‘Business and industrial sectors remain the central engine to achieve sustainable goals to future-proof the planet’

Under the patronage and presence of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, President of American University of Sharjah, the Sharjah Ramadan Majlis 2023 brought together business leaders, senior government officials, entrepreneurs and changemakers, providing them with a platform for dialogue and unifying visions and efforts that promote sustainability values ​​and practices in various sectors and industries, and develop environmentally friendly and safe business options for the future of the world.

Held under the theme “The Winning Combination: Where Business Meets Sustainability”, the majlis was organised by Sharjah Development and Investment Authority (Shurooq), Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah), Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), and Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP). The majlis offered a vital dialogue space for thought leaders and changemakers to align multi-sectoral visions to deliver practical, innovative, and impactful solutions that can help mitigate the adverse impacts of environmental issues facing the UAE and the world today, and enhance sustainability across diverse sectors and industries.

The Majlis opened with a keynote address from Sheikha Bodour, who reminded the audience to be “careful not to think of sustainability as a trend, because it is not. The awareness and commitment to be mindful of our impact on the planet should extend far beyond COP28”.

“In Sharjah, we are working hard to bring more balance and harmony to our relationship with the land” she added, referring to various actions carried out by public and private entities as well as educational institutions in the emirate, such as the recent harvesting of toxin- and pesticide-free wheat from the Saba Sanabel project in Mleiha, which was witnessed by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the UAE Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, the ban on single-use plastic, the project to build the UAE’s first recycling facility for expired batteries from electric vehicles, and the development of innovative solutions such as apps that enable more efficient and environmentally friendly waste management.

“I am confident that with access to more technological advancement and research, we can be pioneers in shifting the conversation from achieving net zero goals to positive net outcomes that help us achieve a resilient and regenerative world”, President of American University of Sharjah asserted.

Speakers at the majlis included HE Majid Al Suwaidi, Director-General of COP28, HE Omar Al-Suwaidi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology، HE Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO of BEEAH GROUP, HE Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer, CEO of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Mohamed Juma Al Musharrakh, CEO at Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah), Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP), and a number of speakers from governmental and private bodies, including the office of the COP28 Conference of the Parties (UAE Climate Conference).

Collective responsibility beyond borders

During his keynote speech, His Excellency Majid Al Suwaidi, Director-General of COP28, shared his views on a global approach to sustainability, emphasising the need for collective responsibility beyond borders.

“His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed AlQasimi, Member of the UAE Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, has been a champion in sustainability leading Sharjah for decades with various green initiatives and groundbreaking projects. Through his tireless efforts, the emirate has embraced a forward-thinking approach that has not only safeguarded the economy but also laid the groundwork for a sustainable future. The UAE’s success as a nation lies in the spirit of our ambition and collective mission, and now we need to create sustainable jobs in sectors of tomorrow, we need to build on what we can thrive. We must look at COP28 as a launching pad to rally international organisations to collaboratively function to sustainable global agenda and make green transitions. Finance is also a clear goal of COP28 as we need trillions to fund climate-tech initiatives such as artificial intelligence and agrotech to decarbonise the planet. We need to be resilient in the progress we are making and ensure we move together globally for the people and the planet. COP28 is the single best economic opportunity that we can seize, and if done right, we can create ample opportunities for our youth to pioneer and lead the world.”

His Excellency Omar Al-Suwaidi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, affirmed that the UAE has been at the forefront of enacting legislation that focuses on consolidating sustainable business principles across various sectors.

He said: “By prioritising sustainability and committing to the net-zero goal, the UAE is laying the groundwork for a green transformation that will benefit both our environment and our economy. Through a holistic approach that includes decarbonisation, circular economy policies, and embracing new industrial opportunities and technologies such as green hydrogen, we can create a roadmap towards a greener future. The entire ecosystem, from assessment to full transformation, are involved in this process to ensure we leave a lasting positive impact for future generations. We are committed to promoting technologies and initiatives that will raise the level of sustainable business efficiency, and creating policies and standards that will promote the green economy. Our vision is to create an economy that is fully based on sustainability, and we are dedicated to supporting all initiatives that serve the business sectors that rely on renewable energy.”

HE Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO of BEEAH GROUP, said that the declaration of 2023 as the Year of Sustainability in the UAE reflected the country’s ongoing efforts to promote sustainable development and environmental preservation while striving to provide a model for the same.

He said: “Sharjah’s focus on sustainability is exemplified by the collaboration between various public and private entities in the emirate. Through joint efforts, we aim to address the challenges faced by different sectors while prioritising the interests of the business sector and supporting Sharjah’s overall development. The UAE has already set an ambitious goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, which involves transitioning to a green economy and clean energy, ultimately improving quality of life and boosting economic growth. Initiatives such as Sharjah Sustainability City, BEEAH’s circular economy approach to waste management, and the Masdar-BEEAH partnership that resulted in the launch of the UAE’s first waste-to-energy plant demonstrate Sharjah’s innovative and holistic approach to sustainability. Sharjah’s commitment to sustainability not only promotes environmental protection but also drives economic growth and creates opportunities for businesses to succeed in the global market.”

Sharjah on forefront for sustainability

HE Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), said: “By prioritising sustainability, Sharjah is working towards building a more resilient, equitable, and prosperous future for all its residents and stakeholders. The role of entrepreneurship in developing new, innovative, cost-effective and scalable solutions to environmental challenges cannot be overstated. Socially minded entrepreneurs have dedicated their life’s work to identifying existing gaps in the market and developing solutions that address a wide range of sustainability challenges like energy efficiency, waste management, and resource conservation. Sheraa’s activities and initiatives demonstrate a strong commitment to promoting sustainability and supporting entrepreneurs who are working on solutions to environmental challenges.”

Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP), said: “We recognise the critical role that innovation and technology play in achieving sustainable development goals. Our belief is rooted in the understanding that through scientific and technological advancements, we can effectively address the most pressing global challenges. From mitigating the impact of environmental degradation to accelerating the transition towards a circular economy, our innovation ecosystem is designed to bring together researchers, entrepreneurs, and businesses, and provide them with the platform to collaborate, experiment, and scale up innovative ideas. We strongly believe that real-world impact can only be achieved through partnerships, and this platform serves as a vital space to initiate these dialogues. It brings together stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and industries to cultivate a culture of innovation and sustainability, ensuring positive changes that will endure for generations.”

H.E Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer, CEO of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), said: “Collaboration serves as the cornerstone for driving meaningful and impactful efforts towards sustainability. As individuals, as communities, and as nations, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that we leave behind a healthier planet for future generations. At Shurooq, we take this responsibility seriously and are committed to bringing sustainability to the forefront of development and business strategies. From the way they source materials for construction, to the cutting-edge advancements in waste management and recycling, Shurooq has made it a priority to implement sustainable and environmentally conscious practices in every project they undertake. Through our developments and investments, we aim to set an example for others to follow and work collaboratively with stakeholders from different sectors to achieve meaningful and impact-driving efforts towards sustainability.”

HE Mohammed Al Musharrakh, CEO of Sharjah FDI office (Invest in Sharjah), said: “As sustainability becomes an increasingly important consideration for businesses, our long-term strategy focuses on attracting sustainable FDI across the sectors of renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, eco-tourism, sustainable real estate & agriculture, green transportation and waste management to support long-term economic growth while minimising environmental and social impacts. We encourage both existing businesses in Sharjah and newcomers to adopt sustainable supply chain management practices, such as sourcing materials locally and reducing waste in production processes.”

Effective strategies and solutions

The forum’s dialogues, including an expert-led panel session, The Conscious Majlis: Our Collective Responsibility, highlighted effective and integrated strategies for enhancing sustainability across sectors and industries to ensure the longevity of the planet. The Majlis also offered key stakeholders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem a platform to talk about how startups and investors are making progress in the sustainability sector.

The Sharjah Ramadan Majlis 2023 served as a significant platform to build momentum in the right direction, highlighting the invaluable role socially-minded and tech-driven entrepreneurs can play in building back from the rapid degeneration the world has experienced from unsustainable business practices. It was also a key event on the national and regional calendar for those interested in the future of entrepreneurship and sustainability in the region.