Jean Michel Bolly, General Manager, Dubai Holding Group
When the stakeholders’ engagement and recognition are embedded in sustainable strategy
Q: Dubai Holding Group (DHG) works closely with suppliers in adopting and bringing the best practices and values in the region and it is the is leading ambassador for international retailers in the Gulf. Could you give me some examples of the practices that were adopted from the global fashion brands that you are applying?
Dubai Holding Group believes in aligning our sustainability practices with that of our brand partners. As a part of Inditex global initiative “Take Back Program”, we offer Abu Dhabi and Al Ain residents the chance to give another life to their clothes and accessories.
“A feather in our cap for the year 2020 is the collaboration with Emirates Red Crescent. Our Zara stores will have containers in the stores, where customers can donate their clothes / accessories / shoes irrespective of the brand. The garments, accessories and shoes that are in decent condition will be donated and the remains will be recycled. This project will help us reduce the waste to landfills. Be it Levi’s, H&M, Madewell, all fashions giants are walking the sustainability path, and we are walking in the same direction.”
Q: DHG has been investing in maintaining a strong staff base. Could you tell me more about your investments in staff and their development?
When we decided to walk the sustainability path, we knew that we had to change the mindset and shake the old habits of more than 500 employees. While for some of them change can feel uncomfortable, it is also inevitable component of our business. Major action areas that we identified in order to to follow sustainable practices are: energy, water, biodiversity and waste.
Some of the examples are: All DHG employees have been given their own personalized ceramic mugs in order to refrain from using plastic bottles. Employees take ownership to ensure that all laptops and computers are shut down from the main power outlet prior to leaving the office. If electronic devices are not being used, they automatically switch to sleep mode. We have created awareness and are promoting the use of recycled paper. We have healthy GO-GREEN competitions between the departments. Special budget has been allocated to our IT department in order to recycle devices instead of discarding them. Our employees have contributed in planting trees around the world and this initiative will continue. We believe in segregating our waste.
We are making sure that our employees are involved in the Brand Partner meetings on Sustainability and similar subjects. Well aware that the change of habits takes time, we want our employees to be constantly aware of their actions and rewarded for good practices.
Q: By keeping your focus on the product in terms of quality and consistency, you want to ensure that the customers return on a regular basis. How do you engage with your customers?
In the light of growing complexity of the fashion industry, it cannot be denied that the garment industry is one of the most polluting in the world. Consumers are now aware of the impact carbon footprint has on the environment. Following the initiative of our partner Inditex we have introduced the “Join Life” sustainable fashion line. The essence of this line is zero waste to the landfill from the brand operations. The factories of our brand partner are focusing on zero discharge of hazardous chemicals with the objective to use organic or recycled fabric. Our strategy is to involve our staff in the stores to promote the “Join Life ” line and use the interaction with our customers to emphasis the advantages.
“Furthermore, being well aware of the adverse effects of plastic on the environment, and catering to more than 1000 customers per day, as a fashion group we have decided to bring in a small difference by removing plastic bags for consumer purchase from all our brands.”
Q: The company has also considerably invested into software development in order to greatly improve stock handling and align it with its European partners. Have you seen any operational improvements, cost optimization, and/or waste reduction through packaging, paper use, etc.?
Yes, we have digitalized and automatized the process of our stock handling for our Inditex brands, known as RFID. This is highly advance technology leading to the increase in the productivity and efficiency of our employees . Thanks to this technology, we have managed to achieve immediate reduction in paper usage bringing it down by 25-40%. DHG is collaborating closely with partners to ensure all the plastic hangers from the stocks received are either recycled or put to multipurpose use instead of being discarded. For the year 2020 we are designing a plan to narrow down stock delivery from most of our brand partners to zero wastage.
Q: Looking towards the future, as a group you are making efforts to ensure your stores are eco-efficient by the end of 2020. Could you tell me more about it?
We are looking at more sustainable stores this year and this will be our biggest win. The objective of eco efficient stores is to reduce the environmental impacts. Eco efficient stores will be saving around 20% energy and 40% water. We will set up lights, heating and air conditioning in order to meet stores’ needs at any given moment, thus controlling our consumption of energy and reducing our CO2 emissions. We will be 100% successful when our stores’ electricity starts running on solar energy. We still have long way ahead of us but but we do envision it.
Established in 2000, Dubai Holding Group is a multicultural retail organization representing well known fashion and homeware franchises in the UAE, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. Dubai Holding Group has stores representing European favorites Zara, Zara Home, Promod, Stradivarius, Women’secret, Gerard Darel and Sfera. The Group’s portfolio offers exclusive brands to style conscious men, women and children, elevating the shopping experience to the next level. The retail group is continually working closely with international suppliers to deliver the unique brands and fashion customers in the GCC region know and love.