Report urges leaders to turn sustainability strategy into action

14 February 2024 3 min. read
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A resounding 91% of organizations in the MENA region believe that they will have to enact some change at the core of their operations in order to become sustainable. That is according to a survey from global consultancy Bain & Company released on the sidelines of the World Government Summit in Dubai.

Bain & Company’s survey of several hundred business leaders in 8 different industries found that around 70% of MENA organizations reported having bold sustainability ambitions and clear targets, 35% use GSS bonds, and yet – only 3% reported being on track to achieve their sustainability goals.

That revelation is alarming considering not just that the climate crisis is actively getting worse and requiring businesses around the world to adapt – but also because the MENA region is expected to be hit especially hard by changes to the climate.

“The business benefits of sustainability are clear, yet not everyone is fully on board. Over the years, MENA organizations have taken distinctly different approaches to sustainability, ranging from total inaction to full integration,” said the authors of the report.

“Besides missed opportunities, these gaps create additional risks. Organizations that can’t demonstrate their impact in meaningful ways may succumb to greenwashing. In these cases, leadership teams make promises or sustainability claims without concrete plans or road maps – or even validation that their goals are feasible.”

Among the various special challenges faced in the MENA countries, many are intensified by climate change. For example, the region’s energy demand is set to double by 2030 and harmful emissions set to triple by 2060. Water is in short supply and around 80 million people could experience water stress by 2025.

One-Fifth Of MENA Organizations Use A Bi-Directional Approach To Set Sustainability Goals

Driving change

The survey found that only 20% of those surveyed found that a top-down approach to sustainability goals was feasible. More than half of MENA organizations are reported to follow this sort of top-down approach, where sustainability goals are imposed on teams from above. Part of the problem is that they sometimes include unrealistic expectations.

“The bottom-up approach can lead to more realistic sustainability targets because the individuals who are responsible for them are involved in goal setting. About 28% of MENA organizations use the bottom-up method,” reads the Bain & Company report.

To help leaders with bridging the gap between ambition and action, Bain & Company developed the so-called ‘LEAD’ framework.

“Derived from the things that best-in-class companies are doing differently, L stands for Linking sustainability to strategy. E for Engaging the full organization from the board to the frontline. A is about Activating sustainability through clear implementable missions. And lastly, D encourages Driving innovation,” said Wissam Yassine, partner and leader of Bain & Company’s Sustainability practice in the Middle East.

The World Governments Summit, held yearly in the UAE since 2013, gathers leaders to discuss global issues and policies, hosting over 90 speakers from 150 countries. Bain & Company is one of the select knowledge partners of the summit.