Richard Burge, CEO, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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On connections between leading global cities and the evolving nature of business

What are the similarities between London and the cities of the UAE, and how does this likeness help to strengthen global trade and growth?

RICHARD BURGE: London, an urban centre of 9m people that is involved in every possible economic activity and contributes 20% to the GDP of the UK, should be viewed as a world city – not only as the capital city of the UK. 

People from all over the world come to London for work and tourism, and would do so even if the city was located elsewhere. In this sense, London can be considered an important resource for the people of the UK because of the benefits it brings to the entire country. 

World cities are treated as domestic resources, not only in their host countries but in other countries, too. Dubai and Abu Dhabi have a similar impact beyond the UAE.

This classification is at the centre of the close relationship between London and the UAE’s major metropolises. In fact, both London and the primary cities of the UAE share a strong sense of being world cities, with a very similar global view of the world that is key to their prosperity.

Nowadays, partnerships between world cities, such as London and Dubai, and London and Abu Dhabi, are vital to reviving a true sense of 21st century globalisation – a sense that focuses on sharing prosperity, delivering growth through effective business and securing peace via international trade. As such, close ties between world cities in the UK and the UAE will be an important model for future global trade and growth.

How can governments work towards achieving net-zero emissions targets and a green industrial revolution through private enterprises?

BURGE: Governments need to change the way they view green investments and incentives. At present, governments frequently create disincentives to sustainable development. Corporations should be discouraged from utilising fossil fuels and receive sufficient incentives to deploy renewable solutions instead. 

The governmental approach should view green incentives as investments in a country’s future, rather than as deficits in public expenses. This change in mindset would encourage deeper engagement from the private sector in the green economy. 

Furthermore, the public sector needs to hold more open conversations with a broader range of private interlocutors on green topics, from early-stage start-ups to mature companies. This would help define and refine business strategies and enable accelerated progress in the green industrial revolution.

To what degree is it important for private companies to adopt environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles?

BURGE: The focus should be on resilience, both in terms of building a company’s own resilience and contributing to global business resilience. 

For a long time private enterprises thought mainly about individual financial resilience and shareholder value, with regulations and policies incentivising short-term revenue rather than long-term investment in sustainable growth. 

It is now time for businesses to plan for long-term sustainability, which includes assessing environmental and social impacts, and analysing their own resilience and future-readiness. 

There are two main ways for companies to do this. The first is to check that their activities align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The second is to measure the impact of sustainable business undertakings against recognised ESG criteria. However, for this to happen more broadly, the business world requires consistent and globally accepted standards for ESG assessment and validation.

Who is responsible for ensuring that the future workforce is equipped for the rapid changes related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

BURGE: The public and private sectors are both responsible for creating a workforce that is job- and future-ready. Businesses need to accept a greater role in this process, and governments need to do more to enable the transition. The new UK Local Skills Improvement Plan is a good example of such efforts. 

Companies cannot expect to hire fully trained workers straight from technical schools or universities. They will need to invest in job-readiness programmes that target the development of specific skills needed at a job site. 

The education sector, from its side, should ensure that students are equipped with the soft skills needed for them to be successful, such as intellectual flexibility, curiosity and teamwork.
 

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