Interview with - Belaid Rettab, Senior Director, Economic Research & Sustainable Business Development
As part of our series of Global Sustainability Leader Interviews, ALLEN & YORK were privileged to speak with, Belaid Rettab, Senior Director, Economic Research & Sustainable Business Development at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, about how he became involved in Sustainability and what he believes are the major environmental challenges facing Dubai over the next 20 years.
Belaid Rettab (PhD), Senior Director at Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry since 2003, where he established three major departments to serve the business needs for economic research, sustainability, corporate responsibility strategies and business excellence. He is Economist and has lectured micro-economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam. He assisted hundreds of businesses as well as supra-national organizations such as European Union, UN, World Bank and several national governments with the implementation of several economic development and reform programs.
1. Who or what inspired you to go into a career in sustainability?
As an economist, sustainability has always been an integral part of my view of human progress. Synchronizing economic, social and environmental interests is core for the survival of civilizations. For me, survival of civilizations is the long term equilibrium humans are aspiring.
Long term equilibrium is achievable by optimal allocation of resources which expand to include current and future human and phisycal resources. In the sustainability world, optimization doesn’t solely relate to technical allocation but more and more to community and environment engagement and thereby to potential risk management and sustainability.
Therefore, long term has no existence without considering the capacity and the interests of future generations in our daily decisions, whether these decisions regard economic growth and social welfare, human safety or earth security. Advocating sustainability to the business community is part of the above referred to decisions which inspired me.
2. What has been the biggest change in sustainability that you have seen in the last 20 years?
During the last 20 years, sustainability has significantly evolved to become an integral part of the business strategy. Sustainability used to be a matter of quick reaction to sporadic actions undertaken by activists, and to sudden shifts in stakeholders interest such as “going green”.
Recently, we have witnessed a shift in the understanding of sustainability. Businesses recognize that long-term business models are more robust than short term motivated models.
Long term business models are enforced by recent trends in consumer behavior, preferences and expenditures, while others are frequently boycotted. We expect this trend to persist and to intensify.
3. What is going to be the biggest challenge for sustainability in the next 20 years?
One of the most prominent and well known sustainability challenges is climate change, but with the world changing resources are becoming scarcer, issues like clean water supplies, global forest coverage and food security will bcome more and more of real concern. There are also many “social” challenges such as security, health, education and social equity which keep on top of the agenda.
For companies one of the biggest challenges will be mastering materiality. A large company can think about 100 or 1,000 different issues but they have to choose which issues to focus on based on the intersection of business value and stakeholder satisfaction. Materiality assessment and stakeholder dialogue will keep companies focused on relevant means to provide the greatest benefit to the business, stakeholders and the planet.
4. What skills will be in most demand in the Sustainability Sector in the next 20 years?
The need for new and adapted skills to support the delivery of sustainable products and services is an issue being considered globally and not just by the “sustainability sector”.
There will be particular industries that are likely to be significantly affected by climate change and the green economy such as Construction, Manufacturing, Agriculture, Transport and Mining and certainly there will be particular skills needed for these sectors such as environmental engineering, auditing, accounting, waste management etc.
Future sustainability opportunities and challenges will be complex and sustainability leadership will require soft skills such as flexibility and innovation just as much as technical skills to be responsive to the needs of a wide range of stakeholders and communities.