Maha AlQattan on DP World Group’s sustainability strategy: ‘Our World, Our Future’

Innovation and digitalization are key to decarbonization initiatives
Maha AlQattan on DP World Group’s sustainability strategy: ‘Our World, Our Future’
Maha AlQattan is DP World Group's chief sustainability officer.

Sustainability is at the heart of DP World Group’s operations. It exemplifies an integrated, inclusive approach that deems sustainability as crucial to realizing a greener and more sustainable future. This commitment extends beyond the group’s business to positively impact communities worldwide where it operates. Maha AlQattan, chief sustainability officer, shares insights into how DP World Group is integrating sustainability into its daily operations and making it a significant component of its future aspirations. 

How is DP World embedding sustainability into its core business and decision-making? Could you share some examples of successful sustainability initiatives?

At DP World, we believe that sustainability must inform business decisions at a board level. We instill this through our sustainability strategy: “Our World, Our Future.” It guides our decisions and maintains our license to operate. It underpins our commitment to creating a secure, vibrant and resilient society through strategic investment in the issues that affect our people and our industry. Climate change mitigation and adaptation is a core focus for us. And we have targets and initiatives in place to make a positive impact on this front.  

To decarbonize our business, we are committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2040 and net-zero carbon by 2050 – in line with the UAE’s 2050 net-zero initiative. And have a clear roadmap to achieve this. For instance, we have reduced our carbon emissions by electrifying our terminals in Rotterdam and Jebel Ali. Additionally, we are leveraging the use of biodiesel in our Southampton port. 

What role do innovation and technology play in ensuring the successful realization of your sustainability goals?

At the heart of our commitment to sustainability is a strategic blend of technology and nature-based solutions. This is complemented by sustainable business practices and collaborations with the right partners. These efforts are steering us toward our goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

Central to our decarbonization strategy is a focus on process efficiency and digitalization. We are actively working to maximize operational efficiency. We do this by digitalizing port operations through innovation and enhancing logistics processes. For instance, our BOXBAY technology, successfully tested at Jebel Ali port in Dubai, has the potential to reduce terminal footprints by an impressive 70 percent. 

A noteworthy collaboration is our partnership with Coral Vita. It resulted in the establishment of an operational coral nursery at Mina Rashid in Dubai. This facility not only showcases our dedication to ecological preservation but also highlights our partner’s innovative restoration approach. It is capable of accelerating native coral growth up to fifty times faster than in their natural habitats. This groundbreaking initiative not only contributes to biodiversity conservation but also reinforces coral resilience against the escalating temperatures associated with climate change.  

Maha Al Qattan

How is DP World collaborating with stakeholders to promote sustainable practices? How important are partnerships to DP World’s sustainability strategy?

Without collaboration with other industry players and public-private partnerships, we could not access the expertise and resources needed to innovate at scale. Partnerships are key to accelerating climate action and driving real change together. 

For instance, COP28 UAE was an opportunity to galvanize collective thinking to drive meaningful, measurable change, such as through the “Move to -15” initiative. It followed scientific research that found that a reduction in the temperature of frozen food from -18C to -15C could save the energy equivalent of twice the annual consumption of the whole of Kenya. Moreover, it could reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off the road.  

Furthermore, as early signatories of the Ocean Stewardship Coalition, DP World has adopted the Ocean Stewardship Principles. This is to help strengthen our approach to delivering on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

Read: IEA: UAE’s electricity from renewable sources to rise 12% by 2026

What metrics have you established to measure and track the progress of your sustainability practices? How does this influence and impact your sustainability strategy?

Our sustainability strategy is influenced by our materiality assessment. And we regularly review and assess it to ensure that we are addressing what matters to our stakeholders.   

We utilize several international frameworks to track and report our sustainability progress. These include the Global Reporting Initiative’s standards, which are the most widely used standards for sustainability reporting. Our ESG scorecard, which is constantly evolving, enables us to measure and report on our ESG performance annually against specific metrics and key performance indicators that are mapped against our material issues. Going forward, and to address new reporting requirements, we will be conducting a more comprehensive materiality assessment. This is to ensure that our reporting remains well ahead of the pack.

At a group level, we also strive to become a voluntary early adopter of the International Sustainability Standards Board standards. We believe that these new standards will help to further support transparency and comparability of sustainability-focused disclosure.

Communicating your sustainability commitments and successes to your key stakeholders is important. What best practices can you share? What strategies foster a culture of sustainability?

We aim to ensure that employees understand their role in driving our impact. That is why sustainability is embedded into our departments and regions. 

Shared value partnerships are at the heart of this role. No one can achieve anything in this space in a silo. So, to be truly effective, we must collaborate closely with other departments and organizations. We want to make sure that we not only leverage our network but also create synergies between our local presence and partners. A good example of this is our partnership with Barefoot College International, which has helped to train women from rural areas of Senegal as solar energy & maintenance technicians.  

What is your vision for DP World’s future sustainability efforts? How do you see the company’s sustainability efforts evolving?

DP World aims to leverage its unique position as an organization that engages local governments, communities and international organizations to drive change that is locally and temporally meaningful. Looking ahead, we envision an evolution of our sustainability efforts to work more closely with our customers and members of the supply chain to co-create success criteria at the regional and local levels and build institutional capacity for positive change.    

While our sustainability strategy provides us with a comprehensive perspective on our role as a responsible global business, we persist in establishing new objectives, reporting standards and guidelines that resonate at both global and local levels.  

These frameworks are designed to bolster solutions addressing the dynamic challenges our evolving world encounters. We remain committed to our mission of forging a more resilient future, recognizing that fortifying resilience against the impacts of climate change will grow increasingly crucial in the years ahead. 

About Maha AlQattan

Maha AlQattan is the DP World Group’s chief sustainability officer. She is passionate about using our resources to create a positive impact on the planet and our communities. She sees the Sustainability function as key to changing what’s possible through smarter thinking, more creative innovations, and stronger outcomes.

Prior to her current role, AlQattan served as the group chief people officer. She has a master’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University (USA) and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management and Human Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also a graduate of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Leadership Development Promising Leader’s program run by Duke University and INSEAD.

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