Saudi Arabia’s extraordinary approach to making sustainability commonplace

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Saudi Arabia’s extraordinary approach to making sustainability commonplace

Saudi Arabia’s extraordinary approach to making sustainability commonplace
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A significant shift is transpiring in the Middle East, as companies of all sizes are making concrete moves to advance from the startup mode to a newer and more profound scale-up mode in sustainability.

In a recently published PwC survey on environmental, social and governance issues, over 60 percent of all the respondents told us that their companies have embedded ESG issues in their business strategies.

Saudi Arabia is no exception, as it looks to ramp up its efforts to boost sustainability, with companies increasingly looking to integrate environmental measures into their overall business strategy.

Saudi Arabian Oil Co., for example, now provides annual metrics on its environmental impact, including water consumption, hydrocarbon spillage and sulfur oxide emissions, besides details of its direct and indirect carbon emissions.

Saudi Arabia’s Basic Industries Corp., which also publishes detailed emissions data, has committed to making all its operations carbon neutral by 2050. It is now focuses on making its feedstock renewable and circular.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Stock Exchange has issued ESG disclosure guidelines to raise awareness.

In practice, that means the exchange is more consistently reporting on the environmental footprint of its listed companies as part of an intensifying regulatory push for transparency. Some companies have even gone beyond compliance to provide better clarity.

Many companies are anchoring new thoughts on sustainability into their organizational structures. Our survey noted the rise of the chief sustainability officer in the region, a new high-level position with specific responsibility for climate-related issues. More than one in four regional companies now have an individual leading that role.

Government policy is also contributing to the business momentum. Following up on its Vision 2030, published in 2016, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia launched the Saudi Green Initiative in 2021.

This initiative seeks to unite environmental protection, energy transition and sustainability programs to offset emissions, increase the Kingdom’s use of clean energy, and address climate change.

As part of the program, the government has announced over 60 initiatives representing more than SR700 billion ($186.6 billion) in investment.

Despite these efforts, more can still be done to embed sustainability into corporate strategy. The oil, gas and petrochemicals sectors at the heart of the Saudi economy have a more challenging time adjusting to sustainability demands given the nature of their operations and output. But they are still embracing the new trends with growing enthusiasm and looking for ways to leverage their expertise to build a vibrant renewable energy industry that leverages the Kingdom’s abundant solar and wind resources.

Some critical gaps also need to be filled. One of the significant challenges across the Middle East and for Saudi companies is providing workers with the new skills they need to work in a more sustainability-focused industry.

In our survey, two in five respondents said the lack of internal skills and expertise to implement ESG initiatives in their companies was a key obstacle. While companies can do more to strengthen training programs, education systems also have an essential role in training a new generation of environmental engineers.

Finance is another area that needs to catch up for regional companies across the region. The last few years have seen a sharp increase in the issuance of green bonds and other sustainability-linked instruments globally. Indeed, in October 2022, the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, listed a debut $3 billion green bond on the London Stock Exchange and followed up with a second large issuance early this year. Yet one of the survey’s findings was that companies in the region are not yet tapping into these innovative financial instruments as much as they could, and one-third of the respondents identified ESG funding constraints as a significant barrier.

The survey also highlighted demands on business and government leaders: respondents want the boards to spend more time on sustainability issues ahead of the UN climate change conference, also referred to as COP28, in Dubai this November.

They are looking to policymakers in the region to put policy frameworks similar to the Inflation Reduction Act and Green New Deal introduced in the US and Europe.

The momentum toward anchoring sustainability in operations and being transparent about it augurs well for Saudi companies as they move ahead on their ESG commitments. So, it is no longer about warming up in the starting blocks. They are on the track and picking speed.

• Omar Al Sagga, KSA deputy CSP and assurance leader, PwC Middle East in Saudi Arabia.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

Saudi entrepreneur converts farm into a tourism attraction in Al-Baha

Saudi entrepreneur converts farm into a tourism attraction in Al-Baha
Updated 23 min 22 sec ago
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Saudi entrepreneur converts farm into a tourism attraction in Al-Baha

Saudi entrepreneur converts farm into a tourism attraction in Al-Baha
  • Al-Barouqi Tourist Farm owner Ahmed Al-Barouqi rehabilitated the farm while preserving its agricultural terraces, famous trees and old wells
  • The farm is enjoying a surge in demand due to recent rainfall, the pristine atmosphere and the natural beauty of the area

AL-BAHA: A farmer in Al-Mandaq Governorate has turned his passion and hobby into a thriving tourism project.

Ahmed Al-Barouqi, who owns Al-Barouqi Tourist Farm in the governorate, northwest of Al-Baha, takes advantage of the mild climate and natural beauty of the area, including its agricultural terraces, historic village and picturesque valley, to attract visitors.  

With a mild climate and natural beauty of the area, the farm has become a tourist attraction.  (SPA)

The Saudi Press Agency interviewed Al-Barouqi, the young farmer in Al-Tarf, Wadi Rusba, behind Al-Barouqi Tourist Farm.

“My relationship with agriculture spans over 27 years, having grown up in a family surrounded by farms,” he said. “This inspired me to invest in the farm in Al-Tarf village, where we have fond childhood memories of planting grape, almond and fruit trees.

“I was determined to create a rural tourism investment model that harmonizes with the region’s natural features and moderate climate, providing a unique experience for visitors to the province,” he added.

Al-Barouqi said he rehabilitated the farm while preserving its agricultural terraces, famous trees and old wells. He created paved paths and seating areas and opened scenic views of the adjacent valley by adding seating areas.

Popular dishes, including tannour bread, coffee, and tea are offered to visitors in the farm. (SPA)

He also offers popular dishes, including tannour bread, coffee, and tea.

He highlighted the success of implementing drip irrigation for strawberry crops, which aligns with the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. This initiative has added value to the farm and its visitors, creating new agricultural investment opportunities and promoting a diverse agricultural culture. By diversifying products and experimenting with various crops, the farm aims to achieve self-sufficiency in producing crops for local markets.

Fruits are abundant in the farm. (SPA)

Al-Barouqi said: “Farming has created over 20 seasonal job opportunities for young men and women in the region and established sites for productive families.

“We have a comprehensive development plan and vision for the farm that includes agricultural, recreational and investment aspects. Investing in this sector results in pioneering commercial projects that provide a distinctive tourism experience in the Al-Baha region,” he added.

The farm is enjoying a surge in demand due to recent rainfall, the pristine atmosphere and the natural beauty of the area.


French court sentences 3 Syrian officials to life in prison in absentia for war crimes

French court sentences 3 Syrian officials to life in prison in absentia for war crimes
Updated 50 min 53 sec ago
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French court sentences 3 Syrian officials to life in prison in absentia for war crimes

French court sentences 3 Syrian officials to life in prison in absentia for war crimes
  • The trial focused on the officials’ role in the alleged 2013 arrest in Damascus of Mazen Dabbagh, a Franco-Syrian father, and his son Patrick, and their subsequent torture and killing
  • Former intelligence officials Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud are the most senior Syrian officials to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country’s civil war

PARIS: A Paris court sentenced three high-ranking Syrian officials in absentia to life in prison Friday for complicity in war crimes in a landmark case against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the first such case in Europe.

The trial focused on the officials’ role in the alleged 2013 arrest in Damascus of Mazen Dabbagh, a Franco-Syrian father, and his son Patrick, and their subsequent torture and killing. The four-day trial featured harrowing testimonies from survivors and searing accounts from Mazen’s brother.
Though the verdict was cathartic for plaintiffs, France and Syria do not have an extradition treaty, making the outcome largely symbolic. International arrest warrants for the three former Syrian intelligence officials — Ali Mamlouk, Jamil Hassan, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud — have been issued since 2018 to no avail.
They are the most senior Syrian officials to go on trial in a European court over crimes allegedly committed during the country’s civil war.
The court proceedings came as Assad has started to shed his longtime status as a pariah that stemmed from the violence unleashed on his opponents. Human rights groups involved in the case hoped it would refocus attention on alleged atrocities.
Clémence Bectarte, the Dabbagh family lawyer from the International Federation for Human Rights, said the verdict was the “first recognition in France of the crimes against humanity of the Syrian regime.”
“It is a message of hope for all Syrian victims who are waiting for justice. It is a message that must be addressed to states so that they do not normalize their relations with the regime of Bashar Assad,” she said.
The trial began Tuesday over the alleged torture and killing of the French-Syrian father and son who were arrested at the height of Arab Spring-inspired anti-government protests. The two were arrested in Damascus following a crackdown on demonstrations that later turned into a brutal civil war, now in its 14th year.
The probe into their disappearance started in 2015 when Obeida Dabbagh, Mazen’s brother, testified to investigators already examining war crimes in Syria.
Obeida Dabbagh and his wife, Hanane, are parties to the trial along with non-governmental organizations. They testified in court on Thursday, the third day of the trial.
Obeida Dabbagh said he hoped the trial would set a precedent for holding Assad accountable. “Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have died. Even today, some live in fear and terror,” he said.
Despite the defendants’ absence, the trial’s significance was underscored by Brigitte Herremans, a senior researcher at the Human Rights Center of Ghent University. “It’s very important that perpetrators from the regime side are held accountable, even if it’s mainly symbolic. It means a lot for the fight against impunity,” she said.
 


Hollywood’s Will Smith and Martin Lawrence hit ‘Bad Boys’ red carpet in Riyadh

Hollywood’s Will Smith and Martin Lawrence hit ‘Bad Boys’ red carpet in Riyadh
Updated 52 min 58 sec ago
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Hollywood’s Will Smith and Martin Lawrence hit ‘Bad Boys’ red carpet in Riyadh

Hollywood’s Will Smith and Martin Lawrence hit ‘Bad Boys’ red carpet in Riyadh

RIYADH: Cameras flashed and crowds cheered as Will Smith and Martin Lawrence hit the red carpet at Roshn Front’s VOX Cinema in Riyadh on Friday night to mark the fourth installment of the “Bad Boys” film franchise.

“Bad Boys: Ride or Die” arrives 30 years after Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, played by Smith and Lawrence, respectively, teamed up as the infamous buddy cops.

The latest film, exclusively in cinemas on June 6, shows how the characters have changed over the years.

“Their backs have gotten weaker, and their knees hurt more,” Smith said jokingly.

“Part of what we wanted to do with the franchise is to have the characters grow in an age-appropriate way,” he told Arab News.

“We are trusting that the audience wants to grow with us, wants to go with us, and wants to follow the natural progression of life and what these characters would be going through.”

The film continues to mix action, drama and comedy, but also allows the characters to grow and develop spiritually.

“The core of the movie is about friendship, love, and family,” Smith said.

“And would you ride or die for your partner?” Lawrence added.

The film builds on the success of the third installment, “Bad Boys For Life,” released in 2020, with the directorial duo for the latest production, Bilall Fallah and Adil El-Arbi,  reportedly inspired by video games.

Lawrence said the “top notch” directors were great to work with, and inspired the actors to “come up with magic.”

Smith added: “It’s interesting working with non-American directors; there’s such a different perspective… You know, they were (young) when the first movie came out, so there’s such a reverence for the original films. They’re bringing that energy, but they also want to put their signature on it. Energetically, it was fun to work with them, and also their openness to the spirituality of the film was also refreshing.”

Action films, whether “Mission Impossible” or the more recent “Monkey Man,” have enjoyed a revival in recent years, and both actors believe the genre will always have a place in the industry.

“The physical wars of humanity represent the inner wars that we go through. So, I think human beings are always going to like watching a good visualized external battle that they can relate to,” Smith said.

“We all know internally that life is kind of a series of ordeals. How do you manage these ordeals and put things back together? And I think that this movie is a comedic look at two people trying to be friends, surviving ordeals together, which changes them without life breaking their relationship. It’s like a standard bromance.”

With the film premiere taking place in Saudi Arabia’s capital, both stars expressed their excitement over initiatives underway in the Kingdom.

Smith said: “I performed at Soundstorm and everything is brand new. The energy of 40 and 50-year-old people in Saudi is like the energy of 20 and 30-year-old people in America.

“It’s like there is this powerful sense of being on the cusp of the future. It’s showing up in music, it’s showing up in art, it’s showing up in architecture, and hopefully shows up at the cinema tonight.”


Shoura delegation discusses relations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal in Dakar

Shoura delegation discusses relations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal in Dakar
Updated 25 May 2024
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Shoura delegation discusses relations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal in Dakar

Shoura delegation discusses relations between Saudi Arabia and Senegal in Dakar
  • Party on an official visit to the republic

DAKAR: A delegation from the Saudi-Senegalese Parliamentary Friendship Committee of the Shoura Council, led by  Dr. Ayman bin Saleh Fadel, council member and committee chairman, met Senegal’s Minister of African Integration and Foreign Affairs Yassine Fall at the ministry’s headquarters in Dakar.

The delegation is currently conducting an official visit to the Republic of Senegal and the two parties discussed bilateral relations as well as possible cooperation in multiple sectors to enhance coordination. Other topics were also discussed.


Some 45,000 Rohingya have fled fighting in Myanmar: UN

Some 45,000 Rohingya have fled fighting in Myanmar: UN
Updated 25 May 2024
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Some 45,000 Rohingya have fled fighting in Myanmar: UN

Some 45,000 Rohingya have fled fighting in Myanmar: UN

GENEVA: The United Nations warned on Friday that escalating fighting in conflict-torn Myanmar’s Rakhine State had forced around 45,000 minority Rohingya to flee, amid allegations of killings and burnings of property.
“Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced in recent days by the fighting in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships,” UN rights office spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell told reporters in Geneva.
“An estimated 45,000 Rohingya have reportedly fled to an area on the Naf River near the border with Bangladesh, seeking protection,” she said.
Clashes have rocked Rakhine since the Arakan Army (AA) attacked forces of the ruling junta in November, ending a ceasefire that had largely held since a military coup in 2021.
The AA says it is fighting for more autonomy for the ethnic Rakhine population in the state, which is also home to around 600,000 members of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled Rakhine in 2017 during a crackdown by the military that is now the subject of a United Nations genocide court case.
“Over a million Rohingya are already in Bangladesh, having fled past purges,” Throssell pointed out.
UN rights chief Volker Turk was urging Bangladesh and other countries “to provide effective protection to those seeking it, in line with international law, and to ensure international solidarity with Bangladesh in hosting Rohingya refugees in Myanmar,” she said.
James Rodehaver, head of the rights office’s Myanmar team, described the horrifying situation many were fleeing from.
He said his team had received testimonies and seen satellite images, online videos and pictures indicating that Buthidaung town had been “largely burned.”
“We have received information indicating that the burning did start on May 17... two days after the military had retreated from the town... and the Arakan Army claimed to have taken full control of the village.”
He stressed that the UN rights office was still working to corroborate that information, to clearly establish “who were the perpetrators.”
One survivor had described seeing dozens of dead bodies as he fled Buthidaung, while another had said he was among tens of thousands who fled the town only to find themselves blocked by the AA on the road west toward Maungdaw town.
Other survivors also said AA members had abused them and extorted money from them as they tried to make their way to Rohingya villages south of the town.
In the weeks leading up to the burning of Buthidaung, Rodehaver said the rights office had documented renewed attacks on Rohingya civilians by both AA and the military in northern Rakhine, including through air strikes.
The team had documented “at least four cases of beheadings,” he said, adding that they had determined with a high level of confidence that those were carried out by the AA.
Beyond Buthidaung, Throssell warned of “clear and present risks of a serious expansion of violence.”
She pointed to the beginning of a battle for Maungdaw town, where the military has outposts and where a large Rohingya community lives.
“In this appalling situation, civilians are once more victimized, killed, their properties destroyed and looted, their demands for safety and security ignored,” she said.
“They are again forced to flee their homes in a recurring nightmare of suffering.”