Expo 2020 Dubai: Austria’s business future is smart and sustainable
As Dubai Expo goes all out to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly, umdasch is playing a key role, installing a large volume of the modular shop system FoldUp at several pavilions and introducing a new, sustainable sales module with a buy-back option for the first time. In this exclusive interview, Richard Bandera, Commercial Counsellor at the Austrian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, discusses with retail editor Mark Faithful how Austria is set to deliver on the international stage this autumn and why he is so happy that umdasch has made sustainability one of its central messages.
Richard Bandera is a busy man. Helping to spearhead the Austrian presence at Dubai Expo, he hopes to help deliver a national pavilion that reflects the best of the country’s outward-looking and innovative approach to business and the key role of sustainability.
“Dubai Expo is very important to us. Austria was the fifth nation to host an Expo after they were first launched 1851 in London and originally these events were the only way to see products and services from other countries and to showcase your own nation. So it’s worth remembering that globalisation was already happening all those years ago. Now, once again it is a great opportunity for us to showcase Austria and Austrian business to the Gulf States, Middle East, Africa and Asia. We can demonstrate our high-tech industries and our focus on manufacturing sustainably and reducing CO2 emissions.”
Can you tell us a little more about the sustainable approach that has gone into the design approach of the Austrian pavilion?
“Many aspects of the Austrian stand are sustainable and have been created with recycling and re-use specifically in mind. The biggest element of this approach is the 38 cones with holes or lids on the top that form the structure of the exhibition space and which, through their design, allow for natural cooling by creating a notable breeze bringing down the temperature by a few degrees compared to outdoors. Only the VIP area, which will be used for demonstrations, has any air conditioning. So this also makes the stand extremely energy efficient, using just 30% of the energy of pavilions of similar size.
In many ways this is a very low-tech approach, using traditional methods and a natural way of achieving the environmental cooling, including air mist in the courtyards as well as plants. All of this adds to the pleasant climate inside our structure.
The cones are made of reinforced concrete and have been constructed in such a way that they can be dismantled and reassembled, a little like huge Lego blocks. We are currently in talks with a couple of organisations about using the materials after the Dubai Expo finishes, so that they will be re-used and not discarded. And then there are smaller elements and examples of sustainability within our pavilion, such as a food kiosk which will serve Austrian delicacies in edible containers – such as cones – so that when someone eats there is no waste.”
How will you communicate this core sustainability message?
“In all there will be 50 innovative Austrian companies featured in the so called iLAB on the pavilion and everything we present will be against seven carefully chosen themes. But in essence we will be bringing a very simple message to Dubai Expo – that ‘Austria makes sense’. This has two meanings, obviously it refers to the business or leisure aspect of Austria, but it will be underlined because the exhibition space will appeal to all the senses as we tell as reflecting the story behind Austria.”
This very much aligns with how we have set out our business vision at umdasch. There seems a lot of synergy between the concepts behind the Austrian Pavilion and the umdasch strategy.
“It’s been really pleasing to see the dedication umdasch has made to the issue of sustainability and to see in the local umdasch factories here that products are being made from recycled materials. There is a huge impetus behind this approach and clearly we will see sustainability become a bigger and bigger element of the way malls, stores and duty free are constructed and fitted out. Increasingly, the retail industry is understanding how important it is to reduce its environmental impact and clients will be looking for suppliers who can achieve these goals.
“Both before Dubai Expo and during it we will be leading visits to manufacturing sites in the region, such as the umdasch production facilities, and re-use of materials is a very important way of demonstrating the industry’s commitment to this approach and it is a great message to be sharing. Inevitably, reducing emissions, being more sustainable and also operating with a strong commitment to employee welfare, all costs money and it is important to be able to explain why. When we are showcasing Austria we want to be able to tell good stories.”
Can you tell us a little about what happens between now and the official opening of Dubai Expo at the end of October this year?
“In the build-up to Dubai Expo we will be promoting Austrian businesses on classical and social media and the stand will be used not only to present those 50 innovative companies digitally during the six months of the Expo. But we also provide space for every Austrian company that wishes to use this platform to present themselves at dedicated customer events free of charge. In addition, an Austrian university has also collaborated with three museums and cultural centres in Dubai and this will be reflected in terms of both a digital innovation programme being run within the museums and also the results of some of the work will be demonstrated on the stand itself.
“Once the Dubai Expo begins, as part of our activities we will be hosting many governmental and business delegations from Austria and the local region, supporting our businesses in finding opportunities across the Gulf Region and the Middle East.”