Sustainability

Goumbook: Cultivating Sustainable Futures in the Middle East

Inc. Arabia speaks to Goumbook, a non-profit that promotes awareness and provides advisory on environmental and social campaigns, about what it means when climate action goes regional.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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Established 14 years ago, Goumbook was inspired by the “qawm,” Arabic for the collective people and tribes of the region that lived in harmony with nature’s cycles. As a non-profit social enterprise, its mission is to tackle sustainability holistically, envisioning a future where environmental, social, and economic facets harmonize seamlessly.

Over the years, it has worked across the private and public sectors and in academia and civil society. Goumbook works to achieve harmony between environmental, social, and economic sustainability, without exasperating the 9 planetary boundaries or the quality of life of future generations to come. Its work focuses on accelerating climate action and sustainability through awareness, advisory, and action.

"We cannot continue business as usual. There is an alternative, an environmentally and socially equitable approach that can be lucrative for businesses and their stakeholders," says Samantha Kayruz, Strategy and Impact Director at Goumbook.

For the team at Goumbook, awareness is the basis of creating systemic change and impact. It uses awareness sessions, workshops, talks, thinks tanks, and thought leadership events to develop sustainability solutions and impact-driven action.

In addition to running proprietary campaigns and initiatives, Goumbook also works with partners and clients to curate sustainable initiatives to address untapped needs, opportunities, and challenges. These campaigns span CSR, employee engagement, strategic projects, and advisory services, among other things.

“We aim to integrate environmental and social sustainability to future-proof our lifestyles, business operations, and greater communities for generations to come,” says Kayruz.

One of the primary hurdles that Goumbook has had to overcome is the lack of general awareness around climate change and sustainability. To address this, it initiated a series of awareness programs and workshops, recognizing that awareness alone is insufficient.

"Impact and action are where we measure our contribution," says Kayruz. "It may start with awareness, but it must lead to change--a shift in mindset that propels us toward sustainable practices.”

A Regional Perspective

The landscape around climate and environment, once characterized by a focus on charity and corporate social responsibility (CSR), has evolved. Governments and private entities now recognize the need for true integration of sustainability at a policy and strategic level.

Last year, the UAE hosted COP28, which put climate action center stage in the region. It also spotlighted the need for regional action and collaboration on climate-related issues. Goumbook’s latest plans include expanding its reach from the UAE to the broader MENA region.

In 2023, the company launched six initiatives. At the forefront of Goumbook's initiatives is the Regenerative Agriculture Venture Programme, a collaborative effort with HSBC and Saudi Awwal Bank, supported by the European Institute of Technology Food (EIT Food). This transformative initiative seeks to empower researchers and students to address fundamental agricultural challenges in the MENAT region.

"The average age of farmers in our region is 57-63, while the population's average age is 25," says Kayruz. "This program aims to unify regenerative agriculture practices, supporting science- and research-based approaches, encouraging youth to choose agriculture as a viable career choice.”

With the GCC importing 80-90% of its food, the Regenerative Agriculture Venture Programme becomes a linchpin in fostering self-sufficiency. Regenerative agriculture, a practice focused on restoring soil health and productivity, holds the key to combatting desertification, improving biodiversity, and addressing climate change, says Kayrouz.

"Innovation in agriculture must be accessible and inclusive for traditional farmers," Kayruz says. "This program positions the MENAT region as a potential seedbed of innovation in climate-resilient agriculture, addressing challenges that extend beyond our borders."

"The program is designed to support a science-, data-, and research-based approach to agriculture, making innovation accessible to farmers in the region," she adds.

The overwhelming response to the Regenerative Agriculture Venture Programme from across the MENAT region and beyond underscores the global need for research-based solutions and collaborative efforts, she tells us.

Other initiatives launched last year include a soap recycling initiative with environmental, social, and economic benefits called UNISOAP UAE, and Take A Breath, a partnership with pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, which aims to monitor the quality of indoor air and provide easy-to-implement solutions at homes, schools, and offices.

Other projects include the Trees Matter and the Ajman afforestation project with Ajman Municipality and Planning Department--a phased project that aims to drive research and ecotourism in the emirate of Ajman, among others.

Goumbook also launched the MENA Oceans Network in partnership with the United Nations UAE, and the MENA Oceans Summit under the patronage of the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, in partnership with the Emirates Diving Association, UN High-Level Climate Champions Team, and Hilton Dubai Palm Jumeirah. The initiative aims to increase collaboration across diverse regional ocean stakeholders and accelerate the pace of ocean action. The initiative brings together policymakers, academia, researchers, the private sector, and innovators, along with the youth and community to drive impact.

This article first appeared in the January issue of Inc. Arabia's digital magazine. To read the full magazine, click here

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