When Zahed Sultan and some like – minded friends created El Boutique in 2006, it was a first for Kuwait. Not just another advertising and marketing agency, but a creative house devoted to raising design standards and environmental consciousness, El Boutique offered a dizzyingly broad spectrum of services to the commercial sector in the realm of sound design, visual design, brand consultancy and far more. Having founded an innovative and dynamic company with an excellent and growing reputation, some entrepreneurs might have been content to rest on their laurels.
Not Sultan, however. In May of last year, driven by the feeling that more could be done to raise local and regional awareness of the need to create and promote educational, societal, corporate and government initiatives to benefit the environment, he and the El Boutique team came up with the idea of en.v (pronounced as `envy’, a truncated form of the term environmentally friendly), a bilingual Arabic and English quarterly publication and interactive portal for the Middle East North Africa(MENA) region.
Aimed at individuals, students, scholars and corporate Arabia, en.v is dedicated to promoting and enhancing regional awareness of environmental issues and encouraging a proactive approach to tackling them, from an individual, group and corporate perspective.
In an exclusive interview with Al Watan Daily, Sultan explained more about how en.v got started. “In May last year, El Boutique staged an exhibition with MRC [the Metal and Recycling Company] at the Sultan Gallery. Local designers and artists were invited to come up with innovative furniture and house ware products produced entirely from scrap, and recycled materials from MRC’s Amghara facility. The stuff they came up with was fantastic. It was a great launch and it got me thinking – what more could we do to change people’s minds, raise environmental awareness?”
Thus, after discussions with colleagues and friends, the concept of en.v was born. “We adopted a two-pronged approach,” explained Sultan. The first part – or prong – was the magazine, en.v. Aware of the tremendously worthy, but somewhat stuffy general image of environmentalism, the en.v team wanted to change this to something dynamic, actively involving the wider community. “Our initiative is to engage people,” said Sultan, “so we wanted to make them think about all aspects of the environment, to raise key issues, change people’s minds, but not in a preachy way – to make it almost like a lifestyle magazine. Our goal from the beginning was to engage the average person; we wanted people flicking through it to be made aware of the [environmental] issues.”
The magazine covers a broad variety of environmental topics, with each quarterly issue focusing on various aspects of one specific subject. The first issue, for instance, from December 2007, dealt with water, the second, due shortly, will focus on education, specifically on the need for Kuwait and other Gulf nations to invest their oil profits into the educational field, and the third will deal more broadly with `green’ issues.
The second, equally important, prong of en.v’s strategy is its online portal (www.envearth.com), with internet usage in the Gulf region set to double in the next one and a half years and continuing to increase thereafter, as Sultan points out, this is definitely a growth market and audience. Not just a website but shortly to feature an online cover-to-cover electronic magazine that users can read online or download, envearth’s primary purpose is to inform, inspire and engage with users, “to create an interactive discussion that everyone can access and become involved in”, as Sultan puts it. Offering news, editorials, arresting and thought – provoking imagery and much more, the site actively invites users to become part of its community, as contributing members or on the discussion boards it will soon feature.
“We want to reach out to all sorts of people, for everyone to feel part of the community,” Sultan explained. “Its important that people know what efforts are being made and that they are actively contributing to and involved in it – and there are so many amazing, creative people around in Kuwait and regionally who become part of this. Also, you can comment on every article, you’ll have instant messaging, links to friends. The idea on a large scale is to make people feel involved, part of the community.”
Reactions to date have been hearteningly positive. “The feedback’s been great,” said Sultan. “We’ve already learnt and grown and we want to keep on growing.” With students and scholars being among its core target audience, en.v has already signed up 20 universities in Kuwait and the wider Gulf region, which will be stocking the magazine and promoting the Website, and is also working with a number of national and regional print and other media, to spread the word on both.
And as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) becomes the buzzword (or buzz acronym) du jour in the business community, advertisers are also keen to promote their environmentally friendly credentials.
“We want to work with socially responsible advertisers,” Sultan explained, “we’re actively seeking out forward thinking organizations who are working to improve their surrounding through activities like carbon offsetting.” In return, advertisers get to be involved with a young, growing and dynamic, creative and progressive entity with a multimedia reach spanning the MENA region.
Contributing Sponsors will also have their company or individual names prominently featured on en.v’s `Tree of Hope’ on page three of the magazine’s print and online editions.
El Boutique itself is an environmentally responsible company, doing as much as it can to minimize its carbon footprint, utilizing as little paper as possible, saving energy, using `green’ suppliers and trying to cut down on unnecessary travel by using video-conferencing where practical, for example.
“We can’t do everything,” said Sultan, “but we’re doing whatever we can do.”
Title : Inspirational Environmentalism From en.v
Author : Ruth Rielger