Kuanain Shahidi
Kaunain Shahidi
Further Information
27th Feb 2024
drupa 24 will take place from 28 May–7 June, in Düsseldorf, Germany. Kaunain Shahidi, discusses the urgency of sustainability both in industry and individual lifestyles

Sustainability – the preservation of natural resources – has become a driving force in many industries, including print and packaging. From the perspective of the printing and packaging industries, tremendous developments have been made. Over the past few years, this sector has succeeded in reducing its use of natural resources. The use of innovative materials, machinery solutions and technical adaptations are some of the practices being implemented.

Kuanain Shahidi
Kuanain Shahidi is a strategic thinker with over 20 years’ experience in packaging development and procurement

Way back in 1713, Hanns Carl, Head of the Royal Mining Office in Saxony, Germany, came up with the word ‘nachhalten’, meaning sustained. Timber was an important resource at this time. Carl had proposed to harvest wood only when new growth replaced the old. Later on, with the addition of another German word, ‘entwicklung’, the term ‘nachhaltige entwicklung’ – sustainable development – was born.


Currently, climate change is the single biggest threat to humanity. Due to greenhouse-gas emissions, atmospheric CO2 and the depletion of natural resources, amongst other factors, the global temperature is rising, sea levels are changing and the icecaps are melting.

The production of global greenhouse-gas emissions must be reduced. Experts report that emissions needed to be lowered by 43% by 2023.

According to OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) guidelines, solutions include the reduction in the use of fossil fuels, taxes on CO2 and methane gas emissions, collaborative innovation and support for green technologies. In addition to the 17SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) of UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), some international organisations have initiated concepts, including net zero, carbon neutrality and empowering sustainable decisions. However, more needs to be done globally.


Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is considered to be one of the most sensitive geographical areas. It is facing extremely high temperatures, limited agricultural land and water scarcity. Moreover, its population is growing fast. The Gulf Co-Operation Council (GCC) states generate some of the highest levels, per capita, of carbon emissions in the world, exporting large quantities of fossil fuels. 

The major economies of MENA have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2060. There is serious consideration for various initiatives in order to control emissions, such as reducing flaring of natural gas and increasing energy efficiency.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is developing a major carbon capture and storage (CCS) project. It is expected that the Conference of Parties (COP28) – hosted by the UAE in December 2024 – will amplify climate action and serve as a platform for innovative, sustainability solutions.


Various local brand owners and packaging manufacturers have already started multiple initiatives to curb the challenges. Their focus is to meet the net-zero targets. As reported, TetraPak – one of the leading suppliers of packaging materials in the region – reached 80% renewable electricity in its operations. This was achieved by doubling solar photo-voltaic capacity and reducing 36% of greenhouse-gas emissions, compared to 2019.

“In order to come into a harmonious co-existence, lifestyles and industrial practices must be altered”

In the latest Sustainability Report of Almarai – the leading food and beverage company in MENA – the business aims to prevent 9,000 tonnes3 of waste by 2025 and has already achieved a total of 6,456 tonnes3. In 2022, the company removed 713 tonnes3 of plastic and 74 annualised tonnes3 of paper weight. Almarai considers the necessity of packaging and the use of recycled materials.


“The climate crisis is not a scientific problem that can be solved by technology alone”


In the midst of various sustainability programmes, initiatives and agendas, experts have started to look at another approach – exploring management and protection of ecological systems through a design approach. Most practices – under the banner of sustainability – are focused on an attempt to reduce the damage caused by the exploitation and depletion of natural resources.

“It is equally important for all decision makers to look into current education systems”

The climate crisis is not a scientific problem that can be solved by technology alone. The vast majority of people do not align their lifestyles with nature. A huge attitude shift is needed to find some respect and compassion for the natural world.

Personal reflection is equally important to industrial solutions. Each of us has our own unique carbon footprint. Through many everyday choices, we have an impact on our environment. It is important to consider the effects of location, food choices, gadgets, transportation, shopping habits and travel amongst many others. For example, a short email from one laptop to another emits an estimated 0.3g of CO2 equivalent.


drupa offers a great opportunity for the printing industry to come together on a single platform. Thus enabling discussion and exchanges of ideas, and the evaluation of current practice. It is expected that drupa 2024 will showcase a range of innovative solutions and the latest in sustainable printing methods and practices. When developing an action plan for sustainability, it is important to focus on cultures, mindsets and a futuristic approach. Well thought out and integrated collaboration with the use of the latest transformative technologies are essential.


It is equally important for all decision makers to look into current education systems. Providing students with the knowledge and skills to embrace sustainable habits is the first step towards building a greener future. Younger generations need to have a comprehensive understanding of climate change, its challenges and the ways in which the environment can be protected.

The UAE has already taken a positive step in this direction and, recently, the Ministry of Education signed the Green Education Partnership with UNESCO and UNICEF to spearhead a climate-education programme across schools and universities.


The world’s ecosystem is beautiful and perfect in its design. Conversely, the world’s inhabitants’ design-for-living does not consider this wonderful creation. In order to come into a harmonious co-existence, lifestyles and industrial practices must be altered. The natural world requires help and commitment, and time is running out. 


This article is a summary of the expert article from the drupa, Essentials Of Print Series. To see the full report, please visit