Sustainability has always been a critical topic. But it’s now more important than ever. We’re on limited time to literally save the world by cutting back our emissions, getting control on global warming again, and striving for Net Zero in businesses.
To help us understand further, we have a very special interview with the founder of a company who aims to bring Net Zero goals to the forefront. Sustainability advocate, consultant and founder of Sustainable Narrative, Najia Qazi, is here to give us the information and tools we need to protect our planet, starting from our work and the brands we work with.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your role in Sustainable Narrative
Sustainable Narrative is a consultancy-based sustainability initiative with a mission to create awareness and provide sustainable design-based solutions to businesses in Dubai, UAE. As a founder and consultant, the aim is to incorporate the regenerative business mindset that includes the process of restoration, renewal of the current resources, and creation of sustainable systems.
As we go forward on our path, the aim of Sustainable Narrative is to embrace sustainability as a mandatory choice instead of a corrective action and to live it fully. Personally, this also means for me to continue becoming conscious about my lifestyle, reducing my own footprint and in turn being a role model in helping create a green impact through local and international collaborations. I would also add on a personal note I vouch to continue learning and informing myself about the evolution of sustainable efforts across the world, since this is something we simply cannot ignore.
One of your company’s main goals is to reach net zero by 2050. Can you tell us how you plan to achieve this?
This goal means that the company aims to balance the amount of greenhouse gases it emits with the amount it removes from the atmosphere. The approach to achieving this goal involves three main strategies:
- reducing its own emissions
- helping clients reduce their emissions
- investing in carbon offsets.
To reduce its own emissions, our plan is to focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy. The company aims to reduce its energy consumption by 20% by 2025 and transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030. We are also exploring ways to reduce business travel and increase remote or digital work options.
To do systemic shifts at all levels, we open the doors for working across industries and sectors, synergising intellectual prowess, and embracing mutual risks and benefits. It encourages us to think beyond traditional linear models of production and consumption that were born out of the Industrial Revolution and have changed little since.
The Emirates has set ambitious target to reduce its carbon footprint, and increase the use of renewable energy in a short time span. How are brands coping with this pressure at the moment?
I would say in recent years, the city has really recognised the importance of sustainable development and taken and initiated several measures to address it. This has been rooted in the history of oil production, real estate development and overall economic growth.
Furthermore, on a governmental level, coming from a place of being a key member of OPEC, UAE and the city of Dubai has made significant investments in renewable energy, and its policies and initiatives have received appraise from organisations such as the United Nations. This recognition has also had a hand in the growing awareness among businesses and brands about the importance of environmental protection, reduce their carbon footprint and adopt sustainable practices.
One way that brands are coping with this pressure is by implementing sustainability initiatives. For example, many companies are investing in renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power and reducing energy consumption by implementing energy-efficient technologies and practices.
Another way that brands are coping with this pressure is by adopting sustainable supply chain practices. This involves working with suppliers who also prioritise sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of their operations. Overall, brands in the Emirates are recognising the importance of sustainability and are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint and adopt sustainable practices.
What industries are the most challenging to work with in terms of accepting sustainability procedures and changing their business narratives?
There are several industries that have been notoriously challenging to work with when it comes to accepting sustainability procedures and changing their business narratives. One of the most challenging industries is the oil and gas industry. This industry has a long history of environmental damage and has been slow to adopt sustainable practices. Many companies in this industry have been resistant to change, as they fear that sustainability measures will negatively impact their profits.
Another industry that has been slow to adopt sustainability procedures is the fashion industry. Fast fashion has been criticised for its negative environmental impact, including the use of toxic chemicals and excessive waste. While some companies have made efforts to become more sustainable, many still prioritise profits over sustainability.
How do you help companies achieve their goals? Could you walk us through the process, or one of the recent business examples you worked on?
The process of working with Sustainable Narrative typically involves several stages. The first stage is the
assessment phase, where we work closely with the client to understand their goals, challenges, and opportunities. This may involve conducting interviews with key stakeholders, analysing data and market trends, and developing a deep understanding of the client’s business model.
Once the assessment phase is complete, we work with the client to develop a customised strategy for achieving their goals. This may involve identifying new growth opportunities, optimising existing operations, or developing new products or services aligned with the organization’s overall vision and mission. After the strategy has been developed, we will work with the client to implement circular practices. This may involve implementing new processes or developing new partnerships or collaborations.
Sustainable Narrative has also collaborated for The World Green Economy Summit and MENA Climate Week hosted by the Government of the UAE and jointly co-organized by the UN entities on climate change, environment, and development. This platform was utilised to build consensus around the potential of technologies, policies, and youth as engines of a green economy transformation. This was a fit as Sustainable Narrative’s core mission emphasises educating and encouraging businesses to take ownership of their journey towards a more responsible and sustainable future.
For this massive change, it requires mindset change and adaptation of new problem-solving methodologies. What works the best when it comes to integrating this new mindset? How do you bring all stakeholders together: the UAE government, citizens, brands, customers?
Integrating a new sustainable mindset requires a collaborative effort from all stakeholders involved, including the UAE government, citizens, brands, and customers. One effective way to bring these groups together is through education and awareness campaigns that highlight the benefits of sustainable practices and the negative consequences of inaction. To me, a transition to a more responsible future cannot come without involving everyone.
To engage citizens, brands, and customers, it is important to communicate the benefits of sustainable practices in a way that resonates with them. This can be achieved through targeted messaging that emphasises the positive impact of sustainability on health, well-being, and quality of life. Brands also play a role in promoting sustainability by adopting sustainable practices themselves and communicating these efforts to customers. By doing so, they not only contribute to a more sustainable future but also build trust and loyalty among customers who value sustainability.
In addition to education and awareness campaigns, it is important to create incentives for sustainable behaviour. This can include policies such as tax incentives for businesses that adopt sustainable practices or rewards programs for customers who choose sustainable options. Overall, integrating a new sustainable mindset requires a collaborative effort to create a more sustainable future for generations to come.