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Revealed: Top 30 sustainable companies in the Middle East

Retold is a sustainable boutique selling pre-loved fashion in Dubai
Retold is a sustainable boutique selling pre-loved fashion in Dubai

From recycled fashion and eco-design to solar energy and vertical farms, here’s the lowdown on 30 businesses tackling the social and environmental challenges that threaten the region

Middle Eastern companies large and small are going green as they realise the environmental and commercial potential of being socially conscious. 

Governments are also focusing on sustainability, placing green projects at the heart of development plans such as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and Egypt Vision 2030. The UAE has established a dedicated Ministry for Climate and the Environment and has set a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

Sustainability has become integral to strategies for diversifying economies as countries look to harness the potential of natural energy resources while driving technological innovation to confront the impacts of climate change – including food shortages, water scarcity, pollution and desertification.

We look at 30 businesses driving the shift to sustainable development in these five categories:

Renewable energy pioneers

Masdar is one of the largest developers of renewable energy projects in the Middle East
  1. Hydro Wind Energy UAE
    Renewable energy
    Specialising in technologies for power generation, energy storage and water desalination, this tech startup is designing state-of-the art solutions for some of the region’s most significant sustainability challenges. Based between London, Dubai and San Francisco, the company is currently assembling QuenchSea, a handheld device that instantly turns seawater into freshwater, at its plant in Fujairah.
  2. KESK Iraq
    Energy and construction
    Founder and CEO Basima Abdulrahman provides green building services and products that support sustainable design and construction in Iraq, where the overloaded power grid struggles to meet demand and is a regular cause of protests. Abdulrahman, who was awarded the $100,000 Cartier Women’s Initiative Award in 2021, and her company aim to change the way buildings and communities are constructed and maintained, while also providing standalone solar air conditioning units that help reduce dependence on the power grid.
  3. Masdar UAE
    Clean energy 
    With projects in more than 40 countries, Masdar is one of the largest developers of renewable energy projects in the Middle East and a driving force behind the UAE’s transition from fossil fuels towards a knowledge-based economy. Its flagship Masdar City project is one of the world’s most sustainable urban communities and a hub for renewable energy innovation.
  4. Masen Morocco 
    Solar energy
    Masen is steering Morocco towards its target of increasing renewables to 52 percent of its energy mix by 2030. A public-private venture, it has the backing of the government for the development of renewable energy installations across the country, including the Noor Complex, which is the largest concentrated solar farm in the world.
  5. Nomadd Saudi Arabia
    Solar energy
    Nomadd is a solar panel dusting device designed to operate in some of the harshest desert conditions on the planet. Operating without water, the fully automated mechanism, developed at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology, cleans an array of solar panels within two hours without scratching the sensitive surface. 
  6. Shamsina Egypt
    Solar energy
    This Cairo-based startup aims to make clean energy accessible to all Egyptians using affordable solar-powered water heaters for low-income communities. Operating off the main grid, it provides decentralised access that allows users to create their own energy supply, freeing them from the burden of monthly bills.

Recycling and waste management

Enviroserve is one of the largest electronics recyclers in the world
  1. Avani Middle East UAE 
    Sustainable packaging
    It can take up to 400 years for plastic containers to decompose on landfills and 100 years for a forest to recover after being felled for lumber. Avani offers eco-friendly alternatives, including compostabcle bioplastic bags made from cassava starch that “biodegrade and become compostable in less than six months, naturally converting themselves into carbon dioxide, water and biomass while leaving no toxic residue,” according to general manager Peter Avram. Companies have been producing bioplastics from natural resources such as corn starch, sunflower seeds and soy for decades, but these materials are costly, while cassava starch offers a cheaper alternative. The bags are also produced in the UAE, which “reduces the carbon footprint and creates in-country value by bringing jobs to the local economy,” Avram adds.
  2. Averda UAE 
    Waste management 
    Established in Dubai in 1964, Averda offers all kinds of waste removal for cities and households, and recently increased its investment in sustainable waste treatment facilities. The company aims to recycle more than 80 percent of the waste it handles, with plans to provide circular recovery options across all 34 of its locations in the Middle East, Africa and India. 
  3. Baramoda Egypt 
    Agritech
    Converting agricultural waste into organic fertiliser for different types of soil, this startup promises to reduce reliance on harmful chemicals and decrease the use of scarce water supplies. Baramoda’s biofertilisers create environmental and economic value from the huge volumes of agricultural waste produced each year.
  4. Bee’ah UAE
    Environmental management
    This Sharjah-based waste management company has recently become a holding group for a series of sustainable ventures, now united under the Bee’ah brand. Services include Bee’ah Tandeef for waste collection and city cleaning, Bee’ah Energy for clean and renewable power and Bee’ah Digital for future technologies. It also offers green transport and environmental consulting and has plans to diversify its portfolio further.
  5. Bekia Egypt
    Recycling
    Egyptians can monetise their waste thanks to this startup, which enables people to sell household rubbish, including plastic, used cooking oil and electronics in exchange for points that can be used to purchase groceries, school supplies, phone credit and transport tickets. Users can also donate their points to support different causes.
  6. Enviroserve UAE
    Electronics recycling 
    What began as a small enterprise dismantling used mobile phones in 2004 has grown to become one of the largest electronics recyclers in the world, counting governments, multinationals and industrial consumers among its clients. Other services offered by Enviroserve include recycling refrigerant gas, IT refurbishment and special waste disposal for premium brands.
  7. Liquid of Life UAE 
    Water filtration 
    With a mission to minimise the number of plastic bottles sent to landfill, Liquid of Life creates water filtration products that give households and companies access to eco-friendly drinking water. Its under-the-sink filters allow users to drink straight from the tap and dispense with the need for plastic containers altogether.  
  8. Neutral Fuels UAE
    Biofuels 
    Neutral Fuels is gearing up for an IPO in 2023 with its promise to make reducing carbon emissions a commercial proposition by converting cooking oil into biodiesel. The company, which listed the first green bond from the Middle East in 2019, uses sensors and apps to optimise fuel consumption and save time and money in the management of transport fleets.

Sustainable agritech and vertical farms

The vertical farming methods of Badia Farms have made its produce popular in Dubai supermarkets
  1. Badia Farms UAE 
    Vertical farms
    Founder and CEO Omar Al-Jundi established the GCC’s first vertical farm in Dubai in 2016, tackling the desert climate with sustainable farming methods that bypass the need for sunlight, soil or pesticides. Badia Farms has since become a familiar name in UAE supermarkets and supplies high-end restaurants with herbs and microgreens grown using hydroponic techniques and recycled water.
  2. Desert Control UAE
    Biotechnology
    Desert Control specialises in climate-smart agritech solutions to combat desertification, soil degradation and water scarcity. As deserts spread rapidly and population growth increases pressure on fertile land, Desert Control has created a system to reverse desertification. Its Liquid Natural Clay enriches the fertile capability in desert sand, turning it back to soil in less than seven hours. “Increasing in-country agricultural production is important to support food security strategies in the Middle East,” says Ole Kristian Sivertsen, president and CEO of Desert Control. “By reducing the water consumption of green landscapes, agriculture and forests, we can create and support more arable land to grow food in a sustainable way. Water, food and a stable climate is the pathway to peace and prosperity for people and planet.”
  3. Plug’n’Grow Egypt
    Agritech
    With its hydroponics and aquaponics systems, Plug’n’Grow offers affordable growing solutions that aim to ease the transition to soilless technologies in the MENA region. “Expensive and elaborate technologies are readily available and accessible everywhere; however, they do not cater for your regular grower, who compares it to the cost of traditional agriculture,” says Nouran El-Said, business development director at Plug’n’Grow. “Our unique experience building and operating some of the MENA’s largest soilless projects for the past eight years has allowed us to develop competitive and market-fit systems that achieve superb economics.”
  4. Pure Harvest Smart Farms UAE
    Sustainable farming
    From high-tech greenhouses in the desert to supermarket shelves in UAE cities, Pure Harvest Smart Farms is proving that fruit and vegetables can be produced locally in a country that has traditionally imported the vast majority of its fresh produce. The company’s hydroponic greenhouses are seven times more efficient than a typical greenhouse farm in the UAE and 30 times more efficient than field farming.
  5. Red Sea Farms Saudi Arabia
    Agritech
    Specialising in sustainable agricultural solutions for harsh environments, the team of experts at Red Sea Farms uses saltwater and sunlight to grow food sustainably in water-scarce areas. Last year, the company raised $10m to expand into the neighbouring UAE, as well as the US, where its breakthrough technologies could help address the reliance on freshwater in food farming in arid environments.

Eco-fashion and design

The Giving Moment donates $4 to charity for every sports leisure item sold
  1. Bamboo Bazaar Iraq
    Beauty products
    Allan Jabbar and Aram Mahruf, the co-founders of Bamboo Bazaar, are on a mission to replace single-use plastics in the home with their line of sustainable products, including toothpaste tablets and bamboo toothbrushes, combs and straws.
  2. The Concept UAE
    Design
    Founded in 2017 with a mission to create disruptive hardware and software solutions that embody sustainability, technology and innovation, The Concept started out with smart in-flight food trays that gather data on passenger consumption, allowing airlines to minimise a major source of waste. The team has also turned its skills in hardware and technology innovation towards creating products for the hospitality and medical industries as well as sustainable packaging.
  3. The Giving Movement UAE 
    Fashion 
    The boom in demand for sports apparel during the pandemic has paved the way for sustainable leisure brands such as The Giving Movement, which aims to inspire conscious consumerism by donating $4 to charity for every item sold. The company recently raised $15m in funding after just two years in business and plans to expand its ethical clothing lines in the GCC and international markets. 
  4. Retold UAE 
    Fashion
    This sustainable fashion boutique was a pioneer of the pre-loved clothes movement in Dubai, aiming to give garments a new lease of life and minimise the items sent to landfill after just a few wears. The fashion industry sells 150 billion garments every year – around 20 items per person – but just a few months’ extra wear can reduce an item’s carbon footprint by 10 percent.
  5. Sarah’s Bag Lebanon 
    Handbags 
    More than 200 disadvantaged women have been trained to become artisans by this Beirut-based brand, whose bags have been used by the likes of Queen Rania of Jordan, Amal Clooney and Beyoncé. The label gives female prisoners a chance to rebuild their lives and reintegrate into society while empowering those living in poverty to support their families using locally sourced materials and traditional production methods.
  6. Zi Dolls Iraq
    Upcycled toys
    Syrian entrepreneur Zena Kanama recycles old dolls and repaints them before giving them a fresh start with custom clothes and make-up to sell online. Her designs range from Sixties fashion to festive looks and styles inspired by cinema and celebrities.

Digital solutions to environmental issues

Live, Love, Recycle in Lebanon enables customers to order their waste removal via an app
  1. Algebra Intelligence Jordan
    Energy tech
    Using artificial intelligence to build solutions for the energy sector, this Jordanian company has created TaQTaK, which allows users to monitor the energy generated by their photovoltaic solar systems and track their consumption. Founded in 2020, the startup recently secured $130,000 in funding for an app and new data-based platform.
  2. Greenshaov Iraq
    Smart agriculture
    This company has created a smart greenhouse system that uses artificial intelligence to improve soil quality and protect crops for Kurdish farmers as the impacts of climate change deplete natural resources, drive up costs and threaten yields. The system monitors water, humidity, temperature, soil acidity and other variables to maintain ideal growing conditions. The climate-adjusting artificial intelligence technology also helps farmers increase their crop variety to meet demand, with the aim of reducing the need for imports to Iraq.
  3. Live, Love, Recycle Lebanon
    Digital recycling
    Live, Love, Recycle was founded in 2015 to reduce the pressure on overflowing landfills in Lebanon by providing an affordable and accessible recycling solution. Users request a pick-up on the app or drop their items at the company warehouse, where over 100 tonnes of recyclables, including paper, plastic, glass, used cooking oil, batteries, electronics and clothes have been sorted so far. 
  4. Wattnow Tunisia
    Energy management
    This energy management company uses smart meters to measure energy consumption and provides detailed feedback via a mobile app so companies can reduce their costs and carbon footprint. Listed among the SET100 top energy start-ups worldwide, Wattnow has grown rapidly since its launch in 2018 and recently secured $1.3m in pre-series funding. 
  5. Whyise Jordan 
    Impact analytics 
    This impact analysis solution allows organisations to capture their ESG performance by aggregating data from different sources, including surveys, Excel and APIs so they can map their impact in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Global Reporting Initiative and other international standards.