We are currently going through tremendous changes here in the UAE, and I believe the pace accelerated even more in recent weeks. As a sustainability advocate and professional, I welcome this. We are clearly being pointed in the right direction.
Let’s take a glance at a few of these changes:
- Moving to a 4.5 day week for government workers, with Friday afternoon, Saturday, and Sunday to be the new weekend
- New social responsibilities policies announced to encourage social responsibility amongst private sector companies
- A new Labour Law including fixed-term contracts that do not exceed 3 years, offering more flexible work options to employees, or the extension of paid maternity leave
- The UAE targeting net zero carbon emissions by 2050
- The UAE circular economy policy.
This is only the beginning, but the ambition is clear: for the UAE to become a sustainable nation. The private sector is also invited to take part in this ambition and can play a key role, no doubt.
So as we face these changes, I have witnessed certain reactions from companies:
- Overwhelmed and underprepared (which is an understandable and normal human reaction)
- Compliance mode; choosing to go with the flow
- Striving to see this as an opportunity and going one step further.
For example, since the announcement of weekend changes impacting the government-related entities, and not, per se, the private sector, I have heard many debates. Should we follow? Should we not follow? Should we wait and see what other companies do first? One company that could be looked upon for inspiration is the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group. They now offer all their employees the facilities to work from home every Friday morning, and since 2020 have extended maternity leave to 90 days full pay. Other companies have also decided to take the leap, by focusing on the well-being of their most important asset: People!
It is time for companies to seriously think about what kind of social and environmental impact they are striving towards in the UAE and the Middle East region. It is far better to be ahead of the curve than finding yourself in a position where you must double your efforts – at great expense – to catch up. CEOs and their leadership teams must now think about how to define a more sustainable business model and revisit their vision, mission, and values
I strongly advise companies now to take concrete actions and define a clear CSR strategy. The younger generation – your future customers, and potential employees – put sustainability at the core of their values. They are unwilling to compromise their values for money or the prestige of a company name, plus they are mad at the way companies have been doing business, at the expense of people, the planet, and their future. So how will you attract those talents? And how will you retain them? This all poses a great risk to organisations, not to mention the supply chain or environmental risks.
So, let’s all embrace the change. Use business as a force for good. A brand new era is upon us.