Masdar City Creates Market For Green Supply Chain Industry

Masdar City Creates Market For Green Supply Chain Industry

Ahmed Nasr

Team Lead, SCOR by IOT

Masdar city is a 6 square kilometer project which was initiated in 2006 to become one of the world’s most sustainable community. It is located in Abu Dhabi city in adjacent to many beautiful neighborhoods such as Yas Island, Khalifa City and Abu Dhabi international airport.

The project currently hosts a 10 megawatt solar plant consist of more than 87,000 PV panels but another 160 megawatt yet to be added (1). The city is owned subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company which owns many local and global renewable energy plants. Obviously, what differentiate Masdar from the rest of Mubadala’s projects is the fact that Masdar is not limited to generate clean energy only, but exceeds that concept into become a home for 45,000 people and a work destination for around 60,000 workers by 2030.

The city is designed to bring a unique life experience to all who walk by. Whether looking at the ancient emirates style of the buildings, or walking around its natural shaded paths or even utilizing one of its ecological facilities. In short, a sustainable city providing the highest quality of life with the lowest environmental footprint where concepts such as clean-tech, 100% renewable powered utilities, zero waste, carbon neutralized and fuel fossil can be found in one cluster.

The Strategic Procurement Unit

From the early days of the project’s initiation phase, the strategic procurement unit has played a significant role in forming clear objectives and tracking relative measurement criteria. In a matter of fact, the unit was a great enabler to Masdar in pursuing its Nobel goal of creating a low Carbone zone and a community of free waste.

The sourcing unit has executed a green supply chain strategy which included the below activities;

  • Assessing the major impact of all construction material.
  • Benefiting the local sources whenever possible.
  • Engaging, at early stages, with vendors for developing non-existing material or services. And
  • Developing suppliers’ code of conduct.

Education and gaining knowledge were the first step on the thousand mile journey of green sourcing. The journey started with benchmarking the global standards and setting targets in green supply chains. Progressively, moving through listing the restricted harmful construction material and towards supporting partners to develop alternative products and supply means.

Today, Masdar city came a long way as 6 buildings are already completed by green materials such as concrete, aluminum, rebar, CMU and timber.

The List Of Restricted Materials In Construction

It was decided that all construction material, to be used in Masdar City, have to undergo through a detailed lifecycle analysis and assessment of its total cost of ownership (TCO).

With concrete being a core material used in the construction of Masdar City, the development of low embodied carbon concrete was essential to ensure the City achieves its ambitious sustainability targets. Cement is one of the main ingredients in concrete, and is the second most consumed commodity in the world after water. Cement production is responsible for around 5% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions according to the World Business Council of Sustainable Developments.

Aluminum, came on the list as it is the most energy intensive metal. It consumes 215 MJ/KG and the aluminum industry produces around 3% of global industrial CO2. Moreover, Granite and Marble are considered to be unsustainable materials as they are non-renewable resources and have very energy intensive manufacturing processes. As these materials need to be extracted, the impact which they cause upon the environment is irreversible, particularly in terms of water and air pollution.

The Alternative Green Supplies In Construction

While the manufacturing process of concrete is not ecological, it is yet difficult to suggest alternative to using concrete in construction due to the structural integrity and nature of concrete.

Although, the procurement team in Masdar city has approached 6 local concrete manufacturers with a ” Performance Confirmation” (2) inquiry to develop a green concrete for Masdar, only 2 suppliers have accepted the challenge of developing new product that will set a benchmark for global sustainable construction.

Al Falah Ready Mix has proposed accordingly to work with Masdar on reducing the amount of cement in a specially designed concrete mixes, and therefore reduce the embodied carbon by more than 30% while meeting all the durability criteria set by Masdar City. And a special scheme to be put in place in order to offset the remaining carbon embodied in the concrete used to build Masdar City. Hence, Al Falah Ready Mix was chosen on the basis of its adoption of rigorous sustainability criteria for designing, producing, transporting and placing concrete.

On the other hand, the sourcing team tried to approach the local Aluminum manufacturers aiming to find alternative ecological alloy of Aluminum. Unfortunately, the Aluminum billet suppliers in Gulf use only primary/virgin sheets for their production. The giant manufacturers were not able to change the standard product and manufacturing way in order to meet Masdar’s requirements.

But Novelis, the leading producer of flat-rolled aluminum products and the world’s largest recycler of aluminum, was able to fulfill Masdar’s requirements with a special alloy of aluminum which were made from recycled aluminum sheets consume 95% less power to produce the prime aluminum (3). Moreover, Novelis was able to attract Masdar by pointing out the fact that the alloy’s lightness makes logistics more effective and lower gas emission.

Green Supplies In Consumer Goods

All above innovative work, which were extended by the nodes of Masdar’s green supply network, have brought significant ecological benefits to our planet. But the journey towards constructing a sustainable city has not reached an end and many yet to come. Still to keep tracking the completed work and to update the list of restricted materials. Also to work with the green supply network on evolving more efficient eco-friendly alternatives.

Time to furnish people who live in the green buildings is about to start. It is the layer of supplying the thousands beneficiaries of the city and its neighbors with green consuming goods. It cannot be neglected, that green supplies of food and non-food consumer goods will be a prominent element on the ecosystem of Masdar city. And the future cities which approach the same noble goal.

In a report issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, it was strongly highlighted that the industrial sector along with agriculture, forestry and land use are responsible of 45% of 2010 global greenhouse gas emissions (4).

The focus on the coming part of this article will be on the opportunities and challenges associated to green supply chains of agro-based consumer goods. Keeping into account the fundamental approaches of Masdar City Project in assessing the life cycle of the goods and cooperating on developing green alternatives with the partners in supply network.

In a simple term, sustainable agriculture is about producing food, fiber, or animal products using farming techniques which protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare. Typically, such form of agriculture enables us to produce healthful food without compromising future generations’ ability to do the same5. Ecological farms are the ones produce crops and raise animals without relying on toxic chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, seeds of genetically modified organisms (GMO) or practices that degrade soil, water, or other natural resources (5). Food production should never compromise human health.

Hence, organic and non-GMO foods are sustainable products which are safer for consumers, workers and surrounding communities.  Also to protect youth and elders from exposure to pathogens and toxins. Additionally, the GMO products are still lack scientific proof that  promotes positive health impacts.

In short, the ideal sustainable food supply chains to be promoted is the organic and non-GMO foods, produced in eco-friendly facilities, geographically close to UAE in order to reduce the hustles of logistics and replenishment and finally to be avoid using plastic packaging materials or other harmful materials.

But it is imperative to mention that we have set of challenges appear on all networks of green supply chains, whether it was supplying construction materials or consuming goods or others. The lack of awareness of the environmental, economic and social benefits come as one of hot challenges. Also, and as a result of the complex supply chains, buyers receive greenwashed products for their green inquiries!!!

According to Rory Murray, Greenwash is “the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service” (6). For instance; millions of pounds of corn and soybeans were shipped from Eastern Europe to US and were labeled as organic and sold at retail stores at significantly high prices. It was a shocking organic fraud case that undercut the legitimate farming and certification processes (7).


The project of Masdar City is developed to create a sustainable community and to promote associated supply chains. The competent and empowered procurement team in Masdar, and other sustainable initiatives, can reduce the CO2 emissions of imported goods to UAE and re-position UAE in a leading sustainable position.

In response, emerging economies and corporates have to adopt national/strategic programs of transforming into green supplies. They also need to adopt agile models which can enable developments of innovative green services and scale it out according to the demand. Finally, they also have to comply and integrate with the smart traceability platforms driven by UAE regulations and monitoring authorities in order to overcome the counterfeiting, greenwashing and wrong labeled consumer goods.


  1. Masdar Clean Energy, (2018), [online] available from [accessed 12 September 2018].
  2. Emad, A (2015), ”Boosting innovation through collaboration and performance conformation”.
  3. Green Aluminum, (2012), [online] available from [accessed 17 September 2018].
  4. Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data, (2010), [online] available from [accessed 17 September 2018].
  5. Sustainable Agriculture- The basic, (2015), [online] available from [Accessed 17 September 2018].
  6. Supermarket & Retailer, (2011), [online] available from [accessed 12 September 2018].
  7. Mike, p, (2018), ”Organic Food Fraud Is a Big Problem—Here’s What the Government Plans to Do About It”, Food & wine, [online] available from [accessed 12 September 2018].
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