Home » MAF Group shares sustainability achievements and projects solar shake-up in the Middle East

MAF Group shares sustainability achievements and projects solar shake-up in the Middle East

by Mohammad Ghazal

Yesterday, ESG Mena attended Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) Group’s media roundtable event, where the retail and entertainment company highlighted its latest sustainability achievement with the announcement that the Mall of the Emirates has become the world’s largest operating LEED Platinum Mall.

MAF also shared that solar is heating up in the Middle East. The giant noted that its eyes are firmly set on solar, and its forecasts for the burgeoning EV market were equally as bright. Its food waste to fuel plans, meanwhile, demonstrated a growing appetite for biofuels as part of a circular approach to operations.

Setting a new sustainability standard

Obtaining platinum certification aligns with MAF’s target to become net positive in carbon and water by 2040. Evaluated across energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience, the certification is a globally recognised symbol of sustainability achievement for the built environment.

With the region’s broader sustainability targets, rapid population increase, and urbanisation, green building and circular principles have never been more important in construction. Indeed, receiving this certification shows MAF’s commitment to green building and resource conservation. This is demonstrated in its energy and water conservation initiatives: since 2018, the company has saved an average of 15 million kilowatt hours of energy and 40,000 cubic metres of water per year.

The Platinum certification was awarded under LEED Operation and Maintenance certification via its sustainability partnership with Enova, a joint venture (JV) between MAF and Veolia, and reflects the company’s ongoing efforts toward sustainability. This platinum certification means that MAF now has more than seven million square meters of green-certified assets across its portfolio, with 19 LEED-certified malls.

Looking ahead, the company shared that three further malls: City Centre Deira, City Centre Muscat and City Centre Bahrain, are pegged to be put forward for assessment and certification this year.

Solar soars as a renewable energy solution

The Middle East’s renewable energy capacity is set to see significant growth in the next few years. In 2022, for example, the region recorded its highest increase in renewables, with a renewable capacity increase of 12.8 per cent from the previous year, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

And, in a land of abundant sunshine, the Middle East is beginning to realise its latent solar potential. Indeed, by 2030, solar is set to make up 15 per cent of the region’s power mix. The UAE is a front-runner here, projected to increase its shares in renewables generation to 22 per cent in 2025, up from 4 per cent in 2020. That year, the country also found itself among the world’s leading producers of solar, with a per capita output of 1,385-kilowatt hours.

Just this Sunday, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, inaugurated the fifth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which is the largest single-site solar park in the world.

It’s no wonder, then, that MAF “strongly believes” that solar is by far the best solution for renewable energy in the Middle East. At its own Mall of the Emirates, the installation of 7,291 Solar PV on the rooftop car park spans 11,996 square metres and has led to a reduction of 5,360 CO2 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Further, the group shared its forecast that at COP28, guidelines relating to solar panels will be smoothened to help drive solar adoption across the region. It also shared discussions regarding the introduction of a unified renewable energy law across the Middle East, similar to the GCCs Unified Sustainability Disclosure Metrics for publically listed companies.

Fueling the EV revolution

With solar picking up pace, EV developments are also revving up in the Middle East, with the likes of Ceer, Togg and Lucid all working on their respective offerings. The former, for example, KSA’s first EV brand, is set to roll out its electric SUVs and Sedans in 2025, while Togg is planning one million vehicles in five different models – SUV, sedan, C-hatchback, B-SUV and B-MPV – by 2030. Similarly, the Saudi government has agreed with Lucid to purchase up to 100,000 of its EVs over the next decade.

As the region braces itself for a huge influx of EVs, this will need to be matched by an increase in charging stations. DEWA, for example, is aiming for 1,000 public charging stations across Dubai alone by 2025.

MAF was one of the first public locations in the Middle East to offer public charging. Further, at the roundtable, the company shared its plans to target an increase in renewable energy at its Mall of Emirates from 6 per cent to between 28-30 per cent, facilitated by the smoothening of the current solar panel guidelines in the region in the near future.

Tackling food waste

Alongside MAF’s plans to ramp up its renewable energy provisions, the company is also future-proofing its business and has set itself the goal of transitioning to a circular business model by 2030.

One of the ways in which the company is driving this forward is through its Food Court program, which will see the company convert food waste into fuel with systemised food waste collection at its Mall of the Emirates location. It reportedly plans to replicate this across the rest of its portfolio.

That said, the Mall of the Emirates is also focused on reducing waste and is working on a strategy for source reduction, in line with the UAE’s target to halve food waste by 2030. Already, the company has its ‘Feed the Future’ initiative, a rescue food programme which recovers leftover food from restaurants, cafes and the food court at its mall.

Food waste is a serious issue in the UAE; the country ranks among the world’s top nations for per capita waste generation, with 38 per cent of the food prepared each day being wasted. In a region with high food insecurity, this is a big problem. The environmental impact is also huge, with decomposing food producing methane gas, 25 times more damaging than CO2 – initiatives like these chart the path for a more sustainable and equitable future.

The private sector’s sustainability push ahead of COP28

Increasingly we are seeing those in the private sector, like MAF, mobilise to drive forward change in their respective industries and wider communities. And, in the Year of Sustainability, in the lead up to COP28, it looks like some sustainability shake-ups are in store, which could see the private sector more easily fully realise its net-zero objectives.

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