish Farm

Fish farming means growing fish in fixed enclosures (tanks, ponds or cages) exposed to the natural climatic conditions of the environs. As part of aquacultural activities (another term for fish farming), one needs to replenish fish stock preferably before the fish species dwindle to almost extinction. 

The basic requirements for a healthy fish farm address a number of chemistry-related characteristics. There must be good water circulation which is achieved through tidal action resulting in water velocity in the range of 10-60 cm/sec.  The oxygen level needs to be maintained at the optimum level of  >5ppm while salinity level should approach 49,000ppm. Water temperatures vary with the season and with tidal levels. The range, therefore is between 12 oC  at lowest tide in winter up to 37oC in the peak of summer. Fish prefer alkaline water levels. This can vary with fish species. For example, Shim (Bream) prefer the pH level to range within 8.2 -8.5. Wind and wave action should be minimal. This is best achieved by locating fish farms downwind of the dominant wind direction which means off the east coast of the island. GPIC is located on the right side of the island with a relatively sheltered site for the fish farm. (Source: http://www.gpic.com/responcibility/EnvironmentalProjects/40.aspx )

Fishes, such as bream, are released into the fish farm on reaching the juvenile stage (i.e when the body weight is around 70gm). The ideal fish weight, 210gm is achieved over the next 220+ days. Population density is very critical in fish farming with an ideal number of 7 fishes/m3. The fishes are fed a supplemental diet of dry food pellets. The feeding rate is in the range of 3-7% of the fish’s body weight.  So careful monitoring of the fish is really important. This amount of food supplements is spread out over four feedings in one 24-hour period. Feeding amounts can also be influenced by climatic conditions, thermal properties of the water and the current flow rate.

The fishes are monitored and their growth rate and general performance are all recorded. The average fish body weight is assessed every 15 days. It has been observed that the maximum growth rate is achieved when the water temperatures are at 23oC.  

As well as monitoring the fish themselves, the environs must also be kept in check. Submerged physical features need to be kept free of any buildup of rough, sharp materials that could harm or injure the young fish. Too many barnacles growing on a structure could cause the subsurface structures to break off.  The enclosure could be damaged resulting in an opening through which the farmed fish might escape prematurely out into the open ocean.

Farmed fish can easily catch diseases. This typically happens when or if the density of the stock gets too high.  Fish can get a variety of diseases so much care is taken to protect the whole project.

Fishes are harvested using such as a dragnet, sieving or a Gill net.  A dragnet is a seine method of fishing where the net hangs vertically in the water with weights holding the bottom down and floats keeping the top floating.  Gill nets are also vertical nets that trap fish via their gills being caught in the net.

Promising Initiative by GPIC

The Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (GPIC) fish farming activities began in 1996 with a capacity of 10,000 fish. An area of 625 sq. meter forms part of the natural marine environment surrounding the industrial location, has been turned into a fish farming area. The three main species raised in the farm are Black Sea Bream (Shim), Mullet (Meid) and Rabbit Fish (Saffee).  By 2001, the capacity had increased to 30,000 fish. By 2012, capacity had reached 80,000 fish, and the projection for 2015 is 100,000 fish. (U.N. Global Compact Communication on Progress (UN Global Compact COP) including the food and agricultural principles, GPIC, June, 2015,p51)

The restocking of the surrounding waters has long been carried out by GPIC as part of their CSR initiatives. Each year, the company releases batches of sea bream into the local waters to replenish the fish stocks of the surrounding marine areas.  In August, 2008, 80,000 hamour and 20,000 subaiti bream, weighing between 80-100gm, were released into the sea. Today the capacity of fishes released to restock the surround marine waters stands at 100,000 fishes. (GPIC Sustainability Report, 2014, Building a Greener Future, 156pp). 

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Need of Sustainability Communication in the Middle East

sustainability-communicationEnvironmental and sustainability awareness has been around in the society for quite some time now; and buzzwords like ‘ecofriendly’, ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ seem to be omnipresent. In spite of the proliferation of these eco-buzzwords, the state of sustainability communications remains poor and lacking in authenticity. This poor state of sustainable communication, aided by insufficient focus on authenticity, further allows unscrupulous organizations to ‘green wash’ their business or products. The ‘greenwashing’, coupled with a lack of environmental knowledge on the consumer side engenders confused consumers who either despise any of the green eco-buzzwords or blindly accept green-washing as true sustainability.

Currently, sustainability initiatives, be it local government or international, do not reach the common man. People are still under impression that a few cursory steps towards ecofriendly lifestyle are enough. All in all sustainability is not yet properly understood in society. Most people wish to be more environmentally friendly but don’t know how. This is where sustainable communication can help.

Sustainability Communication for Businesses

There are two key elements to business sustainability communications:

  • Real Sustainability Efforts
  • Plentiful Sustainability Communication (external as well as internal).

Both of these elements are necessary. Without the former it’s a misleading greenwash, while without the latter, it’s a pocket of concentrated sustainability effort which will wither and die if the department handling this effort is disassembled.  

For sustainability communications to work for businesses in the Middle East, there has to be real sustainability commitment and efforts from the business to make their product and services more sustainable. In this day and age of the internet, transparency and traceability about products and services are indispensable features which can prove the authenticity of the commitment of a business to sustainability goals.

There has to be external as well as internal sustainability communication for any organization which is taking efforts towards sustainability. The employees should get to know better about practicing sustainability policies or actions planned and implemented by that business. The employees can also act as sustainability advocates of that organizations. In addition to having budget for CSR, organizations need to keep some time or fund aside for internal sustainability communication. In the long run these efforts can help organizations to stand out in the market.

Sustainable Communication in Media

If you open any newspaper or publication you are able to find some articles or information on the topic but most show a lack of clarity, and many appear to be written just as a formality. As an industry insider I can even reveal that most of the related news are mostly copy paste of original press releases sent by respective organizations. But if you look at other topics like lifestyle, fashion, those are well talked about, researched by in almost every publication.

Unfortunately we still don’t have enough qualified and expert sustainability journalists and writers in the region who actually understand what they are writing about. If you take example of Europe or Americas, they have many expert sustainability writers who write for main stream media and make sure the right information is reaching the society.

In general media in Middle East, though it’s newspaper or radio/TV channels need to give more attention to invest in qualified sustainability writers to acquire integrity and quality of sustainable communication.

Another issue of sustainable communication is it can take the form of an apocalyptic discussion, if you talk about environmental impact. People lose interest in such discussions quickly. Actually the statistic shows people in Middle East spend more time on internet than people from most other parts of world. But we need to accept that they prefer to have some light reading. We also need to create sustainability dialogue relevant to life of our readers and provide useful information for daily routine.

Instead of just talking about what is good and what is not, we need to show examples of doing good for environment, choosing sustainable options. So this takes me to my last point of sustainable communication, do what you preach. If we want our readers not just read but make changes in their lives; first we need to show how sustainable we practitioners are living. This will not only make sustainability relatable but also doable.

Demographics of Sustainability Communications

One important observation I have made, and many people in the field will agree, is that sustainability topic is well received by younger generation or millennials. These young people are pushing their parents and families to opt for more sustainable choices.

I would like to share one such personal experience. One of my readers contacted me and told her child insists on taking reusable bags with them all the time. Apart from how proud I felt about my reader and of course, her child, I was glad to know that the push of sustainable action is coming from young people.

When you communicate your sustainability efforts, be open for any feedback and criticism

When you communicate your sustainability efforts, be open for any feedback and criticism

During my eco-talks in schools, I always get positively surprised by how much these young kids know about environment and sustainability as compared to their adult counterparts. So we need to focus and include these young people in sustainable communication.

Consumer-Initiated Sustainable Communication

In this big market of consumers, we have almost no sustainable communication at consumer end. No surprise the region is facing larger issues like waste, waste recycling, and one of the highest rates of plastic consumption. We still lack sustainable communication initiated by consumers. What is needed in this region is a responsible consumer feedback.

Take the example of mending and renting services. The general shortage of mending and renting services a big indication of how the region has morphed itself a consumer’s paradise. This makes it critically difficult to create green consumerism as, market price, and availability in the market currently affects consumers much more than what the consumers really want.

However several consumers (more than we can perceive) would like to go back to the good old days when one really owned something, they used it for several years, got it mended over and over, and kept using it. It’s even better if the same brands are providing these mending and repair services of their own products in the region.

So if we could involve consumers in sustainability communication and dialogue, businesses can get feedback on what is truly missing, which will surely help them to make their business more sustainable.

Conclusion

Preaching what good you practice is not necessarily pompous if it is going to help the society be more sustainable. However at the core of any sustainable communication is a real effort in being sustainable, be it sustainability in energy, water, waste, or social. The golden rule is, there is no knowledge without feedback of your actions, so when you communicate your sustainability efforts, be open for any feedback and criticism. This way we can create a positive loop of real sustainability actions, active and transparent communications, feedback and improvement, and better, more effective sustainability actions.

 

About the Author

Amruta Kshemkalyani, is an experienced sustainability professional and top sustainability influencer/advocate in UAE. While working in sustainable development field, she is also spreading environmental and sustainable living awareness in UAE through her blog www.sustainabilitytribe.com since 2009. 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/amrutant      

Linkedin: https://ae.linkedin.com/in/amrutakshemkalyanitavkar

 

Sustainability in MENA Cement Industry

The population in the MENA countries has doubled during the last 30 years (from ca. 110m in 1980 to almost 220m in 2010). As per conservative estimates, the rate of urbanisation in the MENA countries will exceed 70% five years from today (average for all developing countries: 54%). The proceeding urbanisation and the population increase involve several problems and challenges for the national governments and also for the cement industry. The cement production of countries in the MENA region has almost tripled during the last 15 years up to approximately 500m tons  Since the start of national revolts and demonstrations in MENA countries in 2011 the problems of especially young Arabs have attracted the attention worldwide.

Environmental problems that accompany a fast growing population and increasing urbanisation are, among others, increasing consumption of energy and raw materials, increasing land use in order to satisfy the increasing food demand, infrastructure development, disposal of increasing amounts of waste and development of sewage systems. Solving these generation spanning problems is a challenging task for the national governments.

Naturally, such high growth rates also affect the cement industry. In the MENA countries it consists of various companies, part of them listed on the stock exchange. A number of cement companies has, partly for cost aspects, responded to the negative consequences of the rapid population growth. The following paragraphs describe the cement industry’s approaches to push a sustainable development in certain sectors. They are partly driven by own responsibility and partly by regulations of the national governments. In this context it should be mentioned that the growth of the cement industry is already partly limited by factors that are directly connected with sustainability and raw material supply.

Although the factors differ from country to country and cannot be generalised, there are a few major concerns, for example:

  • Fuel shortage
  • Dependence on oil
  • Lack of investment in innovations

Let’s have a closer look on the limiting factors and innovation potential based on practical examples.

Saudi Arabia

In many industrialised countries the continuous and tailored supply of the industry with fossil fuels is only a question of price.  But the fact that of all countries, it was cement plants in the own country that repeatedly reported shortages of fossil fuel supply (heavy fuel oil), was certainly an important reason for the government to get closely involved in this matter.

Cement producers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia obtain state-subsidised natural gas at a price of US$ 0.75/mmbtu from the state-owned oil company “Saudi Aramco”. Formerly, the cement production costs resulting thereof were on average US$ 28.8/ton of cement (costs in neighbouring countries: Kuwait US$ 59.2/ton, UAE US$ 47.8/ton, Oman US$ 37.0/ton) which made it redundant to deal with the topic of energy. In India, a country with one of the highest energy costs in the world, the production of one ton of cement costs US$ 70.0/ton in 2010.

Due to such low energy prices and a steadily growing demand the production capacities grew constantly. Currently, the industry accounts for approximately 40% of the overall energy demand of the country. Analysts estimate that this demand will even double within the next 15 years. However, it is planned to reduce this disproportionate energy demand of the industry.

Under the patronage of HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the state-owned oil company “Saudi Aramco” is developing a so-called “Mandatory Energy Efficiancy Program” (MEEP) for the entire Saudi-Arabian industry. The plan of MEEP is to “establish mandatory policies and regulations with the objective of reducing existing and future energy consumption levels in the industrial sector”.

For the national cement industry this approach implies investments in energy-saving measures. Key points for an energy-efficient industry are identified as

  • Use of alternative raw materials
  • Use of alternative fuels
  • Training and education in energy efficiency

As the use of alternative fuels and raw materials is not yet common in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, guidelines and a regulatory framework have to be defined which set standards for the use of alternative or waste-derived fuels like municipal solid wastes, dried sewage sludge, drilling wastes and others. It has to include:

  • Types of wastes and alternative fuels that may be used by the cement industry
  • Standards for the production of waste-derived fuels
  • Emission standards and control mechanisms while using alternative fuels
  • Standards for permitting procedures

Appropriate standards also need to be established for alternative raw materials that are to be used for clinker and cement production. In order to achieve an energy-efficient production special education, further training and workshops for the involved staff have to be carried out.

Egypt

The current political developments in Egypt influence the local cement industry significantly. The government expects additional sources of revenue on the one hand from selling licences for the construction of new cement plants and on the other hand from a reduction of subsidies for fossil fuels. Since these news are not a surprise for the local cement plants, they started to invest in the implementation of alternative – mostly biomass-derived fuels. One of them is CemexAssiut that not only started using different kinds of biomass, but also, most notably and exemplary, established plantations for the production of biomass (here: “Casuarina”) that are irrigated with pretreated sewage water from the city Assiut.

Egypt is the 14th biggest rice producer in the world and the 8th biggest cotton producer in the world. Egypt produced about 5.67 million tons of rice and 635,000 tons of cotton in 2011. The area of cotton crop cultivation accounts for about 5% of the cultivated area in Egypt. The total amount of crop residues is about 16 million tons of dry matter per year. Cotton residues represent about 9% of the total amount of residues. Such high production rates should be welcomed by the cement industry since these materials comprise cotton stalks, rice husks and rice straw which serve ideally as alternative fuels.

The use of waste-derived alternative fuels is, however, more complicated. Although for example Cairo produces some 15,000 tons of waste each day, it is not easy for the cement plants to obtain this waste since they are in direct competition with the informal sector that controls approx. 60% of the local waste total. So-called Zabbaleen or scavengers – mostly young people who do not have other options – make their living by collecting and selling waste-derived recyclables.

Tunisia

Some years ago, Tunisia already invested in the establishment of an organised waste management system in form of a state-owned agency named “ANGED”. Funded by the national German KfW development bank, numerous waste collection points as well as organised landfills have been built. Additionally, a special collection centre for hazardous waste was erected in Jradou. This centre was operated by MVW Lechtenberg’s Partner Nehlsen AG, the German Waste Management Group, collecting and processing wastes like used oils and solvents. Such wastes are ideal alternative fuels. A fact that is also known to the local cement companies that planned to use them in their plants. Unfortunately, due to public opposition the centre was closed and the projects for the processing of alternative fuels have been suspended since then.

Tunisia is one of the biggest producers and exporters of olive oil in the world. It also exports dates and citrus fruits that are grown mostly in the northern parts of the country. It seems paradox that for example olive kernels – the waste from Tunisian olive production – is exported to European power plants in order to save fossil fuel-derived CO2 emissions there, while Tunisia imports approximately 90% of its energy demand, consisting of fossil fuel.

Morocco

The Moroccan cement industry has already achieved a greater success regarding the use of alternative fuels. Cement plants, mostly owned by the international companies Lafarge, Cimpor, Holcim and Italcimenti, already invested years ago in the environmentally friendly use of alternative fuels and alternative raw materials due to the development of world market prices. Also the only local competitor, CIMAT, has started preparing for the implementation of alternative fuels immediately after completion of its new plant (a 5-stage double string calciner from Polysius) in Ben Ahmed, near Casablanca.

In the year 2003 an agreement on the use and import of alternative fuels (used tyres at the time) was made between the Association Professionelle de Ciment and Moroccan government. Since last year attempts are being made to agree on an industry regulation that sets standards for the use of all appropriate special waste available in Morocco.

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates, represented by Dr. Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahd, Minister of Environment and Water, recently issued a decision streamlining the activities of cement plants all over the country. The resolution will affect all existing and new cement factories across the country. Its provisions obligate the industry to prepare a report assessing the impact of cement plants on the environment.

According to the decision, this report has to be prepared by a consulting firm having expert knowledge regarding environmental protection in the cement industry. This is certainly the first step to evaluate the current situation which will be followed by an investigation of alternatives towards a sustainable development. Interest in the implementation of alternative fuels already exists among the national cement industry which is proven not least by the numerous planned investment projects.

Conclusions

The cement industry in the MENA region will change significantly within the next years. This change will focus on the improvement of energy efficiency and on the increased use of alternative raw materials and alternative fuels. This will include high investments in technology and in the human resources sector where the creation of new jobs, especially in the field of environmentally friendly and sustainable development, provides a perspective for the growing, young population of the MENA countries.

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Sustainability Reporting in the Middle East

The concept of sustainability centers on a balance of society, economy and environment for current and future health. Responsible resource management in all three areas ensures that future generations will have the resources they need to survive and thrive. One way that companies can consider sustainability and social responsibility is by focusing on the triple bottom line, which is an expanded baseline for measuring financial, social and environmental performance. It is also referred to as “People, Planet and Profit.”

The advantages enjoyed by an organisation that implements sustainable management include higher efficiency and competitiveness, increased financial returns and reduced risk for shareholders, attraction and retention of employees, stronger community relations, enhanced brand value and reputation, and improved customer sales and loyalty by responding to market needs (e.g.: including environmentally conscious consumers in your target market by providing environmentally or socially superior products to your competitors).

One certain way to prove that business is serious about doing “what’s right” is to publish a sustainability report. It shows the global community that it is serious about keeping its commitments and holding itself to a higher standard. In a world increasingly dominated by rankings and ratings, writing these reports has never been so critical; reading them has never been so revealing. Reporting, transparency, and accountability are signature issues. They illustrate integrity and build trust. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has pioneered the development of the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting framework and is committed to its continuous improvement and application worldwide.

Sustainability Reporting in the Middle East

There are some encouraging signs that sustainability reporting is beginning to take root in Middle East business landscape. In Jordan, for example, Aramex was the first company to issue a GRI checked report covering everything from staff training and salaries to promoting road safety and reducing poverty. The Jordan River Foundation became the first NGO in the region to produce a GRI checked report, thus spearheading the movement for NGOs to issue sustainability reports. NGOs that can show they’re accountable and transparent are more attractive to donors, and are more viable partners for corporations and government.

The Arab Bank recently issued its annual sustainability report for the third consecutive year, which was evaluated at a level ‘A’ by the GRI, the highest evaluation level they grant, thereby exceeding the Bank’s previous reports. The report focuses in detail on the internal programs adopted by the Bank, such as the integration of certain environmental and social criteria in the project financing process, in addition to the implementation of a number of initiatives that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also increase internal awareness levels of the sustainability concept.

Also covered in the report are Arab Bank’s social contributions which exceed financial support to include services that allow customers to donate to a number of non-profit organizations, in addition to the participation of the Bank’s employees in volunteering activities and capacity building programs for non-profit organizations to help them maintain their operations.

Another notable example is that of Zain Group, the leading telecommunications provider in eight countries across the Middle East and Africa, which recently published its second sustainability report entitled "Dedicated to the Promise of a Wonderful World". The report was prepared utilizing the GRI G3.1 guidelines and the principles of materiality, inclusivity and responsiveness taken from the AA 1000 Accountability Principles Standard. Focus was given to workers’ rights, human rights, the environment, ethics and governance, community involvement, supplier relation and gender disparity.

The United Arab Emirates is also keeping abreast of the sustainability reporting trend. The Centre for Responsible Business, which was formed in 2004, is the longest standing center promoting corporate responsibility in the UAE. The Centre not only assists Dubai Chamber members to apply responsible business practices that enhance performance and competitiveness but also offers a variety of educational, professional training and consulting services that are designed to build individual companies’ capacity to implement broad CSR programmes including business ethics, sustainability reporting and corporate governance.

In 2008, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi set up the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Group (ADSG), a membership-based organisation whose mission is to promote sustainability management in Abu Dhabi by providing policy support, learning and knowledge sharing opportunities for government, private companies and non profit organisations in a spirit of cooperation and open dialogue.

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Greening Your Business

With growing awareness among consumers for eco-friendly products, it is becoming highly important for businesses in the Middle East to adopt and implement green strategies. It is not only the requirement of customers but also compliance to regulations and reduction in operating costs that drive the implementation of environment-friendly methods in business. Corporate social responsibility (or CSR) is now driven by pollution prevention, energy efficiency, eco-friendly design, and industrial ecology across all industrial sectors. 

Components of a Green Business

A green business appears to be an expensive and cumbersome process. On the contrary it is quite easy to have a green business. The first and easiest step towards going green is the reduction in carbon footprint of your organization. Carbon footprint should be calculated and then reduced by taking some simple measures like:

  • Focusing on direct as well as indirect emissions;
  • Implementing cost-effective and energy efficient technologies; and
  • Developing low carbon energy sources.

Energy management is another vital ingredient of a green business. This includes assessing, controlling and saving energy. Energy management involves getting a detailed data of the energy consumption patterns and keeping a check on the conservation progress. In simple terms, energy management means reducing waste and promoting recycling.

If we take look around, nature has provided us with an endless supply of alternative energy in the form of solar, wind, hydro energy and so on. Alternative energy is not only environment-friendly but also economical. For instance, if you switch to green power, there will be a considerable reduction in carbon emission as well as the electricity bill. A solar panel on the roof of your building can take care of most of your basic energy needs. Alternative energy facilities require less maintenance and produce little or no waste products. And most importantly it is sustainable and will never run out.

Changing Landscape in the Middle East

Many of the world’s biggest companies now realise the importance of eco-friendly brand image. There are a host of simple environment saving solutions that are not only good for the business but also make a company greener, thus serving as an attractive PR and marketing tool. Seeing companies in Europe and US take a green lead, many businesses in the Middle East are now trying to catch up. New commercial thinking in the development of better ways to make things is being driven by the green agenda of sustainability and environment.

For most companies it means assessing manufacturing and distribution processes, quantifying carbon footprints and finding ways to minimize their impacts on the environment. Of importance is reducing waste, recycling, changing to renewable sources of energy, and setting targets to improve performance throughout the manufacturing and distribution chains.

The specter of oil depletion is also creating more concern in the Middle East. More and more, the part of the world that’s produced so much of the oil we all rely on appears to be coming to the realization that business as usual isn’t sustainable. All of these factors are pushing the Middle East towards more sustainability and Middle Eastern companies towards green business.

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CSR Perspectives for the Middle East

Corporate Social Responsibility has moved beyond philanthropy, and is rapidly undergoing integration into the company’s core business strategy. However, in the Middle East, we can find companies that are still perceiving CSR as philanthropy and yet to view it as a “core business strategy “. Is it because of the culture and religion that we should give to the poor (Zakat or charity) so they consider it as their CSR? Should it be obligatory so companies will start thinking about CSR more strategically?

Over the past few years, the interest has literally exploded in regional media and business community with a lot of foreign companies working in the field, companies hiring CSR specialists and setting up CSR departments. The focus is also getting more strategic and more diversified. In a survey, conducted by Sustainability Advisory Group in 2009, it was found that whilst there is a strong in-principle support for CSR initiatives, the region has not yet taken the next step of translating this into budget allocations, clear accountabilities and rewards and recognition.

There is a significant difference among Middle East nations in applying and practicing CSR. In the UAE and Oman, over the past couple of years there were different planned and meaningful initiatives. Companies in these countries are taking CSR and sustainability very seriously and they are showing an increasing commitment to CSR.  On the other hand, countries like Lebanon, there has been lot of focus on purely PR activities masked as CSR.

In an article entiled “CSR in the Arab World: A Mission Impossible?”, Norwegian researcher Kjetil Selvik mentions that it is hard to spot the difference between CSR and Zakat in practice. In Arab countries, CSR is often reduced to some donations like money or food, or to planting trees in public parks. Measures like these do not satisfy the ambitions of CSR promoters, who would like to see systematic changes in how companies are operating.

Does this mean that CSR won’t have a development impact in the Arab World? One of the main challenges is that CSR is associated with profit logic. The Zakat model differs fundamentally in its incentive for acts of social responsibility. This is something that the individual is supposed to do for God. On the other hand, CSR is promoted as a business tool to improve the company’s reputation, and companies frequently share successful CSR stories with the media and the public.

The normative difference between CSR and Zakat complicate the entrance of CSR into the Arab World. The CSR model introduces an ethical, normative framework that collides with local sensitivities. This is a potential problem of which organizations and businesses trying to introduce CSR in Arab countries should take note, says Selvik.

To conclude, companies in the Middle East are now realizing the importance of adopting a CSR strategy which can help them in reaping the benefits on their triple bottom line. They are trying to go beyond a simple donation or planting trees. Moreover, they are starting to measure their KPIs and to write sustainability reports. However, companies in the Middle East still have a long road to go for achieving sustainability when compared to their Western counterparts.

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Linking Supply Chain with Sustainability

The sustainability industry, in recent years, has evolved to include almost all areas of business processes. Due to the dramatic strides sustainability has made and its holistic nature, it is understandable that the two most apparent areas, the environment and society, would receive much of our attention.  There has been a lack of concern for the area of the economy and alignment with business needs.  Moreover, it has not been used enough as a mechanism to enhance the supply chain or product value. 

Lately, business leaders are learning to see substantial benefits and profitability beyond “green initiatives” by giving back time and money to the community and eliminating waste.  Interestingly enough, there has been a renowned renewal in using sustainability methodology to improve their supply chain. A common man might understandably think of a supply chain as the supplier of goods and services to a company. It is essential to understand that a supply chain is, in effect, tied closely to the product life cycle and has elements beginning with energy production, continuing through the entire procurement of raw materials and information leading to advancement of knowledge and ending with the consumer.

 

Key Drivers

Part of the boom in sustainability and green technology is due to consumers’ access to information and their ability to visually see problems in a matter of seconds.  However, research shows that organizations can enhance their performance by improving the sustainability of their supply chains. Through building closer relations with suppliers, developing supplier capacity, and identifying and investing in opportunities for social, environmental and economical improvement throughout the supply chain, companies can begin to gain benefits from a more sustainable supply chain and achieve productivity and efficiency gains.

The business case for sustainability in the supply chain for a particular company depends on a variety of issues including field of operation, geographic location, stakeholder expectations, business priorities and organizational culture. There are best practices and key value drivers for sustainable procurement and economic indicators that apply across a number of elements as explained in the following five ensuing areas:

  • Risk Management.
  • Cost saving and realizing efficiencies.
  • Producing Sustainable Products.
  • Vehicle for Cleansing Suppliers and Transparency.
  • Ethical Business Conduct.

 

Risk Management

By mitigating and responding to social, environmental and economical risks in the supply chain, companies can protect their market share and reduce risk premiums. Being able to identify where a risk is probable and develop mitigation approaches fits well within the field of Sustainability. Ultimately, the goal is to develop flexible supply chains networks that can profitably respond to dynamic changes. Moreover, strong management of social, environmental and economical issues can help companies address reputational risks that could impact their customers’ loyalties and affect their market share.

 

Cost Saving & Realizing Efficiencies

The connection between supply chain and sustainability are erroneously considered as a sunken cost for many companies, because in reality just the opposite occurs. Those who started proactively incorporating sustainability concepts into their supply chain found financial savings, cost cutting and added value to their operations. 

Sustainable management of operational inputs, such as energy, water and raw materials proved significantly to reduce companies’ procurement costs while simultaneously lessening the environmental footprint and impact on workers’ health of supply chains. On the other hand, investing in local purchasing and building capacity with local suppliers greatly helped companies to reduce cost of importing goods and materials, therefore, supporting the local economy to grow and prosper.

 

Producing Sustainable Products

Sustainable products are becoming more popular to a growing sector of the population that started giving primary consideration to sustainability and the planet. Customers and consumers are increasingly making difficult buying decisions based on social and environmental impacts. So making your products more sustainable can reach a growing market sector and making smart sustainable decisions today can position a company to be more competitive and more aversive to risk.

In simplistic terms, it often appears cheaper to produce a product with no regard to negative externalities such as those related to sustainability. When similar situations are gauged for the long run including a financial risk analysis they can prove vastly profitable.

Many companies practically focus on designing a linear process of supplying materials rather than production that reduce waste and pollution through innovative product and process design, including the use of non-toxic or less toxic raw materials and delivery to end of life and disposal, integrating Sustainability throughout the whole product cycle.

 

Vehicle for Cleansing Suppliers and Transparency

Creating a sustainable supply chain means leveraging the supply chain to ensure fair treatment of people as well as taking a broad view that everyone along the supply chain is a stakeholder. The ultimate goal of engaging with suppliers is to develop a shared mindset about sustainability issues and work more closely with them with shared priorities.

These relationships can in turn provide companies with crucial information about potential trends, market changes, and other external influencers that could impact business. They also enhance companies’ abilities to secure business friendly outcomes from stakeholder decisions.

 

Ethical Business Conduct

Sustainable supply chain is also about the encouragement of good ethical and responsible governance practices throughout the lifecycles of goods and services. These practices contribute to build a healthier economy by fighting procurement fraud, bribery and non-ethical business relationships. The direct costs of these corruptions are considerable and affect the quality of the product and indirect costs related to management time and resources spent dealing with issues such as legal liability and damage to a company’s reputation.

Engaging with suppliers in these issues helps to improve the quality of the product, reduce fraud and related costs, enhance business’s reputation and contribute in building a sustainable business environment.

 

Conclusions

Claiming that sustainable supply chain is just a voluntary exercise that can just improve business’ reputation does not make sense in today’s world. As sustainability consultants, we see more and more best practices in the successful implementation of a sustainable supply chain.These practices are not just applied by the large manufactures or industrial businesses. Companies of all sizes are today seeking to make additional steps toward a sustainable supply chain. 

Some companies and industries have invested strongly in a sustainable supply chain, finding that sub-tier suppliers have the most significant challenges in addressing sustainability issues, and these companies started incorporating changes to advance practices that create value for their businesses as well as for economy at large.

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Rethinking Sustainability: Islamic Perspectives

The 21st century is characterized by a number of global environmental challenges that shaped and defined the discourse and agenda of the West with respect to the developing world, specifically the Islamic world. Islam provides new sustainability perspectives for discovering and explaining the root causes for the current environmental, economic and social crises as manifested in climate change, HIV, poverty and human security. For example, the Islamic perspective on climate change is that the root cause of this global issue is the absence or lack of human stewardship and is an indication of market failures.

Pitfalls of the Western Model

The Western model of economic development with its free market economies, political, economic and social institutions created a number of externalities and environmental costs. In the name of development local and indigenous people are deprived of their rights in the developing world. Rights and natural resources of local people are taken away and substituted by needs that are defined by the west.

Sustainability is not a product manifested in a sector like energy, tourism, agriculture, trade or urban environment but rather a worldview that encompasses all domains of life from spiritual realms, norms and consumption and production patterns to macro-economic policies. This system thinking and perspective towards culture, economy and ecology is fundamental for re-thinking sustainability and root it in local knowledge and embed it as a model for human-centred development.

The global financial crisis which started in 2008 along with poverty, AIDS and climate change challenges compel and incite a dire need for a new economic model that address these global challenges. There is a need to critique and rethink the underpinning of the current market economy that look at both human nature and culture as a commodity. The main pitfalls of the existing market model are that it discounts the future and is based on compound interest rate and a banking system that encourages loans and over-consumption.  When looking at the benefit-cost analysis of climate change, the interest rate (how much we discount the future) will justify the rationality of taking preventive action. In other words, the more the future was discounted the more it made economic sense for climate change impacts to take place.

Islamic Perspectives on Sustainability

The high cost and irreversible environmental costs of the market-based economic model is evident. It is argued that markets do not tell us the ecological truth and that climate change and global financial crises issues are evidence of the market failure. Re-defining the basic notion “what constitutes a good life” and how to pursue happiness are critical in understanding sustainability from an Islamic perspective.

The pursuit of happiness from an Islamic perspective is about adding value to life through good deeds and knowledge as part of human role in the construction of universe, helping others, bringing up good children, and also about living lightly on earth and elimination of waste and over-consumption. The Islamic dream is not linked to accumulation of wealth and living in luxury but rather on conserving the human, social and natural capitals which are considered as necessities.

There is a need for a macro-shift in our worldviews; a re-thinking of the fundamentals of the western economic model to ensure a humanistic and sustainable model that resonate with culture and ensures balance (mizan), social equity (adl) and respects harmony between nature, people and markets. Above all, what is needed is a new and fresh look at Islam as a source of both inspiration and restoration of the natural state of humans as referred to in Islam as fitra. The following is a brief outline on how Islam looks at the three pillars of sustainability (environment, social and economic).

Environment and Spirituality

The most interesting feature of the worldview of Islam is that it presents an interactive and integrated outlook. Therefore, a contemporary understanding of the notion of maslaha (public interest) may lead to a theoretical understanding of sustainability in its broader terms. Islam represents the natural state (fitra) or the intrinsic state of goodness. The natural state (fitra) implies a full harmony with nature, people and the built environment. It also means a full realization and consciousness of the role of the human as a trustee and a witness (khalifa). Humans are trustees (khalifa) to make sure that all resources are used in a sustainable manner.  Islam views the potential risks of climate change as a problem of absence of human trusteeship which is referred to as mischief (fasad). Islam looks at species as nations like humankind. Reading Quran informs the mind and the soul that our natural capital and social capital are interconnected and inter-dependant.

Islam teaches that species including plants and wildlife are in a state of prayers (tasbeeh). The harm of any species means that we are disrupting the symphony of life and silencing worshipers. Quran elevates and deepens the notion of aesthetic intelligence, bio-mimicry, and learning from nature. Both Quran and nature contain many signs (ayat) that demonstrate and offer insights and guidance to nurture naturalistc intelligence, innovation and learning. Ihsan is a key concept in Islam which is the driver and fuel for human stewardship, responsibility and excellence. Zohd means living lightly on earth which is an Islamic concept that promotes conservation and rational use of resources. Waqf which is endowment fund resourced by civil society and private sector as an economic tool to ensure socio-economic and environmental security and also as a vehicle to contextualize the notion of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and a value-based organization.

Social Dimension

From an Islamic perspective, losing the social compass means the lack or absence of embodiment of the teachings of Islam (as a code of reference). This will result in a state of both ecological degradation (fasad) and human and social alienation. The second pillar of sustainability is the realization of the human and social dimension of development. The notion of equity, social justice (adl), public participation (shura) and the deep concern for future generation are cornerstones in Islam. The role of Ummah as a community of practice is to set standards for ethical codes of conduct and also to create new knowledge based on the values and public interest.

Within the framework of the Islamic way of development, material and spiritual aspects of life are complementary. To be able to live the good life of devotion to God, we have, therefore, to make the best use of the material resources of our world. Talking about development without considering the spiritual side of people is meaningless; development must preserve the essence of our humanity.

Among the dynamic principles of social life Islam has particularly emphasized two – firstly the optimal utilization of resources that God has endowed to man, and his physical environment; and secondly their equitable use and distribution and the promotion of all human relationships on the basis of rights and justiceCare for the poor and the marginalized through sharing resources and financial contribution of Zakat and Waqf a key concept in Islam that need to be harnessed through institutional innovation (ijtihad) and reform of governance.

Economic Dimension

Islamic economics prohibits the compound interest which is the basic concept of the western banking system. Also, Islam provides regulatory framework that ensures the development projects are in the interest for the wider community, not for few individuals. Islam also provides a framework for valuing and weighting interest and value that transcends humans to species and natural resources and future generations.

The fundamental concept is that Islamic economics is that it prohibits usury (riba) and does not discount the future implies that fossil oil at the present is not discounted in the future and hence Islam limits over-use of fossil fuels and hence contributes to limit CO2 emissions due to climate change. Unlike the existing banking system which encourages loans and mega-projects that exploits our natural capital.

Islam encourages small-scale development which will result in lessening the distance that goods are transported and hence lowering of greenhouse gas emissions and the ecological footprints in the business sector. Islamic economics in its profit-sharing and absence of usury provides sound constraints to prevent borrowers from running into un-payable debts whilst encouraging wealth to be distributed evenly. This in turn will help to have a greener economy that is reformed by Islam.       

Trends in Environmental Sustainability

Environmental sustainability and carbon footprint occupies an increasingly important position on the corporate agenda around the world. The major ingredients of environmental sustainability are elimination of waste and emissions, maximizing energy efficiency and productivity and minimizing practices that may adversely affect utilization of natural resources by coming generations. More and more companies are realizing the importance of environmental initiatives in business development and brand promotion.

Decrease in energy and raw material usage combined with reduced emissions and waste generation can tackle a host environmental challenges facing the world. Leading IT companies, like Microsoft, Adobe, Apple and Google, are investing in renewable sources of energy that can generate power directly on-site. Clean manufacturing practices and energy-efficient design of equipment are also hallmarks of environmental sustainability. Water conservation is one of the most important environmental issues of this century and growing number of companies are using it to educate and change consumer behavior. 

Let us take a close look at some of the major developments in the arena of environmental sustainability.

Eco-Friendly Packaging

Packaging is an important concern for consumers, particularly those who are interested in converting to eco-friendly buying behaviors. Packaging plays a great role in environmental sustainability by protecting products, preventing waste and enabling efficient business conduct. Reduction in the amount of packaging and use of eco-friendly packaging material provide an attractive opportunity to promote environmental sustainability.

Sustainable packaging is a relatively new addition to the environmental considerations for CSR. Companies using environment-friendly packaging materials are reducing their carbon footprint, using more recycled materials and minimizing waste generation. Companies that highlight their environmental initiatives to consumers can increase sales as well as boost product reputation. 

For example, Cisco outsources all of its manufacturing and has over 600 suppliers. To avoid any problems, Cisco’s packaging team undertakes a painstaking process to create more effective and environmentally friendly packaging. In 2012, the company eliminated 757,000 pounds of paper and plastic waste for one product line alone. For its total shipments during 2012, Cisco reduced its use of cardboard, plastic and paper by as much as 466 metric tons.

Clean Energy

Deployment of renewable energy systems can make a big impact on CSR activities of companies as clean energy is one of the best methods to mitigate climate changes. Decentralized power generation using renewable resources is rapidly gaining popularity among world’s top companies. Most of the world's largest companies, like Microsoft, Apple and Google, are adopting renewable energy as it makes good business sense to lower emissions, diversify energy supply, mitigate fuel cost and above all portray a green image. Many companies in the Western world are resorting to use of biogas, biodiesel, bioethanol and hydrogen to power vehicle fleets.

World's leading IT companies are rushing to develop renewable energy projects to power their giant data centres, Google has entered a 10-year deal with utility company Grand River Dam Authority to supply 48 MW of wind power to its Oklahoma data center. Apple’s data center in Maiden (North Carolina), which draws staggering 20MW power, will run entirely on solar energy and biogas. Likewise, to meet tremendous energy needs, Adobe has invested in alternative energy sources that can generate power directly on-site, such as wind turbines and fuel cells at its California facilities. Microsoft has also unveiled plans to utilize biogas generated from wastewater treatment facilities to power its research center at Wyoming.

Environmental Reporting

Environmental reporting, voluntary as well as mandatory, is also getting prominence in the context of corporate social responsibility. Environmental information like greenhouse gas emissions, waste generation, energy consumption, use of transport can improve the transparency of industrial activities, thereby, providing a powerful tool to fight environmental degradation. Business can save significant costs in areas like use of raw materials and supplies, reduction in waste, water, energy use, transport, travel and packaging.

There are several countries in which the private sector is required to report greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption to the government. Australia’s National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act requires corporations to report information on their greenhouse gas emissions, energy production and energy consumption to the Greenhouse and Energy Data Officer. United Kingdom’s Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme forces all organizations and companies having electricity demand greater than 6,000 MWh per year to participate in the mandatory scheme, which applies to more than 5,000 entities until now. The Perform, Achieve and Trade scheme in India has established consumption targets for energy-intensive industries as well as the cap-and-trade structure.

Conclusions

Pollution prevention, energy efficiency, eco-friendly design, and industrial ecology are emerging as top priorities for companies across all industrial sectors. Reduction in the amount of packaging and use of eco-friendly packaging material provide an attractive opportunity to promote environmental sustainability. Water, waste, packaging, energy and transport are being integrated into mainstream operations to facilitate sustainability. Use of clean energy is also an attractive proposition to reduce carbon footprint and project a 'green' image of a particular company.