|13 May, 2019

UAE leads MENA region in adopting holistic sustainability strategies: Emirates NBD study

Bank calls upon companies to take a more proactive role in sustainability reporting

Hesham Abdulla Al Qassim, Vice-Chairman Managing Director at Emirates NBD

Hesham Abdulla Al Qassim, Vice-Chairman & Managing Director at Emirates NBD

  • Top drivers for organisations investing in sustainability are improving reputation and sense of responsibility, study finds
  • Education and environment top focus areas for organisations in their local communities

Dubai: The UAE currently leads the MENA region in organisations adopting a holistic strategy towards sustainability, according to a study sponsored by Emirates NBD that sheds light on the practices of sustainability and Corporate Responsibility management in the region.

The study, which was conducted by Sustainable Square, a boutique advisory firm specialised in responsible investment, sustainability and social impact, surveyed 638 organisations across 18 MENA countries. Out of all respondents, 31% claimed to have a holistic sustainability strategy including topics related to environmental, social and governance management. The UAE was the country with the highest number of respondents claiming that they have a holistic sustainability strategy, with 64% of respondents being based in the UAE. Meanwhile, 27% of organisations have only a CSR strategy, focusing mostly on social and local community topics, while 6% of organisations have only an environmental strategy.

The survey also found that the top drivers for regional firms to invest in sustainability are improving organisational reputation (according to 21% of respondents) and a sense of responsibility (19%).


Looking ahead, the majority of participants see 2019 as a time to increase external communications regarding their sustainability practices. However, many predict that budgets for sustainability will not increase. The intention to increase external communications when it comes to sustainability aligns with the fact that organisations reported “reputational improvement” as one of the key drivers of their investment in sustainability.

Commenting on the findings, Hesham Abdulla Al Qassim, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Emirates NBDsaid: “Emirates NBD is firmly committed to embedding a culture of sustainability across its business and inculcating a shared sense of environmental and social responsibility among staff members. With the launch of this new study looking into the state of sustainability and CSR in the MENA region, we hope to encourage other companies and entities to take on a more proactive role in reporting on sustainability and disclosing their ethical and responsible practices, which will help them benchmark and set regional and global standards.”

In terms of focus areas when it comes to local communities, 16% of participating organisations said education was their key focus, while environment came in second, with 11% identifying it as their top priority. Health and youth empowerment came in third, with 9% identifying both of these areas as their key focus.

According to findings from the study, out of all organisations that reported having an environmental strategy in place, 79% reported having initiatives related to managing energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across operations. Moreover, 38% reported initiatives which engage customers on environmental practices, while 34% reported initiatives to manage energy use and GHG emissions across supply chains.

Monaem Ben Lellahom, Sustainable Square’s CEO and Founding Partner, commented on the study saying “Publishing such studies that scan current sustainability practices in the region are crucial to better understand the current achievements and gaps. This study is very much needed to help organisations in MENA benchmark with each other and to set ambitious targets to operating sustainability, responsibly and ethically.”

When asked about success factors that organisations would like to implement in the future in order to boost their sustainability practices, the top factors reported were: aligning sustainability and business strategies (26%) and having mechanisms to track sustainability (26%).

Emirates NBD is well established among peers in the practice of sustainability reporting, with the bank publishing its third annual Sustainability Report in 2018, showcasing its performance across economic, social, governance and environmental practices for the year. The positive implications of disclosure and transparency have led the bank to increase the scope of the report each year since 2016, with Tanfeeth included in the report in 2017, and Emirates Islamic in 2018. As a result of its annual reporting, sustainability has become embedded in all key departments at the bank, which continues to operate its business in alignment with international sustainability guidelines, industry best practice and the national vision.

The bank will host a panel discussing findings from the study on May 14 at 1pm. The discussion will be streamed live on Emirates NBD’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and the panellists will take questions during the session.


About Emirates NBD

Emirates NBD is a leading banking Group in the region. As at 31st March 2019, total assets were AED 525.8 Billion, (equivalent to approx. USD 143 Billion). The Group has a significant retail banking franchise in the UAE and is a key participant in the global digital banking industry, with over 90 per cent of all financial transactions and requests conducted outside of its branches. The bank was declared the Most Innovative Financial Services Organization of the Year at the 2017 BAI Global Innovation Awards.

The bank currently has 234 branches and 1076 ATMs and SDMs in the UAE and overseas and a large social media following, being the only bank in the Middle East ranked among the top 20 in the ‘Power 100 Social Media Rankings’, compiled by The Financial Brand. It is a major player in the UAE corporate and retail banking arena and has strong Islamic Banking, Global Markets & Treasury, Investment Banking, Private Banking, Asset Management and Brokerage operations.

The Group has operations in the UAE, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom and representative offices in China, Indonesia and Turkey.

The Group is an active participant and supporter of the UAE’s main development and community initiatives, in close alignment with the UAE government’s strategies, including financial literacy and advocacy for inclusion of People with Disabilities under its #TogetherLimitless platform. Emirates NBD Group is a Premier Partner and the Official Banking Partner for Expo 2020 Dubai. For more information, please visit: 

About Sustainable Square

Sustainable Square is an advisory firm that delivers impact through redefined solutions in the field of Responsible Investment, Sustainability and Social Impact. It supports organisations to identify Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Risks, empower them to become more resilient, drive and up-scale their impact and assist them in conducting their operations in a responsible and inclusive manner.

For further information on Emirates NBD, please contact:
Ibrahim Sowaidan
Senior Vice President
Head - Group Corporate Affairs
Emirates NBD
Telephone: +971 4 609 4113 / +971 50 6538937

Tricia Kaul
asda’a bcw; Dubai, UAE
Tel: 971-4-4507600; Fax: 971-4-4358040

For further information on Sustainable Square, please contact:
Juan Carlos Fayad
Partnerships Development Manager
Sustainable Square
Telephone: +971 4 240 8298 / +971 5 2331 2241

© Press Release 2019

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