Opinion: Aligning with national sustainability agenda makes good business sense

Conforming to sustainability standards is creating a culture and building a conversation that centres on sustainable development, comments  Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun of GPCA.

Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun is the secretary general of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA)
Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun is the secretary general of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA)

Conforming to sustainability standards is creating a culture and building a conversation that centres on sustainable development, comments Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun of GPCA.

Effective public-private partnerships are driving sustainability across the board, addressing critical challenges and achieving an even wider impact, and effecting successful outcomes. More than a concept, sustainability is a principle that is enabling organisations to remain competitive in an increasingly volatile global markets.

The success of sustainable development is closely linked to collaboration, knowledge sharing and fostering partnerships, as well as embedding social and environmental consciousness into corporate structures and business models.

The chemical industry’s share in the region’s GDP and contribution to non-oil economic growth has consistently grown over the years. By integrating sustainability into their product mix, and aligning their operations with the GCC national sustainability agenda, chemical producers can reap benefits of product and service innovation, improved risk management and the opening of new markets.

The regional chemical industry is closely aligned with the sustainable development targets of the GCC governments. Improvements in occupational safety, energy efficiency and reduced carbon footprint made by the chemical industry is raising the profile and competitiveness of the entire region.

Sustainability remains central to the UAE’s Vision 2021 and is deciding the choice of energy sources, project selection, raw materials, suppliers, processes and working conditions.

Sustainability – both economic and environmental – is a key focus in Saudi Vision 2030. The Vision stipulates: “We will seek to safeguard our environment by increasing the efficiency of waste management, establishing comprehensive recycling projects, reducing all types of pollution and... We will also promote the optimal use of our water resources by reducing consumption and utilising treated and              renewable water.”

The GCC chemical industry is a crucial part of the global chemical community and, as such, continues to promote, advocate and support key global sustainability initiatives. The chemical sector in this region is a rare example of an industry that has gone beyond its production cycle and adopted a holistic sustainability approach through the Responsible Care programme.

Responsible Care is aligned with the initiatives of international entities such as the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the International Council of Chemical Association (ICCA), and plays a crucial role in helping to safeguard the health, safety, security and environment (HSSE) throughout the chemical supply chain.

The GCC chemical and petrochemical producers – along with their partners such as the LSPs (logistic service providers) – are playing key role in advancing the industry’s sustainability agenda. As a key element of Responsible Care applied to logistics operations, Gulf SQAS expands the coverage of Responsible Care throughout the product supply chain, focusing on continuous improvement of EHSS&Q within the logistic service providers.

In October this year, GPCA extended the Responsible Care programme to LSPs, resulting in nine LSPs from across the region being awarded the status of Responsible Care companies. This was a remarkable milestone for logistics operators in the region, encompassing RSA-TALKE, Joint Tank Services, ALJABR-TALKE, Abu Dhabi Terminals, Crescent Transportation, S.A. TALKE, ALFRED TALKE Logistics Services, Suttons Arabia and Almajdouie De Rijke Logistics.

It is increasingly clear that sustainability has a transformative effect on a company’s bottom line. This is demonstrated by the continued growth and success of the chemical industry, which has strived to embed sustainability into the very core of its products, services and offerings. Conforming to sustainability standards is creating a culture and building a conversation that centres on sustainable development, often trickling down to the consumer level, with community outreach and safety programmes.

GPCA’s Waste Free Environment is one example of a regional – and as of recently, global – environmental awareness campaign initiated by the industry and reaching out to hundreds of thousands of people. The programme seeks to engage and increase awareness around key issues such as waste management, recycling and acting responsibly towards the environment.

For those within the region’s chemical industry who have successfully made the sustainability leap, they can both extract and contribute value to the overall GCC sustainability agenda, boosting market attractiveness, and creating new investment and market opportunities.

Government national development plans across the GCC have created far reaching and measurable value-addition. With such fertile ground for adoption, those who have not yet embraced sustainability have no excuse to not integrate it into their investment plans.

Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun  is the secretary general of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA). Set up in March 2006, GPCA is a dedicated non-profit association, serving its members with industry data and information sources. 

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