Nearly two-thirds (60%) of businesses in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia do not have a framework governing their environment, social and governance (ESG) standards, and around half of those who do are not sure their employees fully understand it.
These were the top findings of an exclusive study of 200 decision makers in the two countries commissioned by ASDA’A BCW, the region’s leading integrated communications agency, to mark the launch OnePoint5, its new ESG advisory dedicated to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Its name is inspired by the world’s most important sustainability goal – limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
OnePoint5 aims to strengthen the voice of the MENA region on ESG issues while helping clients to adopt more sustainable business practices. The new advisory arrives as Egypt prepares to host the UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, in November, to be followed by COP28 in the UAE in 2023.
Out of the 200 opinion elites interviewed, 41 per cent said their business already had an ESG framework in place, while a third (33%) said they were developing one. A quarter (26%) admitted their company had no ESG policy. Underscoring the need for raised awareness of the benefits of ESG standards, over half (52%) of respondents who said their company had introduced an ESG framework said they did not fully understand it.
Sunil John, President – MENA of BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW, said the research indicated that the Middle East’s business community had work to do to meet the high expectations of their governments on sustainability best practice.
Developing a strong ESG proposition
“OnePoint5 can help client develop a strong ESG proposition to deliver greater value for their shareholders and stakeholders,” said John. “The specialist advisory will be led by Stephen Worsley, Senior Vice President at ASDA’A BCW. A communications professional with more than 25 years’ experience, he has advised clients in the sustainability and energy sectors, including Masdar, Total, Zayed Sustainability Prize, Engie and First Solar.”
OnePoint5 offers four key services: Advice & counsel to client decision makers to ensure sustainability thinking is central to their business planning and disclosure; auditing and gap analysis to understand a client’s sustainability impacts; designing operational plans to help integrate best practices; and communications strategies and plans to help clients inform and motivate employees and internal stakeholders, as well as amplify external stakeholder awareness of their sustainability commitments.
Bridging the ‘say-do’ gap
“The gap between awareness of the acute need to advance sustainable development and action on the ground by much of the business community needs closing,” added John. “Consultancies like OnePoint5 can help clients address this so-called ‘say-do’ gap, by combining the skills of experienced communicators with the technical abilities of sustainability specialists.”
He said: “The UAE, Saudi Arabia and several other countries in MENA have pledged to go Net Zero and are enacting a wave of reforms aimed at raising the bar for transparency, good governance and sustainability – that is not to mention the massive infrastructure projects being undertaken, from The Line in Saudi Arabia to Expo 2020 in Dubai, the most sustainable Expo ever staged and the planned venue for COP28 next year. The message is clear: all of us need to raise our game.”
Climate Change Already Impacting Middle East Businesses
The survey further revealed that Middle East businesses need to pick up the pace on climate action, with about two-thirds (61%) of decision makers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia saying that global warming was already having an impact on the way their business operates.
While governance standards also show room for improvement, 40 per cent of businesses in the two countries claim to have robust policies to combat bribery, corruption and unethical behaviour. Forty-six per cent of respondents in the UAE and 43 per cent in Saudi Arabia said they had a whistle-blower policy in place to expose corruption.
The survey was conducted by PSB Middle East, the wholly owned data and analytics subsidiary of ASDA’A BCW, from May 22 to 29, 2022. The interview sample, comprising decision makers directly involved in ESG affairs, was evenly split between Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
For more details on the research and OnePoint5, visit asdaa-bcw.com