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Learning The Sustainability Lesson From Sheikh Zayed



July 1, 2018, 11:01 am

By HE Abdulla Kalban, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Emirates Global Aluminium

  1. Since 2011 EGA has reduced total CO2 emissions per tonne of aluminium produced by 10%.
  2. We have pioneered the role of Emirati women in heavy industry and more than 17% of people working at supervisory level and above at EGA are female.

2018 marks the Year of Zayed. Inspired by the values of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the UAE, the year is built around the themes of wisdom, respect, human development and sustainability.

At EGA, sustainability is about finding new ways to do things that are better than the previous way. This is particularly relevant to keep in mind during the Year of Zayed.

More than half a century ago, Sheikh Zayed realised the UAE needed to change and envisioned putting in place the infrastructure that would serve generations to come. He knew that for the UAE to thrive, it must diversify and become sustainable.

We must not rely on oil alone as the main source of our national income. We have to diversify the sources of our revenue and construct economic projects that will ensure a free, stable and dignified life for the people.”

In many ways, as the largest industrial company in the UAE outside oil and gas, EGA embodies the goal Sheikh Zayed had for diversifying the UAE economy. We are pleased to be playing such a role in this important cause for our society. Our aluminium is the largest made-in-the-UAE export and a broader aluminium industry has grown around us that employs tens of thousands of people.

Just as Sheikh Zayed once had noble visions for putting the UAE on the world map, we are proud that by following his vision we have grown to become the largest producer of ‘premium aluminium’ in the world last year.

Yet we realise like Sheikh Zayed that what we are doing today is not enough and we must always strive to do more tomorrow. Environmental responsibility, a cause Sheikh Zayed spoke about often, is one important area.

Since 2011 EGA has reduced total CO2 emissions per tonne of aluminium produced by 10%. We have achieved this through a focus on innovation and continuous improvement.

This has included the development in the UAE over more than 25 years of advanced electrolytic reduction cell technology at our smelters. This technology reduces the amount of energy we need to produce each tonne of aluminium, reducing both our costs and our greenhouse gas emissions.

Sheikh Zayed also once said: “History is a continuous chain of events. The present is only an extension of the past.” Today we are in a position where we can benefit from the efforts we have put in over many years, but we also have a watchful eye on the future.

Our industry is energy intensive and we are always on the hunt for ways to increase energy efficiency. It is incumbent on a company like EGA to cultivate an environment that encourages innovation and continuous improvement.

Borrowing one of the other themes for the Year of Zayed, wisdom, we are proactively trying to share the lessons we have learned with others for the betterment of all. We are always looking for ways to work with others to ensure the industry as a whole is sustainable. This is why we partnered with the Ministry of Climate Change and the Environment and GE, as one of the first entities to participate in the UAE Government Accelerators programme, with a target to achieve 10% reduction in powerplant NOX emissions in 100 days – the equivalent to taking 280,000 cars off the road.

Working together, we did better than even we expected, reducing our emissions by 16% under normal operating conditions.

To share what we have learned and learn from others, EGA is a member of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative, an organisation introducing standards of ethical performance and sustainability for industries. We will measure ourselves against the targets set by this body and it helps to guide our thinking on the strategies and plans we need to put in place in order to reach our goals. In many cases, we have already achieved the targeted reductions laid out for member companies years in advance.

Sheikh Zayed was driven by his love for the UAE people. His example is why we have invested so much effort in programmes to develop our own people. Seven members of our Executive Committee originally joined as fresh graduates and we work hard to ensure that we develop the leaders of the future. We typically have over 120 graduate trainees at any time, and we provide training for thousands of people every year. We have pioneered the role of Emirati women in heavy industry and more than 17% of people working at supervisory level and above at EGA are female.

Sheikh Zayed’s forward thinking and innovative approach to leading a nation inspires us in our own field. Sheikh Zayed was a visionary for the UAE and the world and his legacy will live long into the future.

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