Family, Enterprise, and the Eco-Friendly Way— Getting Sustainable in the UAE

Eco-friendliness is catching on in the UAE. Dubai has just opened one of the world’s largest solar energy plants, which will have enough capacity to supply 20,000 homes in the UAE with power. If the UAE hits its target, by 2020 alternative sources of energy than oil and gas will be providing the UAE with 7% of its electricity — a big if from a country in which fuel prices are so low, but it’s a step in the right direction.

This is just part of a UAE drive to diversify its economy. One of the other key players will be the role of family businesses there, which account for a large percentage of businesses in the country. The younger generation will, of course, have a great part to play in this.

A generation in the know

Many businesses in the UAE were set up in the 1950s and 1960s by families who had little education but knew the value of hard work. Today’s generations, on the other hand, are more educated about business: corporate governance, business structures, business ethics … They are more knowledgeable about these aspects than previous generations have been.
As the UAE strives to become more sustainable, the chances are environmental responsibility is another aspect they’ll incorporate into their business operation.

Going green and saving green

The UAE business world has plenty of reason to go green. First of all, it can improve business bottom lines by saving money. And secondly, businesses can bolster their image if they trade with other socially responsible businesses, or if they place their money with international banks (like HSBC) that support sustainable projects and policies. Consumers and even other businesses smile upon this.
So how can the UAE’s young, savvier generation run the family business profitably and let the environment also reap the benefits? Here are a few suggestions.
• Don’t waste paper— Get the employees to think before they print. In these digital times, it’s much less necessary to print everything than before, so they should only print if they need to. Oh and write on both sides of the paper.
• Don’t waste energy — When they’re leaving the office for the night, they must remember to switch off their computers, rather than just put them on suspend. The business owner will be thankful when the electricity bill comes.
• Use renewable office supplies — One way to save money is by using refillable ink. Ink cartridges are more expensive because you’re paying for the plastic. Paying for the cartridge once saves both money and plastic.
• If the business is in an office block, why not fit solar panels on the roof to provide the building’s electricity?
As the UAE gradually takes steps towards creating a more diverse, greener economy, businesses can play a part in this. When people think of the future, naturally their hopes turn to the young. In the case of family business in the UAE, younger generations who take the reins are definitely people they can trust. Not only that, more knowledgeable of business practices and business ethics, the business is in the hands of someone the planet can trust too, which is every bit as important.

Looking for more information on sustainability? Visit Friends of the Earth’s international website at