Adopting the sustainable path
Dated: 19-06-2013

Sustainability’ has come a long way from being a mere PR or marketing tactic, to being at the core of much of the planning and activities, particularly in the developed world. But it is still a novelty in many developing countries, though the term has become very popular over the past decade or so. In the Middle East, the concept in its true sense is slowly beginning to sink in, though it might be a long time before it actually gets implemented at every level. In the FM industry the term is being used more and more frequently, and this, in addition to the increasing governmental initiatives, industry dialogues and relevant legislations, is encouraging companies to adopt measures that make their operations sustainable in the long run.


Barry Clarke, general manager, Macro Qatar and KSA says, “Sustainability is a very misunderstood agenda and often confused with only environmental and green initiatives which are only a part of the sustainability agenda, the others being economics, politics and culture. It is no good having an environmental agenda if it is not economically viable or tries to dramatically change the cultural make up of a region or area and/or distorts the socio political scene. All four elements must be considered to make a real sustainable initiative. To me sustainability is about longevity making sure that initiatives undertaken across the whole spectrum of life and business do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs and aspirations.”
 
“Sustainability is a multi-faceted broad issue that needs combined global efforts to address the current challenges, in the light of escalating demand for the depleting natural resources. Sustainability warrants ensuring a decent standard of living for all people without compromising the needs of future generations. It is the ability to maintain the quality of life that we enjoy in the long term; which in turn depends on conserving the world’s nature and the responsible use of natural resources,” says Mahmood Rasheed, COO, Imdaad.
 
“Being a pioneer in facility management industry, Imdaad is undoubtedly well aware of the importance of sustainability. In keeping with its position, resources and scope of competence, Imdaad seeks to comply with whatever would contribute to reducing the environmental impacts associated with its scope of operation as well as promoting the 3 R concepts (reduce, recycle, re-use) across its facilities.”

In Farnek CEO Markus Oberlin’s view, “Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations. It is the key to ensuring that we have and will continue to have water and other natural resources to protect human health and our environment.”
 

Rasheed says the Middle East is inseparable from other parts of the globe and faces the same sustainability challenges. “In fact, carefully-designed objectives of sustainable development would help direct the public opinion to rise up to the complicated challenges of sustainable development, inspire public and private sectors, encourage integrated thinking, and enhance accountability. Children everywhere should learn the objectives of sustainable development as a means to identify the challenges that they will face as adults.”

He points out that these objectives complement the tools of international law such as agreements and international treaties, by providing a common standard framework. And as an integral part of the global system, the Middle East region should support the methods of measuring, monitoring and controlling the sustainable development.


Mahmood Rasheed, COO, Imdaad
 
In Clarke’s view various countries across the Middle East have different agendas and ideas regarding sustainability. “Generally, as a subject it is still in its infancy and in my opinion, not particularly sophisticated or high on the agenda. Several countries have or are adopting various environmental initiatives, but as stated above, this does not necessarily meet the wider sustainability need. There are examples of good practice particularly in the UAE, but one cannot help but think these have come about by accident or from other drivers and not design.”
 
Which elements of sustainability do the operators and their clients consider most relevant and emphasize on? “Imdaad is constantly committed to meeting its customers’ needs, and strives hard to measure up to their aspirations. It takes into account all elements that contribute to realising sustainability such as transferring modern technology, launching energy-efficient initiatives and adopting best available waste management practices within the local development plans.
 
The population growth and urban expansion brings about challenges of waste management, and protection of water sources, safe food and clean air. From this standpoint, Imdaad provides solutions to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and promote and support recycling initiatives of its clients for maximum material recovery,” states Imdaad’s COO.
 
According to Oberlin, water and energy consumption are the two key requirements which they can monitor through their internet-based Optimizer software. “We can reduce water usage by placing aerators on taps, identifying ways to reuse grey water for irrigation, avoiding evaporation in swimming pools and open water tanks by employing covers and so on. In terms of energy, we can reduce consumption by using low energy light bulbs, placing a control module to regulate air conditioning units, so that they only operate within given temperature settings. We can also apply film to windows to reduce sunlight to keep inside temperatures lower, place solar panels on roofs to heat water and administer exterior reflective coatings/paint to keep buildings cooler.”
 
Clarke says, “Without doubt most customers want to address the environmental agenda and some at any cost. We see examples of the desire to be accredited to formal environmental schemes without due consideration to the consequential impact associated with say increased maintenance or operational costs. What is cost effective in say the USA or Europe (due to the increased energy and labour costs) may not be sustainable in the Gulf. Conversely, when we quote for say cleaning services very few customers see the benefit of paying extra for environmentally friendly products – it really is a dichotomy, knowing what to do.” Touching upon the specific initiatives of the company, Rasheed says Imdaad has launched
 
several awareness initiatives at the local level in a bid to raise the public awareness of the risks undermining sustainable development. “At the same time, Imdaad spares no effort to utilise the methods capable of ensuring sustainability in the context of its daily operations, especially in the field of energy. Our team always strives to work out effective solutions to reduce power consumption and is in constant pursuit of more efficient lighting solutions in order to enhance its ability to use lower energy. The least expensive method that contributes to cutting global carbon emission is phasing out inefficient lighting technology. According to the United Nations, 5% of the global power consumption can be saved each year by adopting more efficient lighting methods.”
 
 
Farnek is myclimate’s (non-profit international carbon management company) partner in the Middle East and together they aim to raise awareness on carbon emissions and help businesses to become carbon neutral, states the company’s CEO adding that it is also about educating tomorrow’s ‘eco warriors’ and Farnek recently joined EEG to encourage many local schools to measure their carbon emissions and ways in which they could reduce them. “Measures included recycling and making their own paper, by using a filtration system to dispense water, cutting out the need to order plastic bottles and operate refrigeration units; refilling and recycling toner cartridges for printers; using potato peelings to make compost for gardens and utilising special chemicals that require minimal water for cleaning floors, plus educating children about excessive use of toilet paper. Farnek launched the first carbon neutral bus in the region to transport its staff, and its offices and staff accommodation are models of sustainability.”
 
Green Globe Certification is the premier worldwide sustainability management system and certification for the hospitality, travel and tourism industry. The Green Globe Standard consists of 41 criteria with over 330 indicators and is in use in over 90 countries worldwide. “Farnek is GGC’s preferred partner in the region and acts as a consultant preparing and auditing hotels for certification. Farnek’s experienced consultants can identify specific areas where hotels need to improve their sustainability levels, through reducing energy and water consumption, as well as being socially responsible especially within the communities they serve.”
 
Green Globe Certification is the premier worldwide sustainability management system and certification for the hospitality, travel and tourism industry. The Green Globe Standard consists of 41 criteria with over 330 indicators and is in use in over 90 countries worldwide. “Farnek is GGC’s preferred partner in the region and acts as a consultant preparing and auditing hotels for certification. Farnek’s experienced consultants can identify specific areas where hotels need to improve their sustainability levels, through reducing energy and water consumption, as well as being socially responsible especially within the communities they serve.”
 
“Sustainability is also about the effective and efficient use of resources, which in our industry is mainly based on the human kind, so any initiative which improves our human resource is seen as contributing to the sustainability agenda, that includes the current trend of ‘isisation’ and the desire to develop the ability and interest of locals. It includes training and development, recruitment and retention and efficiency in working methodology, ie., providing the right environment and tools for staff to deliver including reducing accident and incident rates,” he points out.

“In summary, everything we do and everything we touch influences the mammoth sustainability agenda, and to coin an old fashioned phrase – how do you eat an elephant? The answer is in bite sized chunks, the evidence is there in the willingness to adopt and adapt but due to the broad and complex issues it will take time to register improvement and compliance with the wider sustainability agenda that meets the multi faceted, different local, cultural and political dimensions,” states Clarke.
 
 
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