Green Ahadith – Ecological Advice from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, is one of the most, if not the only one who reached a pinnacle of success by not only verbally teaching, but stringently applying Islamic principles of ecological welfare. His concern for preserving nature was so consistent that history reports the only time he cut down plants were the palm trees in Madina to impede the Jewish tribe Banu Nadhir.

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, categorically taught people to live on less, to protect animal and plant life, and to worship the Creator by being merciful to the creation. What is also distinctive about Prophet Muhammad's advice is the connection between ethical practices and the eternal effects in the life after death, which represents a greater incentive for Muslims to care for the earth and its resources.

What makes a successful leader? Many world leaders and religious figures have advocated protection of planet Earth in their struggle to reach the top, but most have ultimately failed to create a long-lasting conservation plan. I wanted to share these Prophetic sayings (ahadith) which I believe are excellent indicators to reflect the Islamic faith as a relevant environmental 'movement'.

A believer is like a growing tree

"The example of a believer is that of a fresh tender plant; from whatever direction the wind comes, it bends it, but when the wind quietens down, the plant becomes straight again…" narrated by Abu Hurayra (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anhu), Bukhari

Prophet Muhammad was teaching new Muslims that their life on the path of faith must always progress and beware of climatic changes, just like a young tree. There will be tough times when the storm seems to never end. But patience and persistence in planting roots no matter what the trouble, will heal both one's own branches and protect the nearest plants.

Plant a tree even if it's your last deed

“If the Hour (the day of Resurrection) is about to be established and one of you was holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it."Al-Albani.

Renewable reward of planting trees

"If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him."Imam Bukhari.

Conservation of resources

Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, happened to pass by a Companion, Sa’d (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anhu), as he was performing ablution (wudhu) next to a river. At this, the Prophet said, "Sa’d what is this squandering?"
Sa’d replied: "Can there be an idea of squandering (israf) in ablution?"
The Prophet ﷺ said: "Yes, even if you are by the side of a flowing river.” –
Ibn Majah.

Environmental sanitation

"Beware of the three acts that cause you to be cursed: [1] relieving yourselves in shaded places (that people utilise), in a walkway or in a watering place." – Narrated by Mu`adh, hasan, by Al-Albani

Hygiene and cleanliness (tahara) is so integral to Islam that it is actually a major sub-branch of Muslim belief. Without physical hygiene, prayers are broken. Without clean facilities pollution ruins cities, and without any effort to improve one's own purity, it becomes more difficult to prevent external corruptions like littering.

Significance of street clean-ups

"Removing harmful things from the road is an act of charity (sadaqah)." Narrated by Abu Dharr Al-Ghafari (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anhu)

Sustainable living 

Abdullah ibn `Abbas reported that the Prophet said, "The believer is not he who eats his fill while his neighbor is hungry." Authenticated by Al-Albani

Eat a little less every day

Excessive eating is abhorred in Islam. For the days of Ramadan, fasting is precisely a command in order to learn control and when to say 'no'. Prophet Muhammad did not encourage eating a three course meal nor a heavy meal. Every meal should be shared between two and choosing between take-outs and home-cooked, a healthier diet is always the better option (less meat, more greens). In the Islamic law system (Shariah), a person should stop eating as soon as the hunger pangs cease.

“Nothing is worse than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be: One-third for his food, one-third for his liquids, and one-third for his breath.” Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah.

Waste minimization

When asked about how the Prophet of Islam used to live in his house, the Prophet's wife, `A'ishah (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anha), said that he used to repair his own shoes, sew his clothes and carry out all such household chores done without complaint or want for more. (Authenticated by Al-Albani).

The idea behind this was to show Muslims that menial tasks (mehna) were not degrading for God's Prophet (peace be upon him). Reusing and repairing things instead of always buying new is not a sign of poverty, they are a sign of power. By performing household duties, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was saying we can build foundations on less 'stuff', we are in control of what we consume and we don't need more.

Caring for animals

"A man felt very thirsty while he was on the way, there he came across a well. He went down the well, quenched his thirst and came out. Meanwhile he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. He said to himself, "This dog is suffering from thirst as I did." So, he went down the well again, filled his shoe with water, held it with his mouth and watered the dog. Allah appreciated him for that deed and forgave him." The Companions said, "O Allah's Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?" He replied: "There is a reward for serving any living being." Imam Bukhari.

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, provided for animals, as did Abu Huraira (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anhu) who narrated this hadith. Abu Huraira's name translates as the 'father of kittens', named so because he was known to carry kittens in the draped sleeves of his robe.

Animals have a huge role in the ecological welfare system. The tenets of the Shariah law towards animal rights make it obligatory for any individual to take care of crippled animals, to rescue strays and to guard a bird's nest of eggs.

Key takeaway

Hopefully this will inspire everyone reading to follow through on the Eco-Sunnah. Adopt an animal, reuse your wudhu water, eat much less. Be a leader.

Note: The original article can be viewed on The Eco Muslim website at this link

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Connected Vehicles – Enabling Green Transport

Connected vehicles technology is a wireless-based technology which enables vehicles (light as well as heavy) to instantly communicate with each other, through an onboard installed device that receives warning signals ahead of time about road closures, pile-ups and other potential hazards related to weather conditions. Connected vehicle aims to enable safe, inter-operable networked wireless communications among vehicles, the infrastructure, and passengers’ personal communications devices.

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) defines this revolutionary technology as achieving “cleaner air through smarter transportation.” DOT, in coordination with major automakers and other public and private sector innovators, has been working to advance vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications technology to help prevent traffic crashes before they happen. 

The network captures real-time data from equipment located on-board vehicles (automobiles, trucks, and buses) and within the infrastructure. The data are transmitted wirelessly and are used by transportation managers in a wide range of dynamic, multi-modal applications to manage the transportation system for optimum performance.

Multiple Advantages

An important role of this system is to mitigate environmental impacts of using roads and highways as it generate as well as capture environmentally relevant real-time transportation data and use this data to create actionable information to support and facilitate "green" transportation choices. The system focuses on improving air quality, reducing GHG emissions and decreasing fuel consumption. Connected vehicles technology is a good tool to mitigate climate change and achieve emissions reduction targets.

Through connected vehicles, drivers will have advance information about traffic congestion etc which will enable people to reschedule, postpone, cancel or carpool their trip. Informed travelers may decide to avoid congested routes, take alternate routes, public transit, or reschedule their trip — all of which can make their trip more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly.

People can also shift to public transportation which will result in fewer GHG emissions caused by significant reduction in fuel consumption and less traffic congestion thus enhancing the air quality. The traffic agency can also introduce a fine “pricing policy” in heavy traffic areas. Connected vehicles technologies promote eco-driving by advising drivers to minimize fuel consumption or directly control engine brakes without requiring the driver’s intervention.

Potential in the Middle East

Connected vehicles have the potential to solve transportation woes and ease traffic mobility in major Middle East cities like Jeddah, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Dubai which are plagued by heavy traffic volumes. Moreover, deployment of this technology will enable people to take a real-time situation decision and maintain sustainable traffic practices. In addition, connected vehicles will be a handy and efficient tool to mitigate environmental impacts of the rapidly growing transport sector. Moreover, connected vehicles, ranging from cars to trucks can relay important safety and mobility information to one another which may help in saving lives, preventing injuries and easing traffic congestion.

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Ramadan: A Catalyst for Green Living

green-ramadanThe true meaning of Ramadan is to take care of our body, soul, people, surrounding and ecosystems. The month of Ramadan is a golden opportunity to make a real shift towards ‘green living’ that is environmental friendly, non-polluting, non-wasteful and aim toward saving of natural resources. During Ramadan, let us create awareness on use of resources, think and act positively towards our environment and change our unfriendly habits which are impacting our ecosystem. Let us seize this opportunity to adopt a model for a green and responsible behavior that addresses urgent environmental issues. 

Ramadan witnesses an over-consumption of meat, vegetables and fruits together with drinks, juices and syrups. We become more extravagant in terms of using food and resources. So, let us be patient on these consumptions, eat healthy and organic food in manageable quantities. Let us grow vegetables and fruits at our available land/ space. Use food items judiciously and avoid any wastage.

Let us be away from our routine habits that pollute our air, soil and water resources. Let us be aware of our wasteful habits which are affecting the environment and our future generations. We need to understand that any mismanagement of our precious available resources will be having an irreversible impacts on our ecology and for our future generations. Let us make concerted effort to encourage and embrace “green” practices, especially during Ramadan.

environment-protection-muslims

Ramadan presents the perfect opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries for the year. It is a time to seek forgiveness for our misgivings and to reflect upon the signs of creation from Allah. As human beings, we have a duty as stewards over this planet, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the resources and environment are used in a sustainable manner.

Let this month not only harness our mental and physical ability but also be a turning point for respecting our resources and environment. Some basic thoughts are:

  • Support and utilize local produce. 
  • Plan food usage with no wastage. 
  • Reducing the water usage, especially during making ‘wadoo’/ ablution. Be vigilant that the tap is closed. Any dripping should be eliminated to conserve precious water.
  • Generating less quantity of waste especially food waste. Support & practice recycling and reuse. 
  • No littering especially in common areas, commercial and religious places and shopping areas.
  • Minimum or no use of plastic bags. Using less paper and stationery.
  • Switching off appliances after use like lights, ACs, fans, heaters, iron etc.
  • Using electrical appliances like washing machines, iron, vacuum cleaner and dishwashers in off peak hours. 
  • Eliminate use of disposables plates, cutlery, cups, containers etc. Avoid using Styrofoam containers and plastic cutlery. 

Tips for a Green Ramadan

Ramadan is quite different from other months in terms of activities, praying and eating habits. During this month, Muslims should abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset to boost physical and mental endurance and to understand the hardships faced by the poor and needy  who do not have enough resources to satisfy their basic necessities. The true meaning of Ramadan is purifying ourselves, taking care of our body, soul, people, surrounding and ecosystems which is supporting us.

The month of Ramadan is a golden opportunity to consider making a shift towards a ‘green lifestyle’ that is environmental friendly, non-polluting, non-wasteful and aim toward saving of natural resources. The green lifestyle means improving the quality of life and achieving sustainable development.

Like celebrating so many environmental days, Earth Day, World Environment Day etc., why not celebrate the Ramadan as a greening month. Let us create awareness on the subject, think and act positively towards our environment and change our unfriendly habits which are impacting our ecosystem. Let us seize this opportunity provided by Ramadan and offer a model for a green and responsible behavior that addresses the urgent environmental issues.

Go Green During Ramadan

Ramadan witness an overconsumption of meat, vegetables and fruits together with drinks, juices and syrups. We become more extravagant in terms of using food and resources. So, let us exercise moderation on these consumptions, eat healthy and organic food in manageable quantities. Let us grow vegetables and fruits at our available land. Use food items judiciously and avoid any wastage.

Let us be away from sins and habits that pollute our air, soil and water resources. Let us be aware of our wasteful habits which are affecting the environmental and our future generations. Any mismanagement of our precious resources will be having irreversible impacts on our ecology. Let us make concerted effort to encourage and embrace “green”  and ecofriendly practices, especially during Ramadan.

Ramadan presents the perfect opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries for the year. It is a time to seek forgiveness for our misgivings and to reflect upon the signs of creation from Allah. As Muslims, we have a duty as stewards over this planet, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the resources and environment are used in a sustainable manner.

Let this month not only harness our mental and physical ability but also be a turning point for respecting our resources and environment. Some basic tips for a green Ramadan are:

  • Support and utilize local produce.
  • Plan food intake with proper nutrition and at suitable timings.
  • Cut down and eliminate intake of fast food.
  • Reducing the water usage, especially during making ‘wadoo’/ ablution. Be vigilant that the tap is closed. Any dripping should be eliminated to conserve precious water.
  • Reducing our energy and carbon footprint.
  • Generating less quantity of waste. Emphasizing on recycling and reuse.
  • No littering at any places especially common areas, commercial and religious places and shopping areas.
  • Minimum or no use of plastic bags. Using less paper and stationery.
  • Switching off appliances after use like lights, ACs, fans, heaters, iron etc.
  • Using electrical appliances like washing machines, iron, vacuum cleaner and dishwashers in off peak hours.
  • Planting a tree and taking care of plantation.
  • Replacing lights blubs from incandescent to CFLs or LEDs and turning off lights when they are not in use.
  • Similarly, at the mosque, keeping outside doors closed when the air conditioning is on and dimming the lights also reduces energy consumption as well.
  • Eliminate disposables plates, cutlery, cups, containers etc.
  • Avoid using Styrofoam containers and plastic cutlery.

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Earth Day 2016 – Trees for the Earth

Earth-Day-2016Earth Day has now grown into a global environmental tradition making it the largest civic observance in the world and is widely celebrated event in which over one billion people from over 190 countries will participate by taking suitable actions for saving our mother Earth.

The Earth Day was first organized in 1970 to promote respect for life on the planet and to encourage awareness on air, water and soil pollution. Each year a different theme or topic is selected. The theme of Earth Day 2016 is ‘Trees for the Earth’ focusing on planting more trees thereby reducing our climate change foot print, improving our living conditions and conserving our finite natural resources.

The Earth Day movement is continuing, entering the 46th year to inspire, challenge ideas, ignite passion, and motivate people to action. Let us contribute by planting a tree for the Earth. This initiative will make a significant and measurable impact on the Earth and will serve as the foundation of a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet for all.

Trees for the Earth

Trees are providing a free health services by absorbing excess and harmful CO2 from our atmosphere. In fact, in a single year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of CO2 produced by driving the average car 26,000 miles. Trees help us breathe clean air and absorb odours and polluting gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark. Trees help communities achieve long-term economic and environmental sustainability and provide food, energy and income.

The Earth day is observed believing that nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people. Earth Day's message is to become more sustainable and reduce our carbon footprint and improving our quality of life. We need to plant trees and make our home, area and city as a livable place.

The earth is what we all have in common. We need to audit our actions and see what are we contributing towards our environment and community? Earth Day is about uniting voices around the globe in support of a healthy planet.

All Hands on Board

Earth Day is not limited to 22nd April only but can be celebrated at any day. As the slogan goes ‘Earth Day Every Day’. We need to be part of the biggest grass-root effort in history by at least planting a tree as a “give back” to Earth. We have been mercilessly polluting the natural surroundings and damaging the fragile resources of the earth.

Let us be a part of this green revolution, plan and participate in Earth Day activities moving from single-day actions, such as park cleanups and tree-planting parties to long-term actions and commitments and make our home, area and city, a healthier place to live.

There are many ways to celebrate the Earth Day. We can plant more trees, have indoor plants, plan an outdoor activity with nature, motivate people to reduce the use of unhealthy living practices, avoid littering and use of plastic bags, teach our children about the recycling and reuse of the old materials, promote energy and water conservation and tell people that every day of their life is earth day, so they should take care of the earth on daily basis.

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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Introduction to Green Roofs

Green roofs are emerging technologies that can provide a wide range of tangible and intangible benefits to communities interested in enhancement of their environment.  Green roof development involves the construction of a vegetative layer on top of a human-made structure or building adding green space to areas that would otherwise be unused.  The major benefits of green roofs are reducing energy use as well as air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing stormwater management and water quality, decreasing heat island effect by regulating temperature for the roof and the surrounding areas and providing aesthetic value and habitats for many species. 

What are Green Roofs

Green roofs mainly consist of a vegetation layer consisting of trees, plants, and other shrubs, a substrate layer where water is retained and in which the vegetation is secured, and a drainage layer which helps to evacuate excess water. The depth of the substrate layer is how the two main types of green roofs are differentiated.

Green roofs can be intensive or extensive. Intensive roofs are thicker, more than 15 cm deep, which allows for the growth of a wider variety of plants including trees and shrubs.  However these roofs are heavier, more expensive and require more maintenance and irrigation.  Extensive roofs, on the other hand, are covered in only a light layer of vegetation, less than 15 cm, and are primarily made up of shrubs, low-growing sedums, and herbs.  Unlike the plants on an intensive green roof, the extensive vegetation is typically self-sustaining apart from the bi-yearly maintenancewhen the beds need to be weeded and fertilized.

Because of their weight and function intensive roofs are usually used on commercial buildings.  Commercial buildings tend to be made out of concrete and can support heavierweight loads than traditional homes.  Once the plants are installed and the soil is moist these rooftop green spaces can weigh as much as 150 pounds per square foot. They also tend to have more room to include benches, tables, greenhouses, fountains and walkways that travel between different features of the green roof and provide space where people can interact with the natural surroundings. Intensive roofs tend to be more attractive than extensive roofs and can offer people a place to relax, eat or work in park-like settings.

Extensive roofs on the other hand because of their low weight tend to be more often suitable for residential type buildings or sheds and barns.  Extensive green roofs are the simplest to install and are very often added to existing roofs. Depending on the source you look at these roofs may add 10 to 35 pounds per square foot to a roof’s load.  Drought-tolerant plants and grass are the most common used vegetation on an extensive green roof due to their low water requirements and the shallowness of their roots.

Unending Benefits

Green roofs can be placed on both old and new buildings.The green roof system can either be modular, with drainage layers, filter cloth, growing media and plants already prepared in movable, often interlocking grids, or loose laid/ built-up where each component of the system may be installed separately.  Reports vary on installation costs but on average extensive green roof range between $8 and $20 per square foot and intensive green roofs range between $15 and $50 per square foot.  This compared to a traditional roof installation which averages about $16 dollars per square foot the green roof installation costs tend to be much higher. Although a higher installation cost is required, the green roof undoubtedly offers more benefits than a traditional roof may offer.

Green roofs have the potential to reduce energy demands two ways: absorbing heat and acting as insulators for buildings.  Adding a layer of soil and plants to a roof adds insulation to the building it covers.  Since roofs are the site of the greatest heat loss in the winter and the hottest temperatures in the summer, the greater insulation offered by green roofs can decrease the amount of energy required to moderate the temperature of a building.

Furthermore, reducing the demand for energy consequently reduces air pollution.   By lowering air conditioning demand, green roofs can decrease the production of associated air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2, coming from power plants.  Additionally, because plants through photosynthesis convert atmospheric CO2 into oxygen, the plants on green roofs can help filter harmful noxious gases in the air and reduce CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.  

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Green SMEs in Middle East: Obstacles and Challenges

green-smes-middle-eastWith ‘green’ being the buzzword across all industries, greening of the business sector and development of green skills has assumed greater importance all over the world, and Middle East is no exception. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in eco-design, green architecture, renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainability are spearheading the transition to green economy across a wide range of industries. Green SME sector in the Middle East has been growing steadily, albeit at a slower pace than anticipated. 

Regulations

One of the major obstacles in the progress of green SMEs in the Middle East the has been poorly-designed regulation. According to Ruba A. Al-Zu’bi, a renowned sustainable development consultant in MENA, “SMEs should be the drivers of transformation towards green economy in the Middle East. Lack of clear policy direction and enablers are hindering growth and competitiveness of green SMEs”. Product market regulations which stifle competition pose a big hurdle to SMEs operating in renewables, energy, environment and sustainability sectors.  For example, state-owned companies in GCC have almost complete monopoly in network industries which have large environmental impacts (electricity/energy sector) or control strategic environmental services (water and waste management sector).

Restructuring

Restructuring of the SME sector in the Middle East is essential to allow small businesses to grow and prosper, thus catalyzing region’s transition to a green economy. SMEs account for vast majority of production units and employment across the Middle East, for example SMEs are responsible for around 60% of UAE’s GDP. Needless to say, participation of SMEs is essential in the transition to a low-carbon economy, thus paving the way for greening the business sector and development of green skills across all industrial segments.

Green SMEs require strong government support for growth, which is unfortunately lacking in several GCC countries. As Ruba Al-Zu’bi puts it, “Despite the humongous opportunity for green growth in the Middle East, magnified by climate change, water scarcity, oil dependency and environmental footprint, green SMEs are plagued by severe challenges and competition.”

Pressing Challenges

The Middle East region is facing multiple challenges in the growth of green SME sector. As Ruba Al-Zu’bi puts it, “The most pressing challenges are (1) increasing disconnect between education and market needs and (2) the disorientation of research and development from industry priorities and trends. Government agencies, business associations and NGOs need to play a bigger role in advocating more streamlined priorities for green growth across all industrial sectors.” Green SMEs in the region are facing significant barriers to entry despite their key role in developing locally appropriate technologies and eco-friendly business models.

Promising Initiatives

Abu Dhabi has taken a great step towards consolidation of green SME sector by creating the Masdar Free Zone. As a business cluster, Masdar Free Zone endeavors to provide SMEs and startups with an environment that inspires innovation, offers business development opportunities and provides a living lab and test bed for new technologies. However office rents has been a hurdle to overcome for green SMEs with limited financial capabilities.  “High office rents in Masdar Free Zone have been a major deterrent for small businesses desirous of setting shop in the business cluster”, says Dubai-based sustainability consultant Sunanda Swain.

In 2007, Qatar also launched a promising initiative to promote green growth in the form of Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) with core areas of focus being energy, environment, health sciences and information and communication technologies. During the initial phase, QSTP has been heavily focused on establishing infrastructure and attracting large companies. During the second phase, QSTP intends to target SMEs and provide them support on legal matters, finance, mentoring and business planning.

Future Perspectives

Policy interventions for supporting green SMEs in the Middle East are urgently required to overcome major barriers, including knowledge-sharing, raising environmental awareness, enhancing financial support, supporting skill development and skill formation, improving market access and implementing green taxation. In recent decades, entrepreneurship in the Middle East has been increasing at a rapid pace which should be channeled towards addressing water, energy, environment and waste management challenges, thereby converting environmental constraints into business opportunities.

Islam – In Harmony With Nature

The ecological crisis of the world presents one of the biggest challenges of our time. Through prophets and messengers, God has revealed holy books that bring both glad tidings and warnings, so that people act in a righteous and just manner. In the Holy Quran, God speaks of creating everything in balance, and warns that transgression of the balance shall have disastrous consequences. This holds true not just for the world around us, but also for our souls, for Islam does not differentiate the world of man from the world of nature. 

There are over 6,000 verses in the Holy Quran of which more than 500 deal with the natural phenomenon. Allah, the Almighty, repeatedly calls on mankind to reflect on His signs, which include all aspects of nature such as trees, mountains, seas, animals, birds, stars, the Sun and the moon and our own hearts. Islamic jurisprudence contains regulations concerning the conservation and allocation of scarce water resources; it provides legislation for the conservation of land; it has special rules for the establishment of rangelands, wetlands, green belts and for wildlife protection and conservation.

Planting a tree is considered a sadqa-e-jariyah, an act of continuous charity, a desirable deed for which the planter is rewarded for as long as the tree benefits any form of creation. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had declared a 30-km area around his city of Medina a protected grove, prohibiting the cutting down of trees within its borders. He prescribed picking up litter from the streets as an act of faith. He forbade the cutting of cedar trees in the desert since they provided shade and shelter to animals. There are innumerable sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that stress on conservation of resources, especially water. He calls upon us to be what God intended us to be, which is in harmony with nature.

Humans have the capacity to subvert the world, far more than any other living species. We also have the capacity to uphold the physical world. Islam believes that all human souls come from a garden, and that at the end of time each soul will either enter the garden or the fire. We can turn the world into something that is hotter, greedier and more destructive, or we can turn it into something that is calm, garden-like and reflects the divine purpose.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) famously said, “Even if the Day of Judgment should arrive and you are holding a sapling in your hand, plant it.” This also indicates that one should never lose hope and continue one’s efforts to be at peace with the earth till the very end.

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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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Environmental Sustainability in Islam

Islamic beliefs, traditions and values provide an effective and comprehensive solution to the current environmental challenges faced by the human race. Islam has a rich tradition of highlighting the importance of environmental protection and conservation of natural resources. According to Islamic law, the basic elements of nature – land, water, fire, forest, and light – belong to all living things, not just human beings.

The Holy Qur’an and Sunnah are a guiding light to promote sustainable development in Islamic countries as well as around the world. Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala) commands human beings to avoid doing mischief and wasting resources as these acts cause degradation of the environment. The privilege to exploit natural resources was given to the mankind on a guardianship basis, which implies the right to use another person’s property on the promise that it will not be damaged or destroyed.

The Holy Qur’an and Environment

The Holy Qur'an has a number of specific references to ecology and also contains some important principles for environmental conservation. The first principle which guides Islamic teaching on environmental sustainability is the concept of trusteeship. Being a khalifa (or guardian), a man should take all necessary steps to ensure that the entrusted property is passed on to the next generation in as pure a form as possible. According to Islam each man is the custodian of nature, and must live with harmony with other creatures. It is the duty of all Muslims to respect, nurture and care for the environment.

Corruption of all kinds, including environmental corruption, which includes industrial pollution, environmental damage, and reckless exploitation and mismanagement of natural resources are disliked by Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala)

Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala) says in the Holy Qur'an:

“And Allah loveth not those who do mischief” (Surat Al Ma’eda, verse 64)

“And do no mischief on the earth after it has been set in order: that will be best for you, if ye have Faith” (Surat Al A’raf, ‘the Heights’, verse 85)

Eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters (Surat Al-A’raf 7: 21).

“And do good as Allah has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. Allah does not love the corrupters”, (Surat Al Qasas 28:77)

“Children of Adam, dress well whenever you are at worship, and eat and drink (as we have permitted) but do not be extravagant: God does not like extravagant people.” (Surat Al-A’raf 7:31)

According to the Holy Qur'an, environmental conservation is a religious duty as well as social obligation, and not an optional matter. The exploitation of a particular natural resource is directly related to accountability and maintenance of the resource.

Hadiths and Environment

Hadiths or the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) also deal extensively with various aspects of environment including resource conservation, land reclamation and environmental hygiene. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) discouraged overconsumption, luxury and lavishness and encouraged moderation in all walks of life. The most popular Hadith on environment states "The earth is green and beautiful and Allah has appointed you his stewards over it" which reiterates Quran teaching that human beings have been given the responsibility of guardianship over the natural environment.

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) clearly forbade destruction of trees and crops even during war times as long as their existence remains advantageous to the enemy.  The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) gave high degree of importance towards sustainable cultivation of land, humane treatment of animals, preservation of natural resources and protection of wildlife. Some of the sayings of Prophet bless and Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) on environmental sustainability are:

“The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily God, be He exalted, has made you His stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves.” (Muslim)

"If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him." (Bukhari)

 “Whoever plants a tree and diligently looks after it until it matures and bears fruit is rewarded,” (Musnad) 

The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) recognized that natural resources should not be overexploited or abused. In order to protect land, forests and wildlife, the Prophet created inviolable zones, known as Haram and Hima, in which resources were to be left untouched. Haram areas were drawn up around wells and water sources to protect the groundwater from overpumping. Hima applied to wildlife and forestry and designated an area of land where grazing and woodcutting was restricted, or where certain animal species (such as camels) were protected.

Prophet Muhammed (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) established a hima to the south of Madina and forbade hunting within a four mile radius and destruction of trees or plants within a twelve mile radius. The creation of inviolable zones shows the importance placed by Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) on sustainable use of natural resources and protection of wildlife and agricultural land. 

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Towards a Green Hajj

Despite the spiritual perfection of the rites of the Hajj pilgrimage, there are some deep issues with its practical implementation. In a journey where one is meant to recalibrate one's consciousness of the one true Creator, it seems paradoxical that such an excursion should lead to environmental harm (or destruction). Why is it then that I walk the street of the Haram (sacred land) and find them littered with boxes of chicken and rice, strewn on the curb in front of beggars who offer to pray for you in exchange of spare change?

Deluge of Waste

In 7:31, the Holy Qur'an says, "O children of Adam! … eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters." The Quran has so many verses extolling the environment and natural wonders. Yet ironically, the pinnacle of a Muslim's spiritual journey, known as Hajj, has become plastered with waste, something which Saudi Arabia has become somewhat notorious for. Much of this also comes from the luxurious European and American tents who really should be bringing with them better codes of conduct as they belong to the so-called developed world.

What about the millions of plastic bottles, essential for hydrating Hajj pilgrims, but surely ending up polluting landfills and oceans, destroying countless habitats in Makkah, Madina and surrounding areas? Surely a country with the financial arsenal that Saudi boasts could arrange for sophisticated recycling facilities at least. In fact, the current sovereign has shown glimpses of visionary marvel, with an expansion project of the Sacred Mosque that will increase its capacity from 1 million worshippers to 2.5 million – this is happening AMIDST mass congregations every day! I suppose one might argue that throwing $11 billion at a problem is prone to producing miraculous engineering feats. Challenge accepted, I say, let's green up the Hajj!

For a Mosque buzzing day and night all year around, it is disappointing to see the thousands of fans, bulbs, chandeliers and air conditioners in use practically all the time. Anyone who has even stepped foot in this region could probably point to a pretty abundant source of power – the SUN! That majestic ball of gas has chosen the Gulf as its lover to whom it imparts more magnificent rays than anywhere else. Yet in a country where oil is cheaper than water, whose got time for solar panels? If the sun's energy were to be harnessed for the planned Mecca Metro, surely the smog filled air, congestion, and indefinite waiting times could be avoided in addition to the tons of carbon reduced each year!

Time to Act, now!

With the threat of Climate Change intensifying and an official Islamic Declaration on Climate Change in place, the need for countries to reduce their carbon footprints is becoming imperative. The role of faith groups in opposing environmental degradation cannot be understated, as the recent Papal Encyclical and Islamic Declaration has demonstrated. Organisations like ARC and GO2015 have come together to produce a Green Guide for Hajj in various languages. We have seen more campaigns mobilizing faith communities on this issue by groups like Islamic Relief, MADE, Christian Aid, and CAFOD.

Strong Message of Environmental Leadership

By ensuring scrupulous sustainability along every step of the most sacred journey in a Muslim's life, we are not simply reducing its carbon footprint – we are sending a strong message of leadership to 1.6 billion Muslims that environmental stewardship is an essential aspect of our faith. By 2020, an estimated 25 million more people will have completed the Hajj, and the ripple effect a Green Hajj could have on people's personal lives could change the way the entire Muslim community views the issue.

The pilgrims annually retrace the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him); the same man who forbade the excessive use of water even at a riverbank, prohibited the cutting of trees in the sacred lands, and commanded environmental custodianship as a strong tenet of the faith. It is about time that the Saudi government (and the entire Muslim Ummah) takes a stronger stand towards externalizing the inner spirituality of the Hajj by making it a journey of environmental care, contemplation and benefit.