Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund Spotlights ESGs for Start-up’s Long-term Value Creation


United Arab Emirates: The Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) hosted the ‘ESG Principles: Opportunities and Risks for Start-ups’ panel discussion which explored the role of ESG leadership in creating long-term differentiated value for start-ups at the 10th edition of Step Conference, the largest technology festival for emerging markets.

Moderated by Shaker Zainal, Head of MBRIF at EDB, operator of the Fund, the insightful discussion featured the perspectives and insights of a cross-section of industries from finance, legal, policy and start-up entrepreneurs. The panellists included Ahmed Mohamed Al Naqbi, CEO at Emirates Development Bank; Abdullah Mutawi, Partner and Head of Corporate Commercial at Tamimi & Company and Jihad Sadiq, Founder at FortyGuard.

During the discussion, the speakers emphasized that a robust corporate strategy which embeds ESG principles can create a competitive edge, increase access to capital and build a stronger brand while promoting sustainable long-term growth. They also added that a focus on ESGs reduces reputational risks, which can negatively affect businesses especially in the early stages.

On the need for companies to consider ESGs as a differentiator, Ahmed Mohamed Al Naqbi, CEO at Emirates Development Bank, said: “ESGs are something that every organization, every CEO should be looking at. All stakeholders matter, but there are two that are essential – your staff and your customers. To attract the best talent, you must have an ethos and a mission. CEOs must think about ESGs because in the next five to 10 years, you will start to see major corporations that have not differentiated their brand or incorporated a proper mission quickly fall to the wayside.”

Emphasizing the business advantage of an ESG strategy, Shaker Zainal, Head of MBRIF at EDB, operator of the Fund said: “A focus on ESGs is not just a moral imperative – it is also good for business. Increasingly, investors are analysing ESG performance in order to gain a holistic view of the company, because we have seen that companies with higher ESG ratings tend to be more competitive and profitable. At MBRIF, we recognize the strong potential for ESGs to catalyse growth and mobilise measurable value for start-ups, which is why we were keen to host this important discussion at Step Conference and explore ESGs through different lens.”

On a company’s responsibility to planet and people, Abdullah Mutawi, Partner and Head of Corporate Commercial at Tamimi & Company, said: “Regarding the ESGs, we can create an exponential network effect by looking beyond implementing ESG principles within an organizational structure, but also by imposing it across the supply chain. The healthy functioning of any society requires healthy relationships between people and the environment and commitment at every level of the decision-making process.”

On how start-ups can embrace the ESGs, Jihad Sadiq, Founder at FortyGuard, a CleanTech start-up and MBRIF alumni, said: “For start-ups, implementing ESGs does not require change, it’s about creating. We are creating governance that looks at best practices, ensuring that we treat our employees well, and looking at the environmental factors in our supply chain. As a start-up rooted in sustainable practices, we are providing technologies to the market that advances ESG practices.”

The panellists agreed that the practice of ESGs principles requires multi-stakeholder cooperation and support in order to create the sea change necessary for holistic sustainable development.

Since its inception, MBRIF has played a key role in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in line with the UAE government’s vision to create a knowledge-based economy. Through the Guarantee Scheme and the Accelerator program, MBRIF provides innovators with access to affordable funding, world-class services and networking opportunities.

About the MBRIF:

The Mohammed bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) is a federal initiative launched by the Ministry of Finance and is operated by Emirates Development Bank. Since its launch in 2016, the MBRIF has supported innovators through its first program, the Guarantee Scheme, which offers members access to affordable funding through a government-backed guarantee and without taking equity.

The MBRIF’s second program, the MBRIF Accelerator, was launched in December 2018. Aligned with the UAE National Innovation Strategy, the initiative aims to enhance growth potential of innovative businesses shaping the future of UAE’s economy. The MBRIF Accelerator offers world-class services and coaching to member companies to accelerate their business, elevate capabilities, unlock value and achieve scale.

Additionally, the MBRIF partners with the public and private sector to help facilitate growth, provide support, create opportunities and pave the way to success for its member companies in the UAE.