Heroes of the UAE: Making for a greener 2012

The holiday season is here. Giving back to the community is a central theme this time of year; whether a personal endeavor or as part of a group, it’s the time to play your part. Such a theme is important for individuals and companies alike in this region, with a number of organisations having made further efforts to contribute to society in 2012. One initiative which has really stood out, showing particular sensitivity to the environment and helping improve the habits of corporations, is that of the Heroes of the UAE.

The Heroes of the UAE campaign, originally launched in March 2010, has provided companies with the opportunity to monitor and reduce their carbon footprint throughout the year. By encouraging organisations to keep a close eye on emissions and overuse of amenities such as electricity and water, Heroes of the UAE has successfully generated a newfound awareness of harm to the environment, an issue that was somewhat overlooked in previous years. In addition, not only has this created a fresh appreciation for a greener UAE, but it has inspired the creation of new and more sustainable ways to run the office day-to-day.

Ultimately, what Heroes of the UAE endeavors to bring to our corporate world here in the Emirates, is extra guidance for improving company sustainability via reductions in water and electricity consumptions – principal contributors to carbon emissions in the region. Tamara Withers, Project Manager of Heroes of the UAE, tells the IAA more about what the campaign hopes to achieve, details of the Heroes process and how successful it has been as a campaign.

IAA: What were the challenges of creating an environment-focused campaign?

TW: The Heroes of the UAE campaign reaches out to all sectors of society: households, schools, government and business to create awareness and inspire action to tackle climate change by reducing energy and water consumption. Given the diversity of society in the UAE, each area of the campaign requires multiple engagements in order to reach audiences with different levels of environmental awareness.

To reach a diverse audience across all sectors of society, this bilingual campaign offers a variety of useful tools to reduce their consumption, available at www.heroesoftheuae.ae. Tools include savings tips, a calculator to measure carbon footprint and information on the problem and solutions.

IAA: Given that the campaign is ongoing, how do the organisations involved managed to continue promoting Heroes of the UAE?

TW: Heroes of the UAE was launched in 2009 with an award winning website – www.heroesoftheuae.ae – allowing individuals and businesses to learn about the UAE ecological footprint and climate change as well as gain an understanding on what they can do to help reduce their own energy and water consumption.
Businesses now have the opportunity to download a free toolkit packed with useful tips to save energy and water.

IAA: Has it been a successful campaign so far and how do account for this success?

TW: The campaign has seen a number of key achievements to date:
- Since its launch, more than 25,700 people have pledged to reduce their water and energy consumption, through the Heroes website or during outreach events.
- A competition for schools to demonstrate their commitment to energy and water reductions was held, with the winning school receiving a green makeover and brand new laptops courtesy of HSBC. This saw students undertake a series of steps in order to make their school more environmentally friendly.
- In the private sector, the campaign has witnessed a steady rise in the number of companies signing up to become Corporate Heroes and the number of companies downloading the Heroes Business Toolkit, which helps them to adopt and implement sustainable practices in the workplace.
- Five companies, plus the Ministry of Environment and Water, received green makeovers, to highlight how certain measures can effectively reduce water and energy

IAA: How is the campaign activated – online and offline?

TW: The campaign is easily accessible to everyone through an online platform which houses a wealth of information on ways to conserve energy and water. It also includes handy tools to help make the switch to a more environmentally friendly lifestyle much easier, both at home and at work. The website has videos and tip sheets to help explain the issues as well as highlight the solutions. Not to mention, an online business toolkit that has been downloaded by over 350 companies since its launch.

A workshop was held in November 2011 to introduce these guides as well as preview new elements for the business toolkit. In 2012 the team hosted a workshop on “sharing practices and identifying policy and market recommendations.

IAA: Did EWS-WWF work with a creative agency to promote Heroes of the UAE?

TW: EWS-WWF worked with Touchpoints Consulting to develop the campaign creative concept and Flip Media for the website design.

IAA: Finally, name one instance where you encouraged going over and above to conserve water and electricity?

TW: The “Green Makeover” competition was launched as part of the Heroes of the UAE – Private Sector Programme to demonstrate and measure the impact of implementing energy and water efficiency measures in different companies. Thanks to a grant from Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy, the competition offered the chance to five companies to undergo energy and water audit and a retrofit worth up to AED 100,000.