They say that if you want to know what the next big thing will be, look East. From Alibaba to WeChat, some of the most disruptive players of the new decade have originated from the younger global markets.
With this in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that the same applies to innovation in the health and safety world.
A Fresh Start with the Benefit of Hindsight
Nations in the MENA region have an advantage in disguise when it comes to the ability to innovate in health and safety – infrastructure-wise they are not bogged down by legacy technology. Many organisations in North America and Europe still rely on Excel spreadsheets or even paper forms. But organisations in the MENA region have the opportunity to skip this stage to go straight into building the smart infrastructure of the future. Rather than relying on the tools of old, some smart cities in the Middle East are already automating the living conditions inside workplaces and homes.
The benefits of this are myriad. By automating data collection from ‘smart’ infrastructure, data integrity and reporting accuracy can be improved. This in turn enables the use of innovative EHS software that can customise and streamline data. Less time spent processing and analysing data means EHS professionals can focus on spending their time where it matters: making improvements and protecting their people, communities, property, and assets.
With health and safety becoming part of the wider sustainability picture, it is coming to the attention of the Middle East, most notably His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. A leader with a passion for innovation, technology, and sustainability, there is a growing desire for leaders to also be climate protectors. Their leadership is translating into a change in the business agenda. Over recent years, there has been a marked increase in investment for both the technology industry and sustainability sector, and advancements in artificial intelligence that are far ahead of many other developed countries.
Over time, this interest in environmental sustainability might be expected to overlap with health and safety topics, such as use of hazardous materials and making workplaces safer for employees and local residents too. On the global stage, both investors and consumers alike are demanding businesses to take greater responsibility, seeking more transparency and new solutions. This provides the MENA region a huge opportunity to develop new ways of delivering better EHS compliance.
A New World Paradigm
As globalised trade is beginning to slow down, the interest in local innovation is growing. Most countries have now identified the benefits of having a tech hub on their doorstep. For the Middle East, “Silicon Oasis” was just the start. Now, the region is moving towards positioning itself as not only a centre of tech innovation, but a hub of sustainable innovation too.
To reach this goal, leaders in the MENA region are increasing their focus on ethical practices. While solar panels and sustainable skyscrapers may make the headlines, there is an important role which health and safety must also play. By developing a stronger system of EHS compliance, businesses reduce the risk of unethical practices creeping into their extended supply chains. It is essential to eradicate these risks of doing harm at the same time as ‘doing good’ by proactively pushing the sustainability agenda.
As investor and consumer awareness of these issues continues to increase, organisations in the MENA region are getting on the front foot and positioning themselves as EHS innovators. It seems more than likely that EHS leaders worldwide will soon be looking at this region’s approach to EHS for inspiration.