The late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum famously said: “My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a camel”. Sheikh Rashid was not really making a prophecy but delivering a warning – about the consequences of misusing the oil revenues that had begun to flow in 1971.
He knew that the ‘black gold’ could be either a blessing or a burden. If over-exploited, used to fuel excessive consumption, it would be a spent resource within a few generations. But if used prudently, invested wisely, it could propel a small desert township into the modern age. It could change the future of Dubai and its citizens forever.
Sheikh Rashid chose the latter, ploughing the oil revenues into essential infrastructure including the dredging of Dubai Creek, the opening of Port Rashid, the building of Al Shindaga Tunnel, the World Trade Centre, Jebel Ali Port and Dubai Drydocks – all designed to establish Dubai as a regional trade hub capable of surviving and prospering when the oil finally ran out.
These achievements earned Sheikh Rashid the title ‘Father of Dubai’ but he could also be considered the Emirate’s Father of ‘Sustainability’ – not a word widely understood at the time but one of the cornerstones of his philosophy. Around the time that oil was discovered, two other organizations with the same mindset also came into play. One was Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The other was the company known today as Al Ghurair Investment.
As a founding pillar of the Dubai business community, Al Ghurair was one of the earliest members of the new Dubai Chamber – and in the half century since, the two have pioneered many projects designed to encourage Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and, in particular, sustainability in business.
The Dubai Chamber Sustainability Network has a number of industry-specific Task Groups which research, advise on and promote sustainable best practice. Al Ghurair Investment leads the Waste Management & Resource Efficiency (WMRE) Task Group which works tirelessly to educate businesses and “spread the word”.
The objective is to help business stakeholders understand the concerns and challenges in managing industrial and commercial waste; and provide recommendations and possible solutions. Other initiatives include an annual CEO Discussion Forum involving the Chief Executives of member companies and the Director General of Dubai Municipality.
The Dubai Chamber has now been championing Sustainability for decades. And its fellow-pioneer, Al Ghurair Investment, also remains totally committed to the cause. Both organizations were established during the 1960’s when Sheikh Rashid first put sustainability at the heart of his economic strategy for Dubai.
That strategy is now pursued with equal fervor by his son, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai. He has made his father’s vision a reality by continuing to diversify the economy away from oil and transform the city into an international hub of trade, tourism and commerce.
At Sheikh Mohammed’s behest, sustainability was a key element of Dubai’s successful bid to host Expo 2020. It will be a fitting tribute to Sheikh Rashid, the Father of Dubai, the man who planted the seeds of a sustainable future where all its people will prosper – and where his own great grandchildren won’t have to ride a camel after all!