Launching Living Business 2020

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

Living Business, the programme for companies who want to profit from sustainability, launched on Thursday. Hosted by sponsor HSBC, the event kicked-off with an introduction to the Programme and was followed by roundtable discussions on eleven sustainability topics. Special thanks go to the moderators for managing some packed tables and sometimes heated conversations.

Sabrin Rahman, Head of Sustainability at HSBC Middle East in her opening remarks said:

"Living Business is a part of HSBC’s contribution to the SME community. It’s a programme to help mobilise action within organisations, suppliers and customers: a programme to connect with global leaders in the sustainability space: most importantly, a programme to help contribute to UAE’s wider sustainability goals as highlighted in Vision 2021 and the upcoming Expo 2020 agenda."

Below are some photos from the event and the discussions.

From The Future of Work: Values, Culture and High Performing Teams roundtable:

  1. I can speak on behalf of Rajeev and Cecilia as well if I say that we really enjoyed last Thursday's event. Thanks for letting us be a part of it. Find below some of the key takeaways from the discussions we hosted:

  2. One of the key challenges raised and discussed around the table was how to start working on the corporate values and culture, especially within small and medium enterprises where this is not usually a priority for management. We talked about how important it is to align the whole organization to a common purpose and vision, and translate it down to employee engagement, behaviors and attitudes.Most people agreed that Corporate Culture should be a representation of the entire team, instead of the core values being only decided by the Key management. Corporate culture and aligned behaviors throughout the organization only succeed if the whole organization believes in the values, lives by them and is reminded of them or even evaluated based on them (HSBC as an example where a set of behaviors is part of the official evaluation criteria).  

  3. The issue of how remote workers can contribute and belong to a corporate culture, and still stay engaged, was another key part of the discussion. A paycheck is not the only priority, and you need to address the autonomy vs the expected results, as well as the issue of social connections impacting one’s well-being. If remote workers are not checked or connected to something larger like purpose, they may get demotivated on their own.Please, let us know if you have any questions! Best regards, Floor

From The Future of Work: Employee Upskilling in a Time of Digital Transformation roundtable:

Topic Facilitators: Anna Batchelder (Bon Education) and Dominique Ghazar (HSBC)

The Employee Wellbeing and Skills roundtables focused on three points of discussion:

  • Employee Wellbeing: What does wellbeing mean? How can organizations enable employee wellbeing?

  • Employee Skills: What are the skills required to be future-proof?

  • Reimagining the Future: What does an ideal future look like when it comes to employee wellbeing and skills?

At the beginning of each roundtable session, participants were asked to share sub-topics

or questions they were most interested in thinking about together. The following were

sub-topics of interest:

  • How might we bring the human element back into the workforce not just in the future, but today?

  • How do we become technology-proof?

  • What will people do after automation takes away their jobs?

  • How can we create more inclusive workplaces?

  • Are there creative and alternative ways to upskill people, especially in the context of the Middle East?

  • How do employees think about and create genuine value for their companies? How do companies think about and provide genuine value for their employees?

  • What employer/employee regulations are needed in the future workplace?

  • How will the gig/freelancer economy work in the future?

  • With more and more people working from home, how do we keep remote workers motivated and accountable?

When participants discussed, “What should ‘wellness in the workplace’ look like today

and in the future?” Responses included things like:

  • Allowing employees “me” time to recharge

  • Bringing mindfulness and awareness practices into the workplace

  • Teaching employees to manage their perspectives and how to maintain a positive attitude in the face of change and uncertainty

  • Ensuring the workplace environment is filled with good air, water, nature, etc.

  • Having teams and individuals set limits and boundaries to allow for sleep, family time, good work to happen

  • “Tech-free” time where employees actually connect and relate to one another

Participants identified the following skills as critical for future-proofing:

  • Problem-solving

  • Adding value

  • Diversification and transference of skills between industries

  • Flexibility

  • Collaboration

  • Communication

  • Managing one’s mindset

  • Managing change

  • Passion

  • Focusing on results

  • Networking

  • Soft skills

When participants were asked to re-imagine a better future workplace, responses

included ideas like:

  • Allocating 20% time to sustainability-focused activities (anything from personal sustainability to thinking about how the business can be more sustainable)

  • Reinvent how upskilling takes place

  • Look to nature for ideas around how to create a more sustainability, wellness and skills in the future

Both roundtables left with more questions than answers. Recommended next step:

  • Create a longer event where participants apply design thinking and other problem-solving skills to some of the aforementioned questions and sub-topics.

  • Allow for divergence of ideas and then move into a convergence of ideas phase where participants share optimal solutions.


Supplier sustainability: winning commitment, encouraging action and measuring results


20 Feb 2020, Living Business, HSBC Dubai

David Ramos / Andre Vreman

Initial discussion

Suppliers side:

Internal sustainability objectives

Commitments around supply chain (procurement)

How do you motivate your suppliers to be active in sustainability?

How do you measure the impact of your supply chain?

Client side:

How would you consider influencing your clients?


Roundtable 1

Introduction round


Du - 12 years (left recently)

Empowerment of suppliers

Yasmine Hussain - MRC Systems

Jebel Ali based since 20 years

GRP panels and complete solutions

Thair Hussain - MRC Systems

Manufacture here and ship all over the world

Flying constantly as individuals in the organisation

CO2 calculation started, establish climate related targets

Main product they buy is resins from multinationals


Fashion history

Husband in Four Seasons hotels (3 hotels in Dubai)

Angelie and Vidi – Apparel Group 90% of the brands only retailing, not manufacturing

Concern on smaller suppliers - shopping bags, etc. local suppliers

Abdulrahim - Ibrahim Al Khuairy Lawyers


Andre – GSE System / EIN enterprise

Marianna - Bizzmosis

Control of drivers to reduce travel distances

David - HSBC

Further discussion


Office space measures, like water filtration, lights, logistics, shipping, movement of people.

Packaging to protect product is an issue

Engagement with staff Training of project managers to increase consistency across projects

Towards suppliers: - Local suppliers whenever is possible for the projects - sourcing of material critical - Motto: improve suppliers or otherwise change supplier


Supplier sustainability

Financial sustainability for suppliers – financial practice pushes suppliers in survival mode

Governance around financials

People/workers - who are they hiring – empowerment is key

At Du - 5000 suppliers received a simple questionnaire around sustainability, which was part of audits. There was a supplier support programme if score below 50%.

Abdulrahim Financial distress at companies is limiting efforts for sustainability

Angelie & Vidi

Apparel Group also did supplier’s questionnaire, but auditing is difficult due to the large number of suppliers

Marianna Depending on sizes categorise suppliers in groups, so they can share experiences and support each other


Capacity to influence suppliers? In general yes

Sometimes is just around encouragement, helping them shift the needle in the right direction

Angelie Transparency, openness and communication with suppliers. Example of water bottles: supplier was afraid to loose business, but after working together and changing methods actually increased his business with us.

Thair Difficulty of SMEs to influence change in bigger companies - SMEs as a group are important to society, but individual ones don't have the power to influence.

Andre Opportunity for SME’s to become an example the CSR programme of large customers

Action Roundtable 1: Participants wish their contact details to be shared among each other

Roundtable 2

Introduction Round

Adrienne - Green Touches

Cleaning with O3 and traditional cleaning, 8 million liters

Board member of Global Compact

Yousef - Fine Hygienic Holding

Moving to a wellness company by acquiring other companies

Paper production - 100% organic pulp - waste management, resource management

5 paper mill plants - 1 in UAE – one under construction

Also producing to white


Looking for opportunities

Anand - True North Partners

Strategy/risk/finance advisory

Optimise results costs

Experience with banking / management of assets

Andre - GSE System / EIN enterprise

Further discussion

Adrienne When going to the market, only working with clients/suppliers that support the SDG’s

Staff payments in cleaning have to be more sustainable


Initiatives: reducing or eliminating the core of the toilet paper / size of roll

Listen to innovative ideas in their supply chain

Started to happen that big corporates are kicking out suppliers

It is about predicting the direction of the market

Third party suppliers - looking more into the values of the company than what they deliver.

Steel bottles for water and many other office initiatives

Reduce paper usage

Resource management / recycling

Product source to 60 different countries

For every tree they cut, they plant 5

Spread sustainability message consistently among staff

Anand Wage structure is not helpful

David Influencing clients on sustainability is important at HSBC. Work together and give clients enough time.