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This sustainability pioneer believes circular design is the key to redesigning a sustainable world

Designer and founder of the Sustainable Narrative Najia Qazi hopes to bring together the business community and their sustainability goals under one umbrella.

This sustainability pioneer believes circular design is the key to redesigning a sustainable world
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

With the fashion industry on pace to triple global production to 160 million tons of clothing by 2050, the industry is one of the world’s leading polluters.

But Najia Qazi, sustainability consultant and designer, is not here to demonize it. Instead, as the founder of the Sustainable Narrative, she wishes to transform the industry. A designer herself, Qazi sees the pandemic as an opportunity for emerging designers to take their place in our wardrobes and wants to see this local economy flourish. Her platform, Sustainable Narrative, offers businesses information and guidance on how to implement a circular business mindset, which she believes is not currently sufficiently available.

Qazi, of Pakistani origin living in Dubai, further explains, “At Sustainable Narrative, we mainly focus on conceptualizing, designing, and consulting on sustainable design solutions to various design hubs, incubators, and startups. Our premise is the circular design theory, and with the current platform, we hope to bring together the business community and their sustainability goals and initiatives under one umbrella”.

Qazi and her team have worked with various sustainable businesses within the UAE and internationally. The impressive list includes Dubai Design District (Fashion Forward Dubai & Dubai Design Week), BETA Poland, Slow Fashion Movement (Amsterdam), VIDA (San Francisco), IN5 Design (Dubai). “With a vision to support businesses, our team effectively combines expertise in sustainability and creativity to present bespoke strategies for the clients, such as brand strategy and development, partnerships, digital communications, and events,” Qazi elaborates.

THE MAGIC Rs – REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE 

Her secret formula? “Any business new to the green movement will find its starting line in the 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, reveals Qazi. This is the model that the Sustainable Narrative encourages businesses to apply to every facet, from packaging to office supplies, operations, and supply chains. “Secondly, I always promote focusing on renewable energy as it is a long-term investment,” says Qazi, “it’s important to understand that change begins with knowledge, education, and civil conversation. Your business can promote employee dialogue through company sustainability practices and policies. And further by making your customers aware of your policies to reduce carbon emissions and make them aware of the tactics they can use to reduce emissions.”

AND WHAT OF PUBLIC PRESSURE?

“We need to realize that the transition to a more responsible future must also involve the role of the consumers,” Qazi says. This increase in consumers’ demands for sustainable products and services has got local startups listening.

“With trendier alternatives and substitutes to existing choices, we’re seeing startups often motivated by a desire to truly improve the environment for future generations,” she continues. Qazi and her team of sustainable consultants tell their clients how important it is to consider the various factors influencing the customer’s decision.

It ranged from awareness regarding their production process, their usage of materials and components, and the effects their business has on climate. “Small and large businesses, both, can embrace these changing mindsets and amend their ways to cater to the demands appropriately,” she says.

IS SUSTAINABILITY JUST A BUZZWORD?

While many larger multinational corporations may be more slow-moving to jump on to the new, cleaner ways of business, the UAE is certainly not lagging. To work towards being more eco-friendly by 2050, investment in clean technologies and sustainable development, and the likes of Abu Dhabi revealing big plans to eliminate single-use plastic bags, Qazi believes Sustainable Narrative has selected the suitable home base.

“Abu Dhabi plans to declare itself free of single-use plastics by this year,” she says. In line with enhancing environmental sustainability and encouraging individuals to reduce excessive use of plastics, the Executive Council of Dubai has approved the policy to limit single-use bags by imposing a tariff of 25 fills on single-use bags used for carrying goods from July 1, 2022. The country aims to foster a culture throughout society that recycles and reuses, one that Qazi and her team continue to instill throughout the UAE and abroad.

Qazi reveals that the rise of the sustainable movement in the UAE has “created opportunities in this market to focus on circular design solutions, which means that products are to be designed, sourced, and provided to be used and circulated responsibly.”

“This recognizes the importance of the businesses in this region to work effectively and efficiently at all scales – for large and small businesses, for organizations and individuals, globally and locally. Transitioning to a circular mindset does not only amount to adjustments aimed at reducing the negative impacts of the linear. Instead, it represents a systemic shift that builds long-term resilience, generates business and economic opportunities, and provides environmental and societal benefits,” she adds. Precisely what Sustainable Narrative helps businesses do.

MOST IMPRESSIVE MILESTONE (SO FAR)

Garnier’s One Green Step campaign, in collaboration with EXPO 2020, focused mainly on promoting greener living. A digital educational campaign, followed by a physical event at EXPO 2020, encouraged people to share the steps they are taking in their day-to-day lives to help the environment. The campaign is rooted in the brand’s commitments and its determination to promote Green Beauty accessible to everyone.

Naturally, this was a fit Sustainable Narrative that emphasizes educating and encouraging consumers to take ownership of their journey towards more responsible and sustainable choices. “Being part of this elevated the exposure of Sustainable Narrative within the UAE,” says Qazi, “Expo 2020 is a gem in the throne for the UAE, and Garnier has been a household name for generations. To be a part of this collaboration allowed us to expand our horizon and contribute even more effectively to build a sustainable future.”

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