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RX MIDDLE EAST REPORT Consumers and retailers switching to sustainable practices

Turkish retailer Trendyol has set targets to be carbon neutral across its operations by 2040

The recently published RetailX Middle East Ecommerce Region 2023 report has stressed that the Middle East is in the unenviable position of having to transition away from the natural materials which brought wealth to countries in the region.

The economies of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar have been dependent on these industries but recognised change has to take place to ensure sustainability of their economies as the world aligns with the 1.5°C Paris Agreement. 

‘Fast tracking the energy transition’ is one of four pillars around which 2023’s COP28 is being held. Under the presidency of the UAE, the global convention in early December 2023 aims to deliver what is being referred to as the first ever Global Stocktake. This is a comprehensive evaluation of the level of progress that has been made to date against climate goals. 

Commenting following the opening of an internationally funded solar park in Azerbaijan, COP28 president Dr Al Jaber commented: “I have seen how new technologies combined with strong political will and results-driven private enterprise can make game-changing progress for the climate and our economies.” 

He continued: “And I have learned it is critical to bring everyone to the table to be part of the solution. This is the spirit of inclusivity I want to bring to COP28. I want to bring the world together to focus on solutions and results. A little less conversation, a lot more action. This is the business unusual approach I am determined to take.

The UAE itself is increasing efforts to become more self-sufficient while increasing exports from new sectors including clean energy, such as hydrogen, as well as space, medicine, electronics, rubber and plastics, chemicals and metals. 

At the same time, the region faces the challenges of heatwaves and water shortages meaning consumers in the region can see the impact of climate change. They actively look for sustainable products when making a purchase. 72% say buying sustainably is important to them while 69% feel that businesses should have sustainable practices as well.

Retailers are keen to share their sustainability journeys with customers and other stakeholders and are adopting circular models around reuse and recycling. Alshaya Group, which is a franchise partner for a number of global brands, is working with recycling partners to convert plastic waste generated by brands in Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates into new plastic containers which can then be reused by the brands. 

Speaking about this pilot programme, Seneca Cottom, head of sustainability at Alshaya Group, said: “Through our first initiative, we aim to promote the circular economy and lead the industry towards a more sustainable, responsive and efficient future. Along with our partners, we have reduced Alshaya’s trial outlets’ waste volumes by almost 40% over a two-month trial period, and we see great potential to adopt different means and reduce even more waste thanks to all the insights and learnings we have made throughout this pilot phase.” 

In Turkey, online retailer Hepsiburada published its first Sustainability Report in 2023 outlining its commitments in four key areas: an equal and inclusive corporate culture; social benefit projects; ethical and transparent governance; and environmentally responsible solutions. In recent years, the company increased its female employee ratio from 41% in 2020 to 46% in 2022, and the female executive ratio from 31% to 34%. It also worked at reducing its own operational waste while introducing more responsible packaging processes and recycling old electronic devices. 

Fellow Turkish retailer Trendyol has set targets to be carbon neutral across its operations by 2040 followed by the same ambition across its entire value chain by 2050. Along the way, the company has set a target for 20% of its own products to be made from 100% sustainable materials by 2030. At the same time, it will be ensuring that all of its sub-suppliers are audited and compliant with its ESG criteria. 

Trendyol also operates one of the country’s largest platforms for secondhand fashion having acquired the Dolap consumer-to-consumer sales site back in 2018.

This feature was authored by Emma Herrod and originally appears in the RetailX Middle East Ecommerce Region 2023 report. Download it in full for fascinating insight into the retail environment in the Middle East.

This is a region of contrasts and conflict but also cooperation towards a digital future. While the region covers 16 countries, as does the initial analysis by RetailX researchers, this report goes further to look in depth at six of them. These are Iran, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

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