Cutting carbon in a land where green is not always green
Generating a positive environmental impact is a goal that will always need to be approached with consideration, commitment and enthusiasm in order to ensure long term success.
However in a place where rain inspires dancing and winter is celebrated, a considered approach is essential. Where gardens of non-native greenery (while keenly enjoyed), are often not in the best interests of a water scarce environment; where green may not be ‘green’, the challenge to respect, understand and protect the land takes on special meaning.
What’s so important about the Middle East?
On a regional scale across our companies in the Middle East, reducing our carbon footprint is a significant step in decreasing our overall impact on the local ecosystem, which boasts its own irreplaceable set of species, plants and wildlife.
On a global scale, the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council ) contributes over 40% of the world’s proven crude oil reserves, highlighting the significant role it plays in the wider global energy story. Yet despite the current magnitude of crude oil in the region and in some cases an ensuing perspective of plenty, history has proven that it will eventually run out, and perhaps even sooner than we realise. Recent findings suggest that if the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) continues to increase their domestic consumption of oil at the current rate, KSA will need to become a net importer of energy by 2020. Demonstrating that even the region’s most ‘energy rich’ countries are seriously looking to sustainable solutions as the future.
Our work supporting clients in their efforts to extract, refine, convert and transport a variety of energy resources across Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, provides us with unique opportunity for leadership. The construction and support services we provide within these developing economies places us in a significant position to provide guidance. Which prompts the question – how can we lead by example? How can we instigate a culture of challenging the way we operate? How can we take accountability for the resources we use on behalf of our customers?
So, what are we doing?
Every journey starts with identifying the destination “where do we want to be”, followed by “how do we get there”? So, to steal a line from Tim Haywood, we took on the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), such as halving our absolute carbon emissions by 2020 and we’re working back from there. There have been a few bridges to cross and we expect more to come. And whilst we have yet to finalise the route, we know we are heading in the right direction.
In recent years we have already achieved several significant leaps ahead in innovation and sustainability, including Bionest, a desert-friendly wastewater solution, and the solar-power ambulance shelters we’ve built in Qatar (no shortage of sunshine here).
We’re also reviewing the decisions we make every day
For instance, “what travel is essential?” How can we better use technology, such as video conferencing and collaboration tools? Some of these may seem like small decisions but they add up! For instance in the United Arab Emirates we decreased our annual fuel costs from 60m AED (approx. £10m) to 35m AED (approx £6m)! And of course, we’re continuously investigating potential innovations that may offer long term regional and global value both to people and the environment we are responsible for.
Getting down to the nuts and bolts, we have taken up the challenge of reducing emissions from energy use at construction sites by 30% by the year 2016. Our businesses across the region have assessed how they can achieve our shared goals in the places they operate, and have then adopted these targets in individual SustainAbilities Plans.
We all acknowledge that the journey won’t be a quick or easy one, but it is one that simply must be completed. And, just like every action repeated with consistency, the habits we form in our operations today, will continue to guide and when necessary, nudge, prod and spur, the acceleration of sustainable practises for years to come.