5 initiatives making the UAE perfect for eco-friendly startups

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It’s a common perception that every Middle Eastern economy relies completely on fossils fuels, but the UAE is working towards being more eco-friendly by 2050.

It wants to present itself as a country that has invested in clean technologies and sustainable development.

As a result, the government is doing its best to support whatever green ideas come its way with serious cash and interesting initiatives.

Here are five that a smart entrepreneur might want to consider.

1. The Change Initiative

The change initiative offices
Together, united. (Image via The Change Initiative) 

The Change Initiative is a Dubai store that sells green products. The renovated two-story store sells fully organic eco-friendly products, including organic food, utensils, cleaning agents and even sunglasses. In 2010, the building officially became the world's most sustainable building, getting 107 points out of a possible 110 for the LEED Platinum certification. The store is made from green recyclable material, contains a solar power station with PV panels on the rooftop, and a recycling and water reclaiming system.

2. Estidama

In 2008, the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council launched Estidama, an initiative which aims to make the country fully sustainable by targeting residential areas and buildings, governmental entities, and commerce buildings to meet environmental standards.

Estima's brochure. (Image via Estidama)

All new developments and construction projects in the UAE must receive permission from the council to show it has met with environmental standards. These include energy savings through building insulation, solar-powered water heating systems, and using eco-friendly refrigerants which have lower waste emissions.  

The initiative also includes encouraging the use of local construction materials.

3. Switching to ‘green’ concrete

Since March 2015 it has become mandatory for all construction companies in Dubai to use green concrete instead of the usual Portland cement (OPC). This is because each ton of OPC produces 164 kilograms of dust pollution, and is part of the Dubai 2020 urban masterplan to become one of the best environmentally sustainable cities. Now, construction companies based in Dubai must use alternative components such as fly ash, ground granulated blast-furnace slag, stone smashing remnant and others. Compared to portland cement, these alternatives can reduce toxic emissions by up to 45 percent.

4. Etihad Esco

Abu Dhabi Electricity and Water Authority’s (ADEWA) Etihad Esco is an initiative in the form of a company. Founded in 2013, Etihad Esco’s mission is to enable more energy efficiency in Dubai’s buildings by installing technologies such as LED lighting, cooling systems and photovoltaic solar panels.


Trials and testing. (Image via Dubai Municipality)

Etihad Esco is on a mission to retrofit 30,000 buildings in Dubai’s existing building stock. The organisation already audits the energy at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai Airport Free Zonea and electricity power plants in the Jebel Ali Free Zone.

5. Masdar Initiative


Shining over Abu Dhabi. (Image via Masdar)

In 2006, the Abu Dhabi government invested millions of dollars to launch Masdar, one of the largest clean energy and renewable energy communities in the world. The initiative includes several huge investments in Masdar city, which is fully powered by solar energy through 10 MW solar panels, the Masdar Institute for Science and Technology, and Masdar Capital, which manages the investments that bring Masdar's clean and renewable energy ideas to life.

The latest investment from Masdar is the Solar Impulse, a solar-powered airplane.

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