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‘Green’ is now a keyword for many new developments

United Arab Emirates: Monday, October 20 - 2008 @ 10:07

The CSR Leadership Forum, being an interactive thought-and experience-sharing series for Board members, Presidents, CEOs, Directors, and CSR opinion leaders in Dubai, brought together business leaders from prominent Real Estate and Construction companies such as Nakheel, Laing O’Rourke Middle East (Holdings) Ltd, Tameer, ETA Ascon, Meraas, and CentimeterCube.

The business leaders interacted with one another to hear first-hand from other leading figures at the forefront of the real estate and construction industries in Dubai. Topics included their views on CSR, including the opportunities and challenges it presents. In addition to the discussion, this forum was used to scope out the content of a 5-page Discussion document, which will address issues raised in the forums and be linked to current CSR trends in the sector and best practice examples.

This discussion paper includes: Highlights of the economic importance of the real estate and construction sectors in Dubai, Exploration of key CSR impact areas for the sector, Discussion of drivers for sustainable business practice, the business advantages of sustainable business practices in the sector and examples of how some Dubai companies are addressing CSR challenges today.

The real estate and construction sectors in Dubai are considered key sources of employment, income, and growth that contributed to 13% of the GDP in 2007. The construction sector in Dubai employs more than a half-million people. According to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry Membership database, the sector accounts for more than 8,000 active construction and construction-related companies in Dubai.

With increasing focus on sustainable development and meeting stakeholder expectations, there is a growing recognition that sustainability is a key factor for managing business risks, enhancing reputation, and ensuring sustainable profits. This increased awareness has led to greater consciousness towards global environmental concerns, causing Dubai to build a reputation for exclusivity and high-end appeal in the real estate sector. Dubai has shifted towards projects that are environmentally friendly and factor in sustainability concerns. ‘Green’ is now a keyword for many new developments.

CSR in the real estate and construction sectors is of critical importance given the significant impact of this sector on the economy and society. Buildings are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption around the world and have a significant impact on the environment because of carbon dioxide they emit – a major contributor to global warming and climate change. Buildings account for an estimated 48% of all greenhouse emissions.

The challenge of developing viable projects with low environmental impact and positive impact on the community and other stakeholders is about thinking ‘sustainability’ at every step in development, from site selection and design to raw material selection and building construction through to waste management and decommissioning. Other main areas of impact for the real estate and construction sectors are employee practices, health and safety, impact on communities, and supply chain impacts.

For Dubai, which is currently experiencing one of the world’s fastest growth rates in real estate and construction, it is quite important that sustainable practices are developed to sustain growth and conserve and protect the environment. During the Forum, some key factors mentioned by companies leading towards sustainability practices included: Energy and water consumption, Industrial waste generation, Green building legislation, Labour issues and Strong Leadership.

The discussion also focused on the key challenges, and barriers that exist towards putting in place sustainability practices. Some of the key barriers for Dubai as mentioned included: Lack of a definable and clear market value for long-term and short-term benefits of building green, Lack of dialogue between the authorities and the construction companies, and integrating sustainability into daily practice. Companies at the Forum also saw the rising construction costs as a big challenge, having witnessed an upward trend in costs over the last few years putting developers and construction companies under pressure to maintain profitability, thus impacting sustainability practices, which are often viewed as additional costs.

Corporate Social Responsibility awareness is most definitely on the increase with the Dubai Government making sustainable development a priority, as evidenced in the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015. Real estate developers and construction companies in Dubai now recognise the importance of acting on their social, environmental, and economic responsibilities not only for ethical reasons but also to enhance their business performance.

In spite of these developments there is an urgent need to fast-track best practice implementation and internationally recognised standards to attract foreign investors, buyers, and the workforce, thereby meeting the expectations of stakeholders. The real estate and construction companies in Dubai are uniquely positioned to lead the region in sustainability and demonstrate the business benefits of sustainability practices and in organising the CSR Leadership Forum the Centre believes it has created a platform for business leaders to address each other on the topic of CSR and the opportunities and challenges it presents.

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Monday, October 20- 2008 @ 10:07 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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