From sustainable-friendly restaurateurs to recycling innovators to CEOs championing eco-friendly water consumption, business owners in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are taking the fight against climate change into their own hands.
As the United Arab Emirates (UAE) gears up to host COP28 in November, governments across the world are coming under pressure to fight climate change and minimize the effects of global temperature increases.
But on a smaller scale, there are companies in the UAE hoping to do their part for the environment, creating eco-conscious businesses.
Meet Danish restaurant owner Henrik Winther who has opened a handful of restaurants in Dubai, including the Georgian-inspired Shvili and Italian venue Osteria Mario, and is also eyeing expansion across the region, including in Saudi Arabia. They are among more than 50 restaurants he runs across the world under his business Tigrus Holding.
He named the group after the Siberian tiger, because for the last decade he has been working on a mission to help save the endangered Siberian Amur tiger across the Russian far east.
“I figured I would try to save the tigers and it became just a mission,” Winther told Al Arabiya English.
The mission opened his eyes to the far-reaching effects of climate change, and he hopes his eateries can help fight against the impact of global warming.
He is working to ensure all his businesses are “socially responsible”, from energy-efficient induction cookers to sustainable alternatives to plastic.
“We don’t use plastic in our restaurants. All our paper products are reusable craft paper. And we only use ecological materials and sustainable resource woods as part of our construction materials,” he said. “We go all out about doing everything possible to be an example of a responsible business.”
Winther works on the principle of having zero-waste, which means the company is very focused on recycling and waste management.
This is “not only to do good ourselves, but also to kind of be an example to other companies that often may think about it, but don’t do it because they don’t really know how to do it and what to do.”
The entrepreneur often speaks at public events and shares his experiences, in the hope it can inspire others to run their businesses the same way.
“We need to get businesses on board and understand that they can actually do it, do something make a contribution,” he said.
To ensure the vision that his chain of venues promotes sustainability and the protection of nature by adopting strict, environmentally sound practices is a successful one – means that Winther has had to ensure all the staff he employs are also on board.
This has led to team field trips to see the beginning of his inspiration – the Siberian tiger – in the wild to show the far-reaching impacts of climate change.
“Our employees, our team, are deeply involved in those processes,” he said.
“We need to bring about change. It must become a mission. It must be an integrated part of how you do business. This must become a lifestyle, your business strategy, and the way you work, think, operate and make decisions,” he finished.
Making recycling fun
Lebanon-born start-up Nadeera also aims to get more households recycling across the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.
The startup was originally founded in Lebanon by Rabih el Chaar and Reem Khattar in 2020 to counteract waste problems arising across the country some five years ago.
“Waste was piling up, literally on the doorstep of houses and we knew that the government was not capable of finding solutions [to the problem] on its own,” Lebanese-Canadian el Chaar told Al Arabiya English.
The startup, which now also operates across the Kingdom and the UAE works with companies managing residential buildings to try to get communities to recycle more.
Residents living in communities where Nadeera operates can download the app which allows them to track how much of their waste they are successfully recycling. Users of the app can earn points or rewards the more they recycle.
“We have made a breakthrough in getting communities to recycle,” el Chaar said. “We come and we transform [people in] communities from non-recyclers to recyclers.”
The startup first began when they got a grant from the EU to develop a waste management program in a part of Lebanon, allowing them to best see how they could develop Nadeera, from what worked and what did not.
Since setting up shop in 2020, Nadeera has received grants totaling around $300,000 from a number of sources including a $100,000 grant from PepsiCo., an undisclosed amount as part of a social entrepreneurship program from the government of Abu Dhabi, and $150,000 from Saudi Arabia.
In a sign that the future is bright for Nadeera around 15,000 people are now using their recycling app, and the startup is hoping that it can grow even further through the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.
The business has also now successfully filed a patent application with the World Intellectual Property Organization.
Fighting urban heat
Another climate-friendly company is FortyGuard. The goal of FortyGuard, CEO Jay Sadiq told Al Arabiya English, is to try to keep people living in hot cities cooler.
The startup uses artificial intelligence to monitor parts of cities that are becoming too hot and putting people in danger.
“When temperatures rise [in cities] it can be because of urbanization. We want people to realize that’s a problem. People don’t know how much of a problem this is, said Sadiq, adding that the AI used by FortyGaurd is more effective than satellites used to give heat maps of cities because it goes into further detail.
By creating these detailed maps, the company wants to be able to work with policymakers, and city planners, for example, to show how the town can be developed to cool it down or show authorities how to direct people away from dangerous heat during heatwaves.
“A lot of people are dying because of heatwaves, and they don’t have the tools to guide their citizens on places to avoid during heatwaves,” said Sadiq.
Changing water consumption
Also in Dubai, Omar Chappuis is the founder of Waterclub UAE, a start-up company committed to preserving the planet and offering an easier way to drink water.
They are hoping their invention – a multi-stage filtration system which connects to any faucet and purifies water – will stop the overreliance on bottled water.
“Water consumption is one of the key ways individuals can help the fight against climate change, such as using a water aerator in your faucet, using a shower filter/aerator and adopting a reusable bottle in your daily routine.
“One reusable bottle will replace thousands of disposable plastic ones,” he said.
“Drinking from a water filter will not only give you better water, but you will only consume what you need. No more half-empty plastic bottles that you will dispose of in the sink and trash. We can save the planet and our wallets.”
Finding solutions to water depletion is crucial for social and economic development, he said.
“Reinventing how we consume is a vital move,” Chappuis said, adding that is can take five liters of water to produce single-use plastic bottled water.
Chappuis added: “To think that only large industries need to reduce their carbon impact is wrong. Every entity in the UAE, starting from each one of us must make the change."
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