Leena Al Olaimy

The Domain Hotel & Spa & 3BL Associates Launch US$1 Million Sustainability Summer Challenge!

Manama, Bahrain: Award-winning sustainable development strategy consultancy and think-do-tank, 3BL Associates (3BL), launched a ’Sustainability Summer Challenge’ at the Domain Hotel and Spa.

 

The initiative has included eight summer interns working on developing an ambitious sustainability strategy that will result in US$1 million in cost savings or revenues for the Domain Hotel and Spa.

 

Under 3BL’s leadership and expertise, the team is working to identify ways to reduce operational costs for the hotel through sustainability, as well as creating shared value opportunities that simultaneously generate new revenue streams for the hotel, while tackling social and environmental issues.

 

In addition, the cross-disciplinary team of interns, who have been working in residence at the Domain, are also each leading a 3BL think-do-tank project, focusing on issues like sports and development, diabetes, social entrepreneurship, and a region-wide social innovation initiative called ’Reimagine MENA Labs’.

 

’œWith trends like the sharing economy, millennial customers, and greater interactivity, the hospitality industry needs to keep innovating to remain competitive. The Domain’s unique ’Stay Work Play’ concept embodies this thinking and we are delighted to be hosting this revolutionary and entrepreneurial challenge,’ commented Mr. Tony Connor, Chairman’s representative, the Domain Hotel and Spa.

 

’œRunning this challenge at the Domain is a fantastic way to spark a conversation around rethinking use of space’”a growing trend in sustainable cities. The interns will also each be leading various inter-connected projects in addition to working on an innovative sustainability strategy for the hotel that adds bottom-line value to the business as well as creating social and environmental impact. We are thrilled to be working in residence at a values-aligned brand like the Domain and I’m really excited to see what the team comes up with!’ commented 3BL cofounder and managing director, Leena al Olaimy.

 

The interns are: Elham Ali (Crown Prince International Scholarship Program recipient), B.A. in International Relations, Claremont McKenna College, California and Public Health Policy M.A. candidate; Sumana Al Gharbi (Crown Prince International Scholarship Program recipient), studying Chemical Biology at the University of California ­ Berkeley; Sarah Awachi, studying History and International Relations at University of Reading, UK; Narjes Bukannan, B.A. Business Economics, University of Exeter, UK and M.A. candidate for Environment and Development; Waleed Al-Meraj, B.A. in Public Policy with a minor in Economics and Media from the University of Toronto, Canada; Dana Osama, studying Economics at the University of Kent, UK; Mohamed Nedham (Crown Prince International Scholarship Program recipient) studying Medicine at Kings College, UK; and Sophie Tarif, studying Marketing and Design at Lancaster University, UK.

 

Outcomes of the challenge will be presented to the Domain Hotel and Spa’s executive management and Chairman Faisal Al Matrook at the end of August.

 

 

Believe it. Live it! Diversity

Having lived on four continents, and with an extended family that includes 16 nationalities, I have always felt that I belong nowhere and everywhere. Thats more than half the number of nationalities at BMMI by the way – and in case you’re wondering the 16 are: Bahraini, Egyptian, Turkish, Korean, Saudi, American, Syrian, Lebanese, English, Filipino, Italian, Russian, Scottish, Iraqi, Emirati and Irish!

I am fascinated by different cultural traditions and, at the same time, grounded by the similarities in our values. I have learned that despite differences, wisdom is wisdom in any culture, religion or background.

Various studies and articles in reputable publications like, Harvard Business Review, the Financial Times and Forbes, consistently state that companies leading in diversity financially outperform and out-innovate others. When diversity is embraced and different ideas are heard – including those of minorities – it creates a better understanding of unmet customer needs and markets. It also fosters a collaborative working environment conducive to success.

But celebrating diversity is so much more than only cultures and nationalities. It’s also not about fulfilling quotas or positive discrimination to meet targets; it’s about being human. It’s about inclusivity. It’s about looking past stereotypes and celebrating individuality; the inherent and acquired characteristics that make up the special person that is YOU.

It’s about creating the best environment for each of us – with our different backgrounds, gender, abilities, personalities, leadership qualities and so on – to fulfil our deepest personal and professional potential.

One of the things I love about my work is that I am constantly inspired by the unlimited power of human potential. For instance, while most of the world stills views people with disabilities as dis-abled rather than differently-abled, there are a few organisations and individuals that are flipping this stereotype on its head.

 

Believe It! Discovering Hands in Germany trains and deploys blind women to perform breast cancer examinations at hospitals and clinics. The blind women are 50% more effective at detecting tissue changes than doctors, helping early detection of one of the leading causes of women’s death worldwide. (mammogram screenings are only offered to women aged 50-69 – despite the fact that 20% of breast cancer is detected in women under 50).

 

At Specialisterne in Denmark, 75% of staff have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). People with an ASD often experience difficulties with social interaction, however, they also frequently demonstrate above-average skills in some or all of the following areas:

 

  • High levels of concentration
  • Reliability and consistent accuracy
  • Close attention to detail
  • The ability to identify errors
  • Excellent memory
  • Creativity

 

The founder of Specialisterne realised that these characteristics made people with an ASD perfectly suited to working with software and in with Information Technology (IT). At Specialisterne, the staff – who are known as specialists – have worked for clients like Microsoft and Oracle.

Another awe-inspiring example I love is Barefoot College in India, which trains illiterate and semi-literate women from rural villages around the world to become solar engineers.

This is only a woman’s job, a man cannot do it, said Bunker Roy, founder of Barefoot, in a documentary on the school. ’œIf you train a man, he wants to leave the village and go somewhere else looking for a job. Our solution is to train mothers and grandmothers. She might not know how to read and write. She might not ever have left the village. But in six months, we can make them into solar engineers and they can come back and solar electrify their own villages.

Yet even in progressive Bahrain – where BMMI is headquartered – women in management and on the board are a minority.

 

Live it!

 

  1. Live your values

 

What kind of place do you want to work in? BMMIs values are Honesty, Excellence, Achievement, Recognition and Team Spirit. In what way are you living those values? Are you being the change you want to see or are you complaining about whats wrong and how things should be?

 

  1. Cultivate openness

 

BMMIs first value is honesty, and with that comes openness. Foster an environment that encourages openness, so that all voices are included and heard. Even if you’re not the manager or person leading a meeting, we can all take ownership of making sure our colleagues voices are heard – regardless of gender, age, nationality or seniority. Ask people what do you think? Show them you value their opinion and encourage them to express it.

 

  1. How do you make people feel?

 

Think of how good it feels when you help someone. When you made them feel included. When you made someone feel that they were heard and understood. It costs nothing but kindness, and that is the true measure of our success and values as human beings. As the spectacular Maya Angelou said, I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. What feelings do you want people to associate when they think of how you made them feel?

 

  1. Cultivate empathy

 

Among the initiatives my organisation has run to cultivate empathy are: a dinner in complete pitch-black darkness to cultivate empathy for the visually impaired; and wheelchair basketball as a team-builder. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and seeing – or even feeling – things from their perspective is not only a powerful human quality. It is powerful in business and can provide key insights on customer segments.

 

  1. Be curious

 

Ask your colleagues questions about where they are from, their customs, their traditions, and their music. Try their sports or cuisine. Volunteer with them for the causes they care about. How good does it feel when people are genuinely interested in who we are without any agenda?

 

  1. See people as individuals

 

While you embrace diversity, look beyond stereotypes and typecasting people as Nigerians or Nepalese; young or middle-aged; abled and disabled. See people as individuals, each with their own challenges, personalities and dreams. I am a woman but that’s not all I am.

And on looking beyond stereotypes, I share with you one of my favourite and most inspirational TED talks of an adventurous and bold soul, whom I had the honour of meeting a few years ago. I promise it will be 20 minutes well-spent!

 

This post first appeared on BMMI.

4 reasons why sustainability should matter to your startup

Amidst a massive rethink of how we do business, global markets have begun embracing sustainability as an integral part of strategy and a driver of profitability.

Although there are pockets of hope, we in the Arab world lag relatively behind.

I was reminded of this as I recently joined 1600 sustainability leaders and practitioners’”in a perfect and rare 50:50 gender equality ratio’”representing 80 countries, at the Global Conference on Sustainability and Reporting, organized by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in Amsterdam.
The virtually paperless and high-tech conference saw the launch of the latest version of the GRI’s Sustainability Reporting Guidelines G4 at the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, as sustainability nerds’”myself included’”waited in anticipation.

 

The highly energetic and charismatic GRI Deputy CEO, Nelmara Arbex, reminded delegates that, ’œWe didn’t start this initiative 10 or more years ago because we enjoy reporting. Reporting is not fun. But reporting is vital for change, and we don’t have much time.’

 

Essentially, sustainability reporting is an audit of an organization’s social, environmental and economic performance. Referencing over 90 indicators, it is a topic that can become a mere box-ticking exercise.
Ernst Ligteringen, GRI Chief Executive highlighted the need for transparent and relevant information in supporting the development of sustainable business and markets. “A lot of progress in this respect has been made but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Reporting will only become standard practice beyond the world’s very largest companies when it has the backing of everyone,” Ligteringen said.
Currently, over 4,000 organizations worldwide report their sustainability performance and impact using GRI guidelines. These companies do indeed include 80% of the world’s 250 largest corporations, but they also include businesses as small as a nine-person company.
In the Arab world, less than 100 organizations report according to the GRI framework. The UAE is in the lead, and other countries include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain.

Following COP 18 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Doha, Qatar now requires industrial companies to report, with 44 expected to report this year.
Although momentum is building, I fear that companies will overlook the true benefits of integrating sustainability into strategy.
Here are four takeaways from the conference on how sustainability can improve business, especially in the Middle East.

 

Sustainability brings opportunity

 

We are facing dire planetary limits, and doom and gloom scenarios abound. But as entrepreneurs who capitalize on solving problems, we should take note. Some Arab companies already have.
Karm Solar created a solar energy-based water pumping system’”that is cheaper than those that use diesel’”to ensure the sustainability of domestic agriculture in Egypt.

Dubai-based Liquid of Life provides sustainable and cost effective solutions to meet the increasing demand for quality drinking water, across the Arab world through an innovative technology that generates drinking water from air.

Untapped challenges and opportunities abound for Arab entrepreneurs: food and water security; renewable energy; recycling and waste management’¦what sustainability challenges could your startup solve?

 

Sustainability doesn’t have to come at a cost


Dismantling the notion that sustainability and profitability are at odds, Michel Barnier, European Commissioner said, ’œTransparent companies have lower financing costs and are more profitable.’

In addition to transparency, sustainability presents opportunities to reduce costs.

Although energy is heavily subsidized in many Arab countries, energy audits are growing in popularity for large and industrial businesses for this reason.

In 2011 for instance, Dubai Airport’s energy and fuel saving initiatives reduced CO2 emissions by 72,793 tons and achieved $4.33 million in fuel savings.

Even smaller scale savings in a company’s energy consumption or throughout the supply chain, are worth making. Consider a US$25,000 reduction in annual costs, which could be diverted to R&D or used to employ, retain, or reward staff.

As Digital Lumens founder says, ’œI’d rather fire a kilowatt than a person.’

 

Sustainability Manages Risk

I learned that Puma not only reports’”it has begun asking suppliers to comply with sustainability reporting standards as well.

Given the public scrutiny of global retailers exploiting workers in sweatshops, Puma’s requirement represents an important aspect of preserving human rights down its supply chain, as well as risk management’”both reputational and legal.

References were made to the recent garment factory tragedies in Bangladesh claiming over 1000 lives.

In the Arab world, soon will come the day when the construction industry’”and others notorious for violating human rights’”will be held accountable, and faced with public pressure.

In fact, Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, warned that ultimately, the day when consumers will use smartphones to make purchasing decisions based on a company’s integration of environment, social and governance (ESG) factors is not far off.

 

Sustainability is essential to competitiveness

 

The European Commission recently adopted a proposal, which would require all large companies to disclose information on the major economic, environmental, and social impacts of their business as part of their annual reporting cycle.

If the proposal passes, this could be a game-changer for sustainability, and it’s only a matter of time before other countries and regions are forced to follow suit.

Companies in the Arab world have the opportunity to start being proactive and leapfrog into a more sustainable and competitive business landscape, or risk missing the sustainability bandwagon and becoming fossils.

 

This article first appeared on Wamda.

6 inspiring quotes for entrepreneurs from Nelson Mandela

Nelson ’Madiba’ Mandela’s life represented more than a selfless struggle for justice in Apartheid South Africa; his unwavering compassion, devotion to humanity, courage and wisdom inspired many who remember him today.

As we, in the Arab world, experience political flux, I think we can all draw inspiration from Mandela on how we want history to remember us. Amidst a world where we are often divided by who and what we are against rather than our shared values, Mandela offers many lessons of love, compassion and empathy to politicians and social activists. As satirical news site the Onion has joked, Mandela had become the first politician to actually be missed.

Even the business world stands to learn from this magnanimous man. Here are 6 quotes that reveal ways entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs and business leaders can find their inner Mandela:

 

1. “Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes the time, and vision with action can change the world.”

 

It’s easy to become distracted doing things that are related to, but not core to our vision. The whirlwind of being busy can deceptively leads us to believe we are achieving something. Like many entrepreneurs, I have experienced the feeling of being super busy but going nowhere. Yet time is my scarcest resource and I am learning to scrupulously evaluate every decision I make: will this bring me closer to actualizing my vision?

 

2. “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

 

Think big. Give yourself permission to excel in everything that you do. Inspire others with your lofty goals and bold visions to trail-blaze in your sector or dimension of choice, even if its a simple business innovation. How could you stretch your business vision and get people to believe in something that’s far bigger than yourself or simple consumption?

 

3. ’œLead from the back ’” and let others believe they are in front.’

 

Mandela has described that a leader is like a shepherd, ’œHe stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.’ A good leader demonstrates humility’”letting other’s shine and feel their value beyond measure.

Bill Clinton once said that, ’œEvery time Nelson Mandela walks into a room we all feel a little bigger, we all want to stand up, we all want to cheer, because we’d like to be him on our best day.’ Doing the same at your company can inspire leadership and a sense of owernship in others that not only brings the business to the next level, but creates a culture of growth.

 

4. ’œOvercoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice.’

 

Social entrepreneurs like Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus catapulted microfinance into the core of the aid and development sector. Acumen founder and CEO Jacquline Novogratz tackles poverty through dignity and market-based approaches. Many social entrepreneurs in the Arab world are also dislodging the traditional approach of charity for more sustainable solutions to economic justice.

Companies that still practice donation-centric corporate social responsibility (CSR) can learn from this by empowering’”rather than creating donor-dependency (including taking an approach on the lines of Corporate Entrepreneurship Responsibilty). This can include training and/or employing the marginalized and excluded, capacity building for NGOs in terms of management, financial planning, and marketing, or investing in’”and mentoring’”women to run micro-enterprises.

 

5. Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead

 

Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison in his struggle for justice, said, ’œI have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.’

An entrepreneur’s work is never done. We can always do better. Reach higher. Go farther. Sometimes it feels like we haven’t accomplished anything at all. It’s important to stop and celebrate those small successes and milestones and take in the ’œglorious vista’ along the uphill climb. Remind yourself how far you have come as you look at the road ahead.

 

6. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

 

The road to success is freckled with failures. ’œDo not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again,’ said Mandela.

At the 2013 World Entrepreneurship Forum, Fadi Ghandour described an entrepreneur’s learning process as one of ’œcontinuous trying and failing.’ Young entreprenuers can keep in mind that it took Egypt’s Azza Fahmy decades to achieve coveted status among fine jewelry brands like Cartier and Bulgari.

Leaving a legacy takes patience, resilience and determination. Keep going. Push the boundaries of what’s possible.

 

This article first appeared on Wamda.