In the mid-1990s, Dubai became the centre of the universe, the new global financial hub and construction boomed. At one time, it was estimated that a quarter of the world’s cranes were parked in the city.
Despite the global recession, confidence remains high in Dubai. There are grand development plans including a new ‘city’, hotel occupancy increased 82% year-on-year to June 2012 and there was an increase in foreign visitors of 10% over the same period.
This latest growth heralds a different way of thinking about sustainable development. In January this year Abu Dhabi hosted Sustainability Week 2013. Attended by more than 30,000 delegates from 150 companies, the summit explored how progress can be made whilst ensuring everyone has a decent standard of living, but without compromising the needs of future generations.
Across the developed world, business leaders are slowly grasping the conundrum of the ‘new nexus’: treating food, water and energy as a combined entity rather than in three separate silos.Corporate Culture
Masdar City, the world’s prototype major carbon-neutral settlement, was hatched in Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile, the region’s 2030 Urban Structure Framework Plan offers a sustainable vision for city living. Property and financial analysts believe Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the emirates as a whole are becoming more strategic in their sustainable development.
But this development, and creating and supporting sustainable lifestyles, is no mean feat. We are currently seeing a surge of interest from major business and government organisations in UAE for strategic and creative support in developing approaches to sustainability. This clamour for sustainable thinking, and how that prepares society at large to think differently about the way people consume the output from these organisations, is something UK-based experts have been working on with the public and private sector for some time. The key is thinking about longer-term strategies; creating sustainable markets by stimulating and reacting to interest amongst consumers for more sustainable goods and services.
Sustainable business strategies
For that reason, UK organisations that deliver sustainable business strategies are in a good position to help drive the agenda in UAE. Corporate Culture, a leading UK-based sustainable behaviour change agency, has just opened its doors in Dubai in partnership with local communication specialist M Creative Thinking.
Local businesses and government organisations are realising that collective, sustainable operations are essential. The key issue, though, is creating behaviour change programmes that consumers are willing to buy into long term. This requires dedicated, consistent funding and communications strategies, not short-term nudges that may be forgotten almost as soon as they are adopted.
The trick with any long-term behaviour change programme – anywhere in the world – is understanding who you are targeting, what factors are behind people’s current activity, or lack of action, and what would motivate them to change. Successful intervention lies in using this insight to build marketing campaigns that are simple yet effective, offering people a value exchange. Ultimately, organisations are marketing behaviours, not products, to help consumers live more sustainable lives. Simultanously, the business creates more sustainable markets that become their future life blood.
Dubai, a location once lauded from afar for its glamour and financial prospects, is maturing to become a more sustainable place to trade and reside. As our own business becomes more immersed in local business life and culture, it will be interesting to help this part of the world steer a path towards a sustainable future.
John Drummond, chairman, Corporate Culture – the sustainable behaviour change agency
Over the last eight years he has worked on social marketing, CSR strategy, branding and organisational change with many clients including Bank of America, BT, Sky, WRAP, Marks & Spencer, T-Mobile, O2, Buying Solutions andEDF Energy.
John is the founder of the Social Marketing Academy and Social Marketing Network. He has expertise in behaviour change, social change, branding and market-led CSR.
John began life as a journalist before working for IBMin sales and marketing for seven years. He was formerly Group Communications Director of United Utilities.