COP28 in Dubai: BOCA’s Chief Sustainability Officer shares his green tips

The Spanish restaurant offers a sustainable menu and special events. 

All eyes are on Dubai, as COP28 UAE – United Nations Climate Change Conference comes to the city. The annual global climate summit brings together world leaders and aims to create policies to tackle climate change. If you’re wondering how to have an environmentally friendly life, we spoke to the city’s sustainable stars leading the way. The Mediterranean restaurant BOCA prides itself on its green approach. So Chief Sustainability Officer, Omar Shihab, shared his take and tips.  

What was the inspiration behind BOCA?

BOCA is an independent, fine dining modern Spanish restaurant in DIFC. The restaurant opened in 2014, and focuses on sustainability. It was built on the belief that we can create a modern mindful establishment that is future-ready and can rival any world-class concept. We are lucky to live in a country that has some of the best produce. We wanted to build something that is representative of the country’s natural resources. 

Why do sustainable restaurants and bars matter?

We produce enough food to feed the planet, yet over 800 million people go to bed hungry every day. A third of the world’s food supply is never eaten. The food industry is also the livelihood of millions of people, which helps lift them out of poverty. Economically and socially restaurants represent a large part of the food system. In some places, even a larger part than agriculture, retail and logistics. The way food is grown, transported and disposed of accounts for one third of global emissions. 

Tell us a fun sustainable fact about the brand.

Our own Waste Officer and Head of Maintenance, Arnel de Los Reyes, is a master of frugality and conjures marvels from refuse. Through our restaurant you will encounter remnants of cork used to stabilise tables, nestled between ceramic tiles and fashioned into trivets for our paella pans.

What can restaurants around the world learn from BOCA?

A framework on how to look at sustainability and embed it in the restaurant’s foundations. BOCA stands on five sustainability pillars: responsible sourcing, conscious waste management, valuing resources, measuring and reporting, and sustainability for the community. 

Tell us about BOCA’s special COP 28 events.

We have sustainability packages tailored for groups and corporate bookings. From reception-style canapés to sit down dinners, individual to shared spreads, our menus feature plant-based, well-balanced and low-emission options. The package includes a welcome speech by myself, and a guided food and pairing presentations by the Executive Chef and Head Sommelier. Plus, there is the option to offset the dinner and plant mangrove trees in the UAE. 

What would you like COP28 in Dubai to achieve?

COP28 is a platform to align efforts on climate action and negotiate commitments to reach agreed targets. It is set to be the most inclusive COP yet, and a COP of action. This could be the momentum our industry needs to adopt more sustainable practices. Leaders in our sector could make commitments, for example on responsible sourcing, waste reduction, resource management and community engagement.

What sustainable business in the UAE do you love? 

Within my sector I admire many businesses who are doing great things within sustainability. There is better sourcing from Teible and Avatara, and conscious waste efforts like LOWE. Plus, the great community work from 21 Grams, Mamaesh, Zinn Bistro & Café, Maiz DXB, Reform Social & Grill and Reif Kushiyaki. Other businesses include Maknoon Olive Oil sourced from farms in Palestine, GoShopia, Dibba Bay Oysters, and The Waste Lab. 

Share a sustainable tip.

Take a pledge that resonates and aligns with one of the myriad sustainability themes, for example waste reduction, increased plant-based consumption, or better sourcing standards. Create modest, attainable objectives. It is a journey. One step at a time.

GO: Visit for more information. 

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