Despite the UAE’s bad “eco-rap,” Summertown Interiors is helping to boost the region’s environmental ethos
The UAE has been getting some rather bad press recently about their lack of environmental awareness. First, it emerged that only 1 in 25 Emiratis walked anywhere on a weekly basis and then that they throw away around 500 tonnes of food every Ramadan. In 2008, the UAE even beat the US to claim the highest carbon footprint per capita. But it’s not all bad. According to the green-certified design company Summertown interiors, which is based in the country, the UAE is increasingly an environmentally friendly place to do business.
The UAE goes green, slowly
Speaking to the Khaleej Times, Summertown Interiors Managing Director Marcos Bish said, “We only have to open newspapers to see stories on the environment, sustainability, corporate social responsibility, carbon footprints and other green issues…The increasing emphasis on ‘green rating’ systems for buildings and interiors, initiated by both the government and companies, gives testimony to this.”
Summertown, the first interior fit out contractor to occupy LEED Gold certified interiors in the UAE, recently hosted an open workshop which demonstrated the numerous benefits of implementing environmental standards not only for the planet but also in terms of economic gain.
Don’t forget the bottom line
Offering practical knowledge and advice about the benefits of going green, Bish was quick to add that a reduction in energy costs as well as water consumption was extremely beneficial to a company’s bottom line, something that may be of concern to the various businesses in the current financial situation of Dubai’s market.
Bish also noted that carefully laid out and sustainable interiors have been shown to have a positive effect on the productivity of the workforce.
Champions of sustainability
With a clear commitment to sustainability, LEED standards, and an environmental policy, Summertown portrays itself as champions of sustainability in the country. According to their website, the company has reduced its water consumption by 32% and cut its energy consumption by 50%. Their use of water-efficient fixtures such as dual flush-tanks, sensory lighting, and careful use of construction materials meant that they were able to secure the LEED-certificate.
However, progress is slow and slightly checkered in the region. Although there appears to be increasing recognition of the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), businesses still rate water conservation, climate change and waste as “un-important to their business.” A recent report by Accenture ‘A New Era of Sustainability: UN global Compact-Accenture CEO study in 2010′ found that whilst 59% of CEOs in North America saw sustainability as a critical to their future success, this figure plummeted to just 22% in the MENA region.
Summertown in the summer
At their workshops, however, Summertowm point out that the UAE is beginning to change and that they want to play a role in encouraging other companies to reduce their carbon footprint and demonstrate their commitment to the environment, as well as save money. Masdar City, the environmentally-dubious project and Foster + Partners, who are behind the flagship development, would do well to look and learn.
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