The Worlds Times: Explain your background and “SAWACO” in detail.

Dr. Ahmad Yousef Kutbi: since I was an undergrad student, I started to be interested in renewable energy technologies, sustainability, and climate change (particularly when US Vice President Al Gore published his book The Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It, which was published back in 2006).

To give you a prospective about my educational journey, I have been awarded BSc. In Mechanical Engineering (Thermal Engineering and Desalination Technologies) in 2009 from King Abdulaziz University. Of the different fields to start my career I chose to work in the water treatment and desalination industry from (2009 – 2011), which enforced my curiosity about issues like water-energy nexuses, environmental impacts pertaining to operating desalination and wastewater treatment facilities, and importance of incorporating a holistic approach and strategies to achieve sustainability. This also fueled my drive to resume my higher studies which started in 2012 and completed in 2020 at Glasgow Caledonian University (MSc. in Energy and Environmental Management (awarded in 2013) and PhD in Environmental Sustainability (awarded in 2020) from the School of Engineering and Built Environment) to broaden and deepen my understanding about energy technologies, climate change, environmental and sustainability approaches to address and tackle these issues. Furthermore, to be equipped with knowledge and tools that enables my career in the Sustainability field and to be among the Saudi pioneers whom contributing to advocating, implementing, and advancing Sustainability in Saudi Arabia to fulfill Saudi Vision 2030.

I would like to introduce SAWACO before I continue, SAWACO is an established private company with more than 20 years of experience in the water desalination industry and is one of the leading suppliers of bulk un-bottled potable water in the western region of Saudi Arabia. Sawaco invests in R&D and in new technologies that aim to enhance water production and reduce environmental impacts.

SAWACO recognizes its responsibilities towards the environment and society, therefore, I was appointed as the first Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Officer in the company and perhaps as the first ESG Officer in the Saudi Private Sector.

As an ESG officer I’m responsible for developing and implementing strategies, policies, and initiatives that align with SAWACO’s commitment to environmental sustainability, social responsibility and strong corporate governance.

The Worlds Times: What are your goals?

Dr. Ahmad Yousef Kutbi: the goals are:

  1. Enable companies in their transition towards sustainability.
  2. Promoting Sustainability and ESG practices within the Saudi SME companies. I believe mainstreaming these practices can drive sustainable development and responsible business practices in Saudi Arabia.

The Worlds Times: What do you feel is the biggest strength of you as an “ESG OFFICER” right now?

Dr. Ahmad Yousef Kutbi: I believe that as an ESG officer, one of the strengths lies in aligning SAWACO’s sustainability ESG strategies with the core business activities. By integrating sustainability considerations into the overall corporate strategy, I can help as an ESG Officer to drive long-term value creation and enhance the company reputation.

The Worlds Times: What was the path you took to get to where you are today?

Dr. Ahmad Yousef Kutbi: I have been interested in environmental protection solutions, renewable energy solutions, material resource recovery. When I came back from my scholarship, my appointment as an ESG Officer made a perfect fit to put my passion, knowledge and research and reporting skills to lead and build SAWACO’s ESG department.

The Worlds Times: Why did you start “SAWACO”?

Dr. Ahmad Yousef Kutbi: [Not applicable question to me, you may delete this question from this interview.]   

The Worlds Times: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome during your journey as an “ESG OFFICER”?

Dr. Ahmad Yousef Kutbi: ESG is an emerging topic in general and especially to SMEs companies in Saudi Arabia, I would say the biggest challenge for me as an ESG Officer is navigating the best practices for ESG reporting.

The Worlds Times: Give us one word that describes you the best.

Dr. Ahmad Yousef Kutbi: I would describe myself as “visionary”.

The Worlds Times: What do you value the most about “SAWACO” vision?

Dr. Ahmad Yousef Kutbi: SAWACO Water Group opt to pioneer the private desalination sector and take strides towards achieving environmental sustainability through investing in innovative solutions to enhance the performance of its plants, which, results in reducing its raw materials consumption, energy consumption, GHGs emissions and create a positive environmental and social impact.

The Worlds Times: What are the strategies of “SAWACO” and how do you stand unique from your competitors?

Dr. Ahmad Yousef Kutbi: There are different strategies that SAWACO takes to be ahead of its competitors in the private sector such as:

  1. Initiating a GHGs Emission accounting program,
  2. reducing its dependency on fossil fuels as a source of electricity,
  3. Incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) in its processes to enhance and optimize operational conditions which consequently results in equipment longevity, reduction in energy consumption, and chemical consumption.
  4. Considering incorporating renewable energy to the energy mix for operating SAWACO’s desalination plants.
  5. Investing and adopting new technologies to increase the freshwater recovery rate from Reverse Osmosis desalination systems to more than 60%.

The Worlds Times: What are the key values which helped you to overcome the challenges in your path? Tell us something about your memorable incident as an “ESG OFFICER”
Dr. Ahmad Yousef Kutbi: As an ESG Officer, I believe that key values that helps me overcome challenges are protecting the environment and enabling people & society.

The Worlds Times: How do you see “SAWACO” changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?

Dr. Ahmad Yousef Kutbi: SAWACO established a new department called “ESG department” when I joined the company. This illustrates SAWACO’s commitment to ESG practices and to address its ESG performance.

The Worlds Times: What benefits are clients getting from “SAWACO” in this competitive world?

Dr. Ahmad Yousef Kutbi: SAWACO provides its clients with both high-quality drinking water standard, and bespoke water quality for industrial purposes. Having said that, SAWACO is striving to provide its clients with desalinated water with the lowest emission factor per cubic meter produced.  


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