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“UAE’s First Environmental NGO: From Flower Shop to Climate Advocate”

Emirates Environmental Group (EEG), the UAE’s inaugural environmental NGO, had its origins in a flower shop. In an interview with Khaleej Times, the organization’s co-founder and chairperson, Habiba Hassan Sultan Al Mar’ashi Al Hashimi, revealed that the bustling flower shop in Bur Dubai’s Al Bastakiya district served as her operational hub from 1991 to 1997.

“We were fortunate to receive an office space generously donated by a prominent Abu Dhabi businessperson, and I am immensely thankful to him for his support. Over time, my involvement in volunteering evolved, and I began to derive greater satisfaction from it. Gradually, I became deeply committed to this cause, and I developed a genuine passion for the work,” shared the Emirati leader, who has been driving the organization’s environmental initiatives for more than three decades.

Today, EEG stands as one of the Middle East’s most highly regarded environmental entities. Notably, it holds the distinction of being the world’s first environmental NGO to attain ISO 14001 certification. Furthermore, it is the sole organization in the UAE within its category to hold accredited status under both the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).

From Business Administration to Environmental Advocate Recounting the origin of her journey, Al Mar’ashi disclosed that she had pursued a degree in business administration.

Transitioning from administration and HR work to a green advocate, Al Mar’ashi reflected on her career evolution. Initially immersed in her role with the Federation of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry, she felt a deep inner calling to make a greater contribution to her young and beautiful country.

With a group of 12 individuals from diverse backgrounds, she ventured into the environmental realm, fundamentally altering her perspectives and understanding of pressing issues.

This transformation gained momentum, prompting her to eliminate distractions, including selling her businesses and eventually leaving her government job by the end of 2000. By 2001, she dedicated herself full-time to her environmental mission, marking the inception of a new chapter for EEG.

Addressing global environmental challenges, she emphasized the importance of collective action and comprehensive solutions, spanning climate change, water scarcity, biodiversity loss, land degradation, and waste management.

Looking ahead to COP28, she stressed the significance of transformative partnerships, particularly between the private sector and NGOs. To engage effectively with businesses, she emphasized the need to speak their language, demonstrate the tangible benefits of their investments, and make a compelling business case for environmental initiatives.

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