In April last year, the World Economic Forum noted that as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns around the world, air quality was found to have improved. With the majority of people limiting their travel throughout most of 2020, whether local or international, this has had a notable impact on the environment – which emphasizes the value of making the move towards businesses, and indeed countries, becoming more sustainable and embracing carbon neutrality. As the world adjusts to the novel coronavirus reality and anticipates what a pandemic-free future may look like, there is no better time to accelerate an ecological transition.

Qatar has identified environmental management as a key component of National Vision 2030. In recognition of the need to become more sustainable, the country’s leaders are pushing a ‘go green’ agenda, encouraging more conservative use of resources such as energy and water.

This is the time for businesses of all kinds – from corporate entities to industrial behemoths – to seriously consider the value of adopting measures that contribute to a more sustainable future for Qatar. While the advantages for the environment and air quality are undeniable, there are also tangible benefits to the bottom-line. Energy-efficient buildings and industrial facilities are also more cost-efficient, as utilities bills will be lowered. Energy transition, or the transformation into becoming a carbon neutral business, is a combination of improved performance while also contributing to the common good, and the common good is good for business.

While it may seem like the journey towards becoming carbon-neutral is a long and perhaps even unrealistic one, the fact of the matter is that with today’s smart technology, it is more attainable than ever before. ENGIE Group is an example of how achievable it is; between 2015 - 2019, the Group has reduced its CO2 emissions by more than 59%, shifted 93% of activities to be low-carbon, multiplied its solar energy production capacity six-fold and increased its wind energy production capacity by 20%, with a 9-gigawatt increase in renewable energies[1]. Our journey isn’t over yet, but the progress has been significant – and demonstrates that it is possible to make a gradual shift towards carbon neutrality.

With industry a vital contributor towards Qatar’s economic diversification ambitions, it is especially important to build sustainability into the industrial sector as it grows. Industry in general is a heavy consumer of energy and water. Transforming industrial facilities to be carbon neutral should, therefore, be a priority.

Reducing energy consumption is an obvious place to start. Given the climate in the Middle East, buildings in Qatar are heavy on energy consumption, particularly in the hotter months. This leads to significant utilities costs, as well as the carbon toll of energy production. Air conditioning is, of course, a necessity, but smart technologies can be deployed in existing facilities that contribute towards a low-carbon outcome via energy management practices. Not only can these that can monitor, adjust, and improve air quality as well as energy consumption, they can also offer long-term operational and systems performance, so that businesses can experience a tangible effect on both their expenditures and their carbon footprint.

Taking the first step towards becoming carbon neutral is within reach regardless of business size or sector. Not only is it within reach, but it should be a top consideration in the months to come. The global impact of COVID-19 has demonstrated how much the environment can benefit when we produce less carbon. It has also shown us that we – as people, businesses, and communities – can be more adaptable and flexible than we ever thought possible. These are lessons we can learn from the unfortunate circumstances of 2020, and that we should take into consideration as we plan ahead. Whatever the ‘new normal’ may be, the environment can, and should, be at the heart of a post-pandemic world. Business and the planet will both benefit as a result – and that’s a win-win situation, if ever there was one.