JEDDAH: The American Chamber of Commerce in Saudi Arabia, or AmCham Saudi Arabia, launched a new committee on Monday to help companies meet their environmental and social responsibility goals.
The ESG, or Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance, committee was launched at the Jeddah Hilton Hotel.
Several leading diplomats, academics and business officials took part in a panel discussion to discuss ESG strategies, plans and reporting.
Julie LeBlanc, US commercial consul for the western region, said American businesses were committed to support the Kingdom’s plans on this front.
“Major US companies, which are leaders in ESG participated in the panel event including PepsiCo, UL, and AspenTech to discuss innovations and best practices in ESG. The United States is committed to supporting the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goal to diversify its economy,” she said.
The panel was moderated by Nizar Kammourie, CEO of SAWACO Water Desalination, who said the ESG committee would help raise awareness in the business sector on the need for firms to operate in a socially responsible manner.
“By doing so, the AmCham ESG Committee aims to pave the way for US businesses to explore new venues for opportunities in the Saudi market,” he said.
The panelists shared various sustainability measures adopted by their companies which they described as innovative and pioneering.
Tala Alem, sustainability lead at PepsiCo spoke about the responsibility of her company toward ESG based on its business model, operating systems and products.
“At PepsiCo, we look at everything we are engaged in including our entire value chain and creating a sustainability framework to be applied in each country. As every country has its own objectives, in Saudi Arabia, we take into consideration several areas which include agriculture and climate impact, plastics usage and its packaging as well as social and community responsibilities.”
“While every company on its own has a bigger responsibility to the community and the environment, it is valuable for companies to come together with or without the government and share best practices and present case studies as there is a lot of value in it. Such events should be organized more frequently in order to build awareness and encourage everyone to adopt ESG strategies in their company,” Alem added.
Dareen Ayyad, country manager at Underwriters Laboratories, discussed the benefits and the specifics of ESG reporting.
“We look forward to assisting the companies looking for solutions with ESG reporting. UL is providing solutions when it comes to ESG reporting with the help of a software called UL 360 that will help customers in the Kingdom to gather all the ESG data that compile all the information and manage the data.
“We are also offering reporting software for identifying the ESG risks and opportunities. UL offers third party certification and third party advisory services to address the ESG means. We are hoping to create more awareness amongst corporations on the importance of ESG reporting and look forward to engaging with more stakeholders in the Kingdom.”
Echoing these sentiments, David McKenna, sustainability performance director of The Red Sea Development Co., said: “It is important to raise the topic of ESG reporting as more the companies adopt it, the more transparency can be acquired.
“Some companies will take a step forward whereas some backward as it’s not easy to accept ESG strategies, but it is important to disclose the performance across metrics, which could, for various factors, macro and micro, may go up and down but at least the ESG will set a baseline and that will showcase it to the consumers.”
Saif Sheikh, MENA director of solution consulting at Aspen Technology, and Johnny Obeid, vice president of the Middle East at Veolia, opined that ESG is no longer an option and has to be built into business strategy.
Rola Osta, the engagement manager of the chamber’s Jeddah chapter, said that governments and companies have started to take an increased interest in ESG, gaining it an elevated status of relevance.
“A lot of companies are striving to deliver sustainable solutions and outcomes from their operations while aligning the committee’s goals with the Saudi Green Initiative. The AmCham ESG launched this event to present the effort and strategy of companies and government agencies in adopting ESG principles to provide sustainable solutions for their operations.”
Mohammad Tafesh, vice president of the Jeddah chapter, said: “The ESG committee aims to create bridges between US businesses and their counterparts in the Kingdom to provide environmental and sustainability solutions. This will be the first of many upcoming events related to ESG.”
The event was attended by representatives from the US and Italian consulates, Saudi and international companies, and educators from top Saudi universities.
The event concluded with a round of questions and answers.