ESG Investments on the Rise in the Middle East
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April 3, 2023
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ESG Investments on the Rise in the Middle East

The Middle East has been witnessing a significant increase in ESG investments as the region aligns itself with the global shi

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investments have been gaining significant traction across the globe, and the Middle East is no exception. The region has seen a growing trend of ESG investments as investors become more conscious of the long-term impact of their investments on society and the environment. 

Apart from the rising temperature and extreme climate events experienced in the region in the past few years, Middle Eastern countries are driven by several factors. 

  • International pressure on the region's hydrocarbon-dependent economies to transition to sustainable energy sources.
  • The convening of COP27 and COP28 in the Middle East.
  • Institutional investors, drive ESG investment growth due to their long-term investment horizons. 
  • The financial industry is leveraging to become a leading green finance market by adopting various ESG-focused investment products, such as green bonds and socially responsible investment funds.
  • Governments in the Middle East have set ambitious long-term goals and net zero targets which companies have to comply with.  

As the world shifts towards cleaner energy sources, the Middle East must diversify its energy mix and reduce dependency on fossil fuel exports to adapt its economy to this global transition. Global fossil fuels demand is projected to peak between 2023–2025

Source: World Energy Outlook 2022

ESG Investments in the Middle East

Policymakers set net-zero targets and are driving the Middle East’s sustainable transition. Initiatives such as the UAE's Vision 2021, Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, and Qatar's National Vision 2030 reflect the region's commitment to sustainable development, economic diversification, and environmental conservation. 

The convening of COP27 and COP28 in the Middle East highlights the region's growing commitment to climate action and sustainable development, raising the bar for businesses in terms of ESG compliance. 

As a result, companies operating in the region are likely to face increased scrutiny and expectations to align their strategies with global climate goals, driving them to adopt more robust ESG practices and disclosures.

The Middle East's hydrocarbon-dependent economies are facing increasing international pressure to reduce their carbon footprints and transition to more sustainable energy sources.  

In accordance with Saudi Aramco's goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the company introduced a $1.5 billion sustainability fund in October 2022. This fund aims to invest in technologies that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its assets, complementing existing solutions and those in the development pipeline.

Investors in the Middle East are becoming more conscious of the potential risks and opportunities associated with ESG factors. This shift in mindset is driven by increasing awareness of global climate change, social inequality, and corporate governance issues. 

Examples of successful ESG investments in the region

Financial institution Lombard Odier's research found 81 percent of high-net-worth investors in the Middle East are thinking about ESG issues when looking at potential investments. 

The Middle East has embarked on the creation of sustainable projects. These projects highlight the commitment of the government and businesses towards transitioning towards a sustainable energy mix as well as a sustainable economy. 

  1. Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, UAE – A sustainable urban development project focused on renewable energy and clean technologies.
  2. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, Dubai, UAE – One of the world's largest solar energy projects, aiming for a total capacity of 5,000 MW by 2030.
  3. Marafiq Independent Water and Power Project, Yanbu, Saudi Arabia – A combined-cycle power and desalination plant with a focus on energy efficiency and environmental protection.
  4. The Shams 1 Solar Power Plant, Abu Dhabi, UAE – A 100 MW concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, one of the largest CSP projects in the world.

ESG and the Finance Sector of MENA

The financial industry in the Middle East has been responding to the growing demand for ESG investments by developing a range of ESG-focused investment products, such as green bonds, socially responsible investment (SRI) funds,

The major initiatives by the Middle Eastern financial sector include the issuance of green bonds, the launch of ESG-focused equity funds, and the development of ESG guidelines and frameworks. 

  1. First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) issued a $587 million green bond in 2019, the first of its kind in the UAE, to finance renewable energy projects.
  2. SABB Takaful, a Saudi-based insurance provider, launched an ESG-focused Shariah-compliant equity fund in 2020.
  3. Dubai Financial Market (DFM) introduced its ESG Reporting Guide in 2018, encouraging listed companies to adopt ESG reporting practices.
  4. Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) partnered with Refinitiv in 2020 to develop ESG guidelines and promote sustainable finance in the region.


The importance of ESG investments for the sustainable development of the Middle East cannot be overstated. As the Middle East continues to diversify its energy mix and reduce its reliance on fossil fuel exports, ESG investments will play a crucial role in driving a more sustainable and inclusive economy, ultimately contributing to a better quality of life.

The Middle East has been witnessing a significant increase in ESG investments as the region aligns itself with the global shift toward sustainable development. Driven by government initiatives, growing awareness among investors, international pressure, and the active role of institutional investors, ESG investments are becoming an essential component of the region's financial landscape. 

The finance sector has been actively catering to this growing demand by offering a variety of ESG-focused investment products and services, such as green bonds, sustainable funds, and ESG reporting guidelines.

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