Summer is always hot in the Gulf region but this year, residents are finding it hotter than ever. Kuwait is expected to hit 50 degrees Celsius in the next few weeks, while according to the Gulf Times, “real-feel” temperatures have already ranged between 55 and 60 degrees in some areas in the UAE.
In short, the climate is very much in crisis. The Middle East is far from the only place affected by global warming – and both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are impressively committed to tackling the issue – but when it comes to digital conversations, the climate crisis isn’t exactly a hot topic (pardon the pun). In 2022, Gulf News questioned why sustainability hasn’t yet “been absorbed into the mainstream influencer community”, while 80% of UAE residents called for local brands to “prioritise sustainability and social issues” more often.
There’s a couple of likely reasons as to why. First and foremost, it’s always been hot in the Gulf. A few degrees difference may appear less significant when the geographical base level is pretty high. The UAE’s hottest day ever came in 2002 and hasn’t been matched since.
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Then there’s the fact that, for a lot of high-profile figures, these kinds of conversations just don’t happen on social media. Mabel Goulden, founder of digital agency Social Flex, recently told CORQ she finds brands are typically “careful about joining important conversations”, such as about the environment and sustainability.
Appetite for environment and sustainability content
There are definitely wrong ways to frame digital conversations about the climate. In 2021, a man was deported from Kuwait after “insulting” the country by “sarcastically expressing his dissatisfaction with the weather and dust storm”. It’s also important to remember that local laws prevent individuals from criticising corporations.
But handled in a factual, non-defamatory way, this is a beat in the cultural zeitgeist that’s important to cover. There’s also a clear appetite for the brands and creators that are spotlighting sustainability in their content. Athleisurewear brand The Giving Movement has drummed up huge buzz on Instagram with its mission statement of “[raising] awareness for the cause of saving the environment”. Every item that’s sold contributes 15 AED (£3) to charitable causes. Harvey Nichols also saw massive hype for its in-store sustainable edit in 2022.
Meanwhile, nine-year-old Green Ghaya has been compared to Greta Thunberg for her climate activism – hitting a consistent engagement rate of 4.5% on Instagram. Hotelier and interiors creator Maryam Montague is renowned for founding Project Soar, a non-profit that empowers young girls to advocate for important issues such as the environment. Fashion blogger Amanda Rushforth has built her entire following on ethical, sustainable content – with a huge focus on marine conservation – and fashion journalist Sujata Assomull is a powerful voice on conscious consumption.
Consumers don’t just listen to these conversations, they actively want to play their part. A recent study found that 60% of UAE residents want to live more sustainably. With 2023 the UAE’s official Year of Sustainability – and with the climate crisis making itself fully known region-wide – now’s the time for brands and creators to join in.
By Chloe James, CORQ Middle East correspondent.