Meet the Saudi ‘vegan prince’ driving climate awareness and social change in the kingdom

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While Saudi hospitality is traditionally expressed by serving meat-centric feasts, Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed has chosen another path.

Known as the kingdom’s “vegan prince”, he says his lifestyle permeates every purchase he makes after adopting a whole plant-based diet.

Prince Khaled is the Founder and Managing Director of KBW Ventures, an asset management firm that focuses on venture capital, value creation and growth capital. It is part of the KBW group of companies.

He seeks to empower risk takers and young start-ups, but he also cares deeply about any kind of animal suffering and is determined to help bring about change.

“My car has no leather seats, our offices have faux leather furniture. [There are] no products that have been tested on animals or contain animal-derived ingredients,” he says The National.

“I’m very interested in sleep and a few other metrics that I monitor through different fit tech devices,” he says. “I changed my whole approach to sleep and how long I slept, and even sleep hygiene, based on what I found.”

Prince Khaled is a strong supporter of clean energy and the humane treatment of animals, as well as promoting entrepreneurship in the kingdom.

The transition to a vegan lifestyle started with changes to his diet that focused on nutrition and health, he says.

“I want to see people – all people – keep an open mind about science and apply critical thinking to their daily lives in terms of how they can be part of the larger solutions.”

He calls on people to be “aware and deliberate” of their heritage on Earth.

I want to see people – all people – keep an open mind about science and apply critical thinking to their daily lives in terms of how they can be part of the larger solutions

Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed

“I wanted to feel better and look better,” he says. “My way of life changed for the first time when [my diet] went plant-based, then even more so when I went to CrossFit.

“My health is my priority, so sleep, fitness, healthy routines in general, those are the things that run my life and dictate how I spend my time and guide my schedule.”

He made a personal choice to educate himself and do his own research. “You know what they say about algorithms? They feed you more and more of the same content. It wasn’t like that when I started eating plant-based foods [meals].”

He learned from others who advocated cutting meat and dairy from his diet.

The more he read about factory farming, the more convinced he was that he “didn’t want to play any part in it.”

KBW Ventures has invested in Blue Planet Ecosystems, an Austrian start-up. “It’s really exciting for Saudi Arabia to be leading on this front. It was a great moment for me to see one of the companies we support turn out to be so interesting for a big company in my country of origin,” he said. KBW recently signed an agreement with the Red Sea Development Company for a sustainable seafood initiative.

It’s really exciting for Saudi Arabia to be leading on this front. It was a great moment for me to see one of the companies we support turn out to be so interesting for a big company in my home country.

Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed

Prince Khaled plans to continue supporting “tech for good” by investing in the right projects.

“There are so many ways technology can improve the status quo,” he says.

“We just need to continue to give innovators the opportunity to grow and the financial support to bring their ideas to life.

“I guess you could say my goals converge a lot in my work because it’s very personal to me. Last year, one of our technology investments was an electric aviation solution, clean technology, something really important to me.”

He was able to link personal and business goals in some of his deals, such as investments in Rebellyous Foods and Moku Foods, which promote plant-based diets.

“Both companies have founders who see a bigger, healthier, more sustainable future, and both have chosen to provide protein-rich alternatives to existing options,” he says.

“So basically don’t just lecture people about eating better and thinking more as a consumer. Give them better choices.”

Prince Khaled says he “has noticed a gap that needs to be filled in this world” and that tackling the inefficiencies of factory farming brings social responsibility to end animal suffering.

He says governments should reconsider subsidizing traditional models of meat and dairy production, as this only staves off the inevitable shift to “cell-based production or plant-based alternatives”.

Authorities should start subsidizing the plant-based movement and cellular agriculture companies, or reduce subsidies for factory farming, he says. “Basically, we can either sit back and watch the climate crisis grow dangerously worse, or we can all decide to do something – together.

“This way, factory farming companies will be incentivized to adopt more sustainable methods,” he says.

He says there are now plenty of great alternatives out there, which “potentially even raises the bar in terms of product offerings.”

Prince Khaled says most of the entrepreneurs he has spoken to believe social causes are important, even before the Covid-19 pandemic began.

“Virtually every entrepreneur I spoke to, and anyone who really has an ounce of conscience, felt that social causes were already important before Covid,” he says.

He said he finds entrepreneurs – “along with some like-minded investors – leading these important conversations, which is great because they are the ones solving the world’s problems.”

Prince Khaled says he still has a lot to do as a business leader and investor.

“I’m very lucky to be able to work on something that I love. The journey is not over and there is so much to do,” he says.

“Every buying decision makes a difference, and so does every investment. That’s what I’ve come to hold true so far.”

Updated: March 31, 2022, 03:00

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