Dr. Samir Thabet is the Corporate Sustainability Manager at Nesma & Partners. He brings over twenty-seven years of experience in diverse projects throughout all stages, including estimation, tendering, engineering & project execution of industrial, residential, and commercial MEP & sustainability in the Middle East region.
In his current role, Dr. Thabet oversees the organization’s sustainability strategy, ESG, and carbon footprint reduction strategy. Bringing a unique perspective to his leadership approach and drawing from his diverse background and experiences, he strives to create meaningful and lasting contributions to sustainability efforts in the construction industry and beyond.
A Journey from Humble Beginnings to Inspirational Leadership
Dr. Thabet was born into a refugee family in 1971, and despite facing various challenges, he worked hard to overcome them. Coming from a humble background, Dr. Thabet managed multiple jobs simultaneously that of a designer, freelancer, and driver, which involved working long hours from early morning until midnight. As a Mechanical Engineer, he has worn multiple hats in his diverse career in the construction industry. He has been part of project teams that have successfully delivered landmark buildings in the region, including hospitals, high-rise commercial and residential buildings, and oil and gas projects.
Along the way, Dr. Thabet realized the need for more awareness about sustainable principles in the construction industry, which motivated him to acquire expertise in sustainability and develop sustainable strategies for organizations. In 2021, he completed his Ph.D. in Sustainable Development and Diplomacy to further enhance his leadership attributes and address emerging global challenges shaped by climate change.
Nesma & Partners: Building Excellence Together
Established in 1981, Nesma & Partners is a leading contractor in Saudi Arabia, offering full-fledged services in the industrial, oil and gas, civil and buildings, and infrastructure sectors and significant electro-mechanical capacities. Through its services and strategic partnerships with local stakeholders, the company serves these key industries to build sustainable mega projects that power Vision 2030 and shape a brighter future for its people.
For the last 40 years, Nesma & Partners has established a track record of success in delivering some of the country’s most significant industrial and infrastructure projects for a wide range of clients in the public and private sectors, including Saudi Aramco, the Public Investment Fund, NEOM, Red Sea, Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA), General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), Ministry of the National Guard, Royal Commission, and the Ministry of Defence. With a reputation for safety, quality, and timely project delivery, the company has been at the forefront of creating job opportunities and is proud of its workforce of over 30,000 employees.
Roles and Responsibilities
As Corporate Sustainability Manager, Dr. Thabet’s role encompasses many responsibilities to drive sustainability across the organization. This involves developing and implementing policies and procedures to ensure that the company’s operations and projects are conducted in an environmentally, socially, and economically responsible manner. He also works closely with senior management and stakeholders to identify opportunities for improvement and develops plans to address any sustainability-related challenges.
Likewise, Dr. Thabet is responsible for driving measurable sustainability performance improvements within the organization. He also oversees the company’s sustainability reporting process, ensuring that the company adheres to relevant reporting frameworks and standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the United Nations Global Compact, and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). Another key aspect of his role is to provide sustainability-related training and guidance to employees at all levels of the organization.
A Holistic Approach to Sustainability
As one of the most trusted contractors in Saudi Arabia, Nesma & Partners takes a holistic approach to sustainability, with a focus on minimizing its environmental impacts, promoting social responsibility, and maintaining strong governance practices. The company remains focused on driving sustainable design and construction practices, including green building certifications such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or other regional rating systems and adopting sustainable materials and technologies. “This priority is an integral part of our neutral zero strategies, a proactive approach we have adopted at Nesma & Partners to address climate change and reduce environmental impacts by increasing energy efficiency, transitioning to renewable energy sources, optimizing the supply chain, and implementing waste reduction and circular economy initiatives,” asserts Dr. Thabet.
Additionally, to measure its environmental impacts, Nesma & Partners regularly conduct sustainability assessments and audits, which enables the company to identify areas for improvement and track progress over time. Some key metrics for tracking sustainability efforts include monitoring energy consumption, waste generation, water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions, among other indicators.
While implementing sustainability initiatives, Dr. Thabet encounters various challenges, from resistance to change to financial constraints. One key challenge he mainly faced in the past before the sustainability momentum became strong was a lack of buy-in from senior management, who viewed sustainability as an added cost rather than an investment in the organization’s long-term success. He addressed this challenge by educating stakeholders on the benefits of sustainability, such as cost savings, improved operational efficiency, and enhanced reputation.
Another challenge Dr. Thabet faced was identifying the most effective sustainability initiatives to implement, given limited resources. He shares, “To address this challenge, I conducted a thorough sustainability assessment to identify the areas where the organization could make the most significant impact.” Soon, under his leadership, a life cycle cost analysis tool was developed to show the stakeholders the payback period, which is the most crucial factor that influenced them to decide to implement any initiative, and it worked very well.
Likewise, Dr. Thabet developed tailored training and communication materials for suppliers and engaged them in regular conversations to ensure alignment on sustainability goals and progress to overcome language barriers, cultural differences, and varying levels of understanding of sustainability concepts while implementing sustainability initiatives in a global supply chain.
Effective Stakeholder Engagement and Communication are Key
Dr. Thabet considers engaging and communicating with stakeholders vital in building trust and credibility, fostering collaboration, and achieving sustainability goals. He states, “At our company, we use various communication channels and engagement strategies to reach out to different stakeholder groups.”
Nesma & Partners organizes employee training sessions and awareness campaigns, encouraging them to adopt sustainable behaviors and ideas. The company also recognizes and celebrates employee achievements in sustainability initiatives to promote participation and foster a sense of ownership and responsibility toward sustainability. The company emphasizes the importance of sustainability in its operations for clients and offers them solutions that align with their sustainability goals. For this, Dr. Thabet and the management team communicate openly and transparently about their sustainability efforts, sharing the company’s sustainability reports and responding to their sustainability-related queries. Similarly, for communities, Nesma & Partners participates in community development programs and supports local initiatives that promote sustainability.
Keeping Pace with Technological Changes and Innovation
As a sustainability professional, Dr. Thabet is committed to staying informed about the latest trends and best practices through various means. This includes attending industry conferences and workshops, engaging in professional development programs, and actively participating in relevant online forums and communities. Additionally, he emphasizes staying connected with experts and thought leaders in the field of sustainability through networking and collaboration. He also leverages his membership with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to access global sustainability reporting standards, GRI services, and support. He also has the opportunity to influence sustainability reporting standards, for example, contributing to the recent launch of the latest GRI standards in Arabic.
Moreover, Dr. Thabet makes it a priority to benchmark Nesma & Partners’ corporate sustainability practices against industry standards, certifications, and guidelines such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), ESTIDAMA (The Pearl Rating System), Mostadam, and GSAS (Global Sustainability Assessment System) which are regional sustainability frameworks. “This allows me to identify areas for improvement and align our practices with industry-leading standards,” shares Dr. Thabet.
Significant Career Milestones
As the Sustainability Manager at Nesma & Partners, a leading contractor in KSA focused on delivering landmark infrastructure, Dr. Thabet has achieved notable achievements and milestones in his sustainability efforts. These include successfully implementing green building standards, improved resource management, stakeholder engagement and partnerships, sustainability reporting and transparency, employee engagement, and training, and innovation and technology adoption.
Recently, a global magazine featured Dr. Thabet in The Hall of Fame-2023, and he was recognized as one of the Middle East’s most influential ESG Leaders of 2022.
Sustainability is a Journey Rather than a Destination
Dr. Thabet recommends that companies approach sustainability as a journey rather than a destination, continuously improving and adapting to changing circumstances and stakeholder expectations. He advises leaders to integrate sustainability into their operations and culture by following the essential steps.
The first thing to start is a strong commitment from the top management to support the sustainability journey. They should understand that sustainability, with its three pillars (environmental, social, and governance), is the only way to sustain their business and organization. Leaders must establish clear and measurable sustainability goals that align with the company’s values, mission, and stakeholders’ expectations. A strategy with clear goals for a defined period and a guideline identifying how to achieve these goals is the best way to start a sustainability journey.
Furthermore, leaders must also evaluate the company’s current practices, impacts, and risks to identify areas for improvement and prioritize actions accordingly. Similarly, they must engage internal and external stakeholders in the sustainability journey, from employees to suppliers, customers, and communities. This includes raising awareness, providing training, and soliciting feedback and ideas.
Embracing innovation and new technologies to drive sustainability improvements, from energy efficiency to waste reduction, circularity, and renewable energy is also helpful. Likewise, sharing regular measures and reporting progress towards sustainability goals, including successes and challenges with stakeholders, makes an impact. This provides transparency and credibility and inspires and engages others. Integrating sustainability into the company’s culture, values, and decision-making processes is crucial. This involves empowering employees to take ownership of sustainability and recognizing and rewarding sustainability achievements.
The Road to the Future
At Nesma & Partners, Dr. Thabet and his team plan to drive positive change toward sustainability, integrating sustainability into all aspects of the organization’s operations, collaborating with stakeholders, promoting innovation, and continuously improving sustainability performance. The long-term goal is to contribute towards achieving a more sustainable and environmentally responsible construction industry in the region that minimizes its environmental impact, conserves resources, promotes resilience to climate change, and supports the overall well-being of the communities.
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