27 Oct Communicating sustainability in Saudi Arabia: A profile of AEON Strategy
What was the inspiration behind starting AEON Strategy?
The founders of AEON have always seen the value of sustainable practices and the importance of inclusivity and social equity in development. They understood the necessary synergy between policy and advocacy that is needed to push change and accelerate progress. Pursuing such a path lead them to complete their Master’s degrees in international affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. It was there – through cross-disciplinary coursework, and by working closely with faculty from the policy department and the earth science department – that they became inspired to pursue careers at the intersection of energy and environmental policy.
What are the company’s main focus areas?
AEON strategy is a sustainable development advisory firm. Based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, AEON is one of the first local firms that provides consultation and conducts studies on topics related to climate change and the future of energy. AEON’s services cover multiple topics related to sustainable development, working at the intersection of energy, environment, and socioeconomic progress. In parallel, AEON operates a non-for-profit research collective that is separately endowed. Centred within the sustainability ecosystem, AEON engages a wide network of contributors to its collective through multiple initiatives and activities to build on experiences and expertise and further inspire a community of collaboration and promote a deeper understanding of topics and the complexities that lie within it. Their lecture, workshop and discussion series as well as their collaborative effort “Saudi Sustainability Talks Series” aim to promote a deeper understanding of issues related to sustainable development and the complexities that lie within it. As propagators of knowledge, the collective also produces knowledge pieces ranging from accessible narratives on sustainability topics, to more in-depth studies. They are also launching an Artist in Residence program to further communicate sustainability through the humanities.
When did AEON Strategy begin?
The idea of forming their own company had been an ongoing discussion since their time at graduate school. When they moved back to Riyadh, each of the founders pursued a separate career. In late 2016 however, they decided that to achieve what they wanted to achieve, they needed to build their own model and sought organic growth by addressing niche markets. AEON strategy officially began its operations a year later.
Can you talk about some of the main projects you are working on in Saudi Arabia? Any projects in Riyadh?
For the moment all of the projects are in Riyadh, although AEON does leverage global partnerships; in the US, UK, and Europe. The founders have worked in both the residential and commercial sector to address energy efficiency needs, providing support and strategy guidance to local and international entities.
What is next for AEON?
Between the various programs under Vision 2030 and as Saudi prepares to take over the G20 Presidency for the year 2020, a lot of momentum is happening. AEON sees itself contributing to various efforts through its activities and engagements with various stakeholders, to pursue a shared national vision for prosperity and position the country at the forefront of advancement in development and sustained progress.
Can you share an overview of sustainability in the Kingdom?
Sustainability in Saudi Arabia is a burgeoning field. Thanks to an emphasis from the leadership in our government, every major corporation knows that it needs to have a strategy for sustainability. We are very encouraged by all the efforts being made in Saudi Arabia from the policy side since the Paris Agreement in 2015 and the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals earlier that same year. There remains a lot of work to be done however, addressing knowledge gaps and capacity constraints are one of the main areas of focus.
Where can WSB Readers read about you (website, social media)
aeonstrategy.com, aeoncollective.org, saudisustainabilitytalks.com, @aeonstrategy (Twitter & Instagram)
Can you share some tips for leading a sustainable lifestyle in Riyadh?
The term sustainability is broad and covers multiple facets of a person’s life; ranging from managing one’s finances to repurposing personal items, using and reusing environmentally friendly materials for packing and storage. It could also refer to how one contributes back to society. The concept of sustainability is generally concerned with the economic, environmental and social aspects of our lives. It presents itself differently and can take multiple forms depending on circumstances and mean different things to different people. The aim in our belief is to be mindful of the impact of one’s activities and the choices they make, how a decision could impact one’s personal life, how would it affect society, and what impact would it have on future generations. From an ecological and environmental perspective, one could begin by adopting practices that are easy to sustain. Build on the surrounding infrastructure and ecosystem to enhance awareness around sustained practices to promote and push for a stronger culture of environmental stewardship.
Mashael Al Shalan and Noura Al Saud are the founding partners of AEON Strategy.
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