Greening the Kingdom

Saudi Arabia’s Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (“PME”) and The Saudi Environmental Society (“SENS”), backed by business events and consultancy multinational BME Global Ltd (“BME”), are readying for the limelight at the Gulf Environment Forum.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s ascent to the environmental sector’s world stage has already proved to be swift and markedly ahead of many nations as its rulers spearhead the trend, embracing sustainability concerns within economic development.

And with ongoing projects spanning mega structural feats of engineering to innovative new vehicles fostering investment in world-first initiatives, Saudi’s blend of commercial-meets-operational success in environmental development continues to propel the nation into the ever more green global consciousness.

Leading this charge are two influential groups that have teamed up for the third Gulf Environment Forum (“GEF”) 2012 to be held at the Jeddah Hilton from March 25-27; the only event of its kind, size and stature in the Kingdom.

Founded, launched and directed by HRH Prince Turki Bin Nasser Bin Abdulaziz, President of the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (“PME”) in partnership with The Saudi Environmental Society (“SENS”) and BME Global, GEF is a veritable gateway into Saudi for the many multinational energy houses keen to participate.

“Having the PME as a co-organiser adds weight to the event, and from a business perspective, anyone hoping to operate in the sector needs to liaise directly with PME. In the case of internationals who may have found it difficult previously to penetrate the market, PME’s involvement in this event makes it a great opportunity for them,” BME’s marketing manager Mark Thomas enthuses.

“It’s a growing event in a market that truly values international expertise. What we’re discussing in the conference constantly comes back to the green economy,” conference producer Simon Smith adds.

“When we consult industry professionals about the most pressing challenges to the environmental sector in the region, time and time again the answer is the economy; funding. This event really takes green innovation across all sectors to present a much more contiguous programme.”

Supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), GEF promises to facilitate the conversations, business links and industry showcases necessary for the Kingdom to continue its role as a leading light in environmentally minded economic progress.

Defining challenges & goals

Under the three themes of green innovation, green economy and corporate social responsibility (CSR), partners PME, SENS and BME, supported by the UNDP, have put together a finely crafted, meticulously researched agenda for 2012 attendees flying in from more than 23 countries.

“We’ve been working with the UNDP since the conference began and part of its content comes from that relationship. With them, we’ve discussed ways we can work together and formed topics that go hand-in-hand with the research we’ve done with industry professionals,” Smith explains.

“We want to root out what the challenges are and how to get through them. This event differs from past years in that we’ve put together an advisory committee—people with many years of experience in the industry—to help us identify those topics.”

The result is a speaker schedule that reads like a guide to the Kingdom’s decision-makers and green pioneers. Returning keynotes include conference founder HRH Prince Turki and H.E. Dr. Hani Bin Mohammed Bin Ahmed Aburas, the Mayor of Jeddah, Smith says, as well as a raft of other thought-leaders. The addition of roundtable sessions marks another step in facilitating knowledge transfer during the proceedings. The first will focus on environmental best practise in the workplace, and the second piloted by the UNDP will be a session on the road to the United Nations 2012 Rio+20 Earth Summit due to take place in June.

“GEF isn’t a one-off annual event; it’s a continuing development to make the country greener,” Thomas notes, accounting for the crossover between sessions at this meet, and that of others including the Euro Arab Nuclear event set to be staged in London in April.

“The idea behind this year was to make the programme much more wide-scale, to include more countries and build a bigger picture while drawing them all closer together,” Smith continues.

“PME has asked that this year the conference is made more accessible. They’ve subsidised the delegate price so that it’s not just the CEO that can attend, it’s anyone from environmental engineers to students to company experts and managers.”

In keeping with the wider ambit of industries catered to and GEF’s mission as a year-round development, the partners also plan to stage four pre-conference workshops and seminars. The first will be an introduction to the event, aimed at students, to provide an overview of the subjects broached during the meet. The other sessions will be led by specific companies; fitting groups to fuel discussion on subjects such as building in harsh climates, integrating sustainability into construction techniques, waste management and recycling and solar power technology.

Greening up & talent-spotting

Following on from PME’s emphasis on accessibility and the multitude of opportunities presented for delegates to converge effectively is the GEF awards, initiated in 2011, with two new accolades to bestow in 2012.

“Last year we offered The Environmental Protection Award for outstanding achievements in protecting the environment through an initiative or technology,” Thomas says.

“That was won by Huta-Hegerfeld Environmental Works in 2011, through their technological advancements in land, sea and air monitoring. Additionally this year we have the Gulf Youth Prize, which is a SENS initiative and the CSR award.”

Dr. Majdah Abu Ras, Deputy Executive Director of SENS, has toured the Kingdom’s schools in a bid to nurture talent and encourage young people to submit their best ideas for innovative environmental projects. The first of its kind in the Kingdom, the winner will receive a donation to their school/university to implement their project. Another new category for 2012 is the CSR award, judged by a HRH Prince Turki-led panel for those organisations that have executed highly successful and impactful CSR campaigns in the past 12 months.

By inviting and celebrating young and emerging talent, GEF is tackling the Kingdom’s challenges as its transition to a greener economy ensues. By staging its varied programme of speeches, roundtables, case study and pre-conference sessions, its partners are providing every conceivable opportunity for international energy groups to participate. Under the esteem of PME and SENS, the conference has been earmarked by many as an unrivalled platform for the conversations environmentally astute groups need to conduct. And now in its third year, it is undergoing its own transition from an annual meet to a year-round, Gulf-wide initiative towards commercially sound sustainable economic prosperity.

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