15 UAE sustainability leaders driving change in the region

With Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week playing out this week and UAE-hosted COP28 on the horizon, we select 15 UAE leaders driving sustainable change in MENA

If ever there was a time to be a sustainability expert living in the United Arab Emirates, this is it. Not only is sustainability top of the agenda for governments, businesses, investors, and consumers globally, but COP28 – arguably the most important sustainability summit on the planet – is set to take place in the UAE later this year.

That means all eyes are on the UAE and the MENA region – not just on the actions and decisions the country takes, but the messages it sends and the people who send them as its regional voices take to the global stage.

So, in the run-up to COP28, taking place in Dubai from November 30 to December 12, we source the country’s top sustainability voices, many of whom have helped to shape the sustainability story of the UAE – as the first country in the region to ratify the Paris Agreement, and the first to commit to an economy-wide reduction in emissions.

From Chief Sustainability Officers of the UAE’s largest companies to sustainability consultants and Government ministers, here is Business Chief’s list of the 15 UAE sustainability leaders to know.

1

Ibrahim Al Zu’bi

SVP, Sustainability and Climate, ADNOC Group

Recognised in the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Europe and the Middle East by the Center for Sustainability and Excellence, US, and as the 35th top sustainability leader by sister publication Sustainability Magazine, Ibrahim Al Zu’bi is a loud and credible voice known for taking sustainability and CSR initiatives to the next level in the Middle East and globally through awareness campaigns, education programmes and private sector engagement.

As well as chairing the Global Council on SDGs – Climate Action, and the World Green Building Council, he is a member of the WEF’s Global Future Council on Net-Zero Transition, Vice Chair UAE for the UN Global Impact, and a Senior Associate at Cambridge for sustainability leadership.

During his 20 years of sustainability and CSR experience, Ibrahim has been a Senior Advisor to the Government of Dubai on strategy, overseeing the Dubai Centre for Sustainable Cities and developed and led the ‘net positive’ sustainability strategy across Majid Al Futtaim Holding – writing a book, How to ‘Net’ Positive, about the journey to help firms with theirs. As sustainability head at ADNOC since 2022, Ibrahim now leads on the oil giant’s sustainability strategy and performance. He also co-founded marine conservation non-profit Emirates Diving Association.

2

Katarina Uherova Hasbani

Partner, Global Director of Strategy and Advisory, AESG

An energy transition and sustainability professional, Dubai-based Katarina Hasbani  has nearly two decades of experience in the energy sector – designing strategies, public policies and implementing transformation projects across more than 30 countries in the Middle East. At specialist consultancy, engineering and advisory firm AESG, she helps companies and governments on their journey to net zero carbon, transforming complex decarbonisation strategies into implementable actions; and over the past five years she has managed close to US$10m of decarbonisation projects.

With extensive experience in leadership roles across the value chain of the energy industry, including utilities, oil and gas and renewables, Katarina is recognised regionally as a thought leader and public speaker, is an active mentor to her industry peers, and has been tapped as one of LinkedIn Top Voices Green MENA for 2022. She has authored various studies on energy transition and decarbonisation and is a member of the Global Executive Committee for INSEAD Energy Alumni Club.

Katarina has founded a number of startups, including a Singapore-based boutique consultancy firm focused on clean energy; and more recently, EnRupt, a network of corporates, startups and energy professionals fostering innovation in the energy sector, where she works on transformations shaping the energy systems of tomorrow. An MBA holder from INSEAD, she serves on the executive board.

3

Sultan Al Jaber

CEO ADNOC, President Designate of COP28

As sustainability credentials go, it doesn’t get much bigger than being President of COP28, a position oil boss Sultan Al Jaber recently secured, making him the first CEO who has served as COP President. This comes in preparation for COP28, which is being hosted by the UAE in Nov/Dec 2023.

Al Jaber has certainly earned his sustainability stripes, having long played a key part in shaping the UAE’s clean energy pathway. Not only has he served as the UAE Climate Change Special Envoy for two terms (2010-2016 and 2020-present), and been a proactive participant in more than 10 COPs, he was the founding CEO of Masdar – one of the world’s leading clean energy companies – where he oversaw its mandate to accelerate the adoption of renewables within the UAE, across the region and globally.

He was also instrumental in bringing the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to the UAE. As CEO of ADNOC, one of the fastest-growing oil and gas companies in the world, since 2016, he is spearheading decarbonisation and diversifying the company’s operations and investments in a drive to make today’s energies cleaner.

4

Razan Al Mubarak

Managing Director, Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi

Recognised as a force in conservation and sustainability in the UAE and beyond, over the last decade Razan Al Mubarak has been at the forefront of the UAE’s successful efforts in the conservation of key species, including bringing the Arabian oryx back from the brink of extinction to the UAE desert, where there are thousands today. Not to mention establishing Fujairah’s Wadi Wurayan as the UAE’s first national park by Emirates Nature-WWF (which Razan helped to found).

As MD of The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, and Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, Razan has also helped to double the number of protected areas in the region and worked with more than a million children in the UAE on environmental education. And for her efforts, she was recognised in 2018 by the WEF as one of the top 10 Young Global Leaders for her contribution to building a more sustainable future for humankind. She is on the advisory council of WiSER, the Masdar-led impact-focused platform that positions women and girls as drivers of change to sustainability

5

Ahmed Samir Elbermbali

Sustainability Market Leader, Middle East Region, Bureau Veritas

Credited with being one of the LinkedIn Top Voices Green MENA for 2022, Dubai-based Ahmed Elbermbali is a loud and passionate voice in the region, in particular the intersection between policy, technology and consumer behaviour in accelerating the transition to clean energy and sustainable mobility.

Passionate about Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV), Ahmed has extensive experience as an EV consultant, advising on market entry and strategies for the EV market in the MENA region, and has consulted more than 25 companies on market entry to the MENA region. He also worked for a MENA non-profit (Clean Energy Business Council) dedicated to promoting clean energy and technologies. Ahmed is the ZEV Campaigns Lead at the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions where he promotes and advocates for the ZEV Declaration launched at COP26 and is the Middle East Ambassador for leading global EV charging association CharIN e.V.

He is a sought-after regional public speaker and moderator on clean energy topics and EV innovation. And as the Sustainability Market Leader for the Middle East region at Bureau Veritas since 2022, Ahmed helps regional clients navigate their journeys to net zero. He has an MBA in Sustainability Mobility Management.

6

Samer Kamal

Chief Sustainability Officer, Averda

A well-respected figure in the waste management industry and an established regional thought leader on the future of sustainability in business, Samer Kamal founded Sharjah-based Beeah in 2006 – a waste management company that has grown to be the UAE’s leading sustainability pioneer and digital expert. He has also worked on other sustainable ventures across the MENA region and North America in the last two decades, including advising New York University, Air Miles and Nestle in aligning their commercial aspirations with their responsibility to society and the planet.

He has also developed several waste treatment facilities, most recently a PET recycling venture in Abu Dhabi with Veolia Middle East. In 2022, he was appointed as the first Chief Sustainability Officer for Dubai-based Averda, an end-to-end waste management, treatment and recycling company in emerging markets. He was brought on board to accelerate Averda’s ‘Renew24’ corporate strategy, which includes reducing waste to landfill.

7

Alia Busamra

Chief Sustainability Officer, ENOC

Recognised as a regional sustainability expert, Alia Busamra has proven success of improving and developing best practices. She has 17 years of multicultural corporate experience across the entire Oil & Gas supply chain at Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC), a leading integrated global player operating across the entire supply chain.

As CSO of ENOC and head of Group Sustainability Department for the last nearly 20 years, Alia manages the key corporate functions of Environment, energy and resource management, CSR and sustainability – and under her tenure, ENOC has secured multiple awards, including mostly recently the Golden Peacock Award for Sustainability.

In this role, she has successfully established Sustainability strategies by executing relevant policies, mandates, communicating and coordinating with the management and managing stakeholders to address sustainability issues. She represents ENOC as a sustainability expert at forums and is a member of various committees. She has a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering and a Master’s in Environmental Science.

8

Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi

CEO, Masdar – Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company

An expert in the Middle East’s energy shift, over the last decade, Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi has played an instrumental role in the region’s shift to green power having played a big part in Masdar’s emergence, both as a catalyst for renewable energy and an energy adopter of advanced clean technologies at scale.

Joining Masdar in 2008, Mohamed has held increasingly senior leadership roles including as CFO and COO, before becoming CEO in 2016. Under Mohamed’s leadership, Masdar is constructing one of the largest single-site solar power plants. Mohamed has a history in hydrocarbons, having previously worked at Abu Dhabi Gas Industries. He is also a board member of SHUAA Energy 2 PSC and Mubadala Health, among others, and is the VC of the Global Council on SDGs and a member of the Sustainable Markets Initiative Taskforce for Energy Transition.

9

Mohammed Al Shamsi

Chief Officer – Climate Change & Sustainability, DEWA

Young Emirati leader Mohammed Al Shamsi has headed up the climate change and sustainability department at Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) for the last 12 years, leading the development and execution of an organisation-wide strategic sustainability program, as the go-to expert for all things sustainability both internally and as an external spokesperson. Among his many achievements, introducing the carbon emission reduction program, the first of its kind across the UAE; initiating DEWA’s strategic approach towards the SDGs and aligning DEWA’s strategic objectives with the Global Agenda.

An active participant in regional sustainability and energy summits and forums, Mohammed is also Acting Executive Director of UAE Water Aid Foundation (Suqia), which provides clean drinking water to more than 9 million people in 34 countries. He has also worked in various financial institutions in the UAE and holds an Executive Master’s in Business Administration.

10

Maha AlQattan

Group Chief People & Sustainability Officer, DP World

Leading the people function at DP World since 2017, Maha AlQattan is passionate about driving strategic business value through culture, performance management and talent development and sees the people function as key to fostering smarter thinking, more creative innovations, and stronger outcomes.

Since joining DP World, Maha has transformed the HR function from more traditional practices to more innovative and agile ways of working, from introducing AI applications to improving productivity. Prior to DP World, she led the HR function for GE Power MENA, GE MENA and Nakheel.

As Group Chief People & Sustainability Officer since 2022, Maha is focused on empowering the global trade portfolio of more than 101,000 people in over 78 countries and ensuring the business operates responsibly and sustainably. She leads DP World’s sustainability strategy and represents DP World at the WEF and in a number of UN Compacts. She serves as a non-executive director for SHUAA Capital, Anghami and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and has a Master’s in industrial and labour relations from Cornell University.

11

Silvia Rigato

Sustainability Lead, Accenture Middle East

Silvia Rigato is leading the Sustainability agenda for Accenture across the Middle East, helping clients across multiple industries, from energy and utilities to financial services, telecoms, healthcare and aviation, to develop their strategy and implement solutions to become sustainable organisations. She also serves as Strategy & Consulting Lead for Energy and Utilities, responsible for a portfolio of clients.

Silvia has more than 15 years of experience in strategy consulting at Accenture, Ernst & Young, and LECG Consulting with extensive experience in corporate transformations, digital strategy, governance and organisation design, and performance management. Silvia has managed multiple international projects for multimillion companies in the oil and gas, chemical and utilities industries.

She is a regular speaker at regional sustainability and energy summits and is the Inclusion & Diversity Lead of Accenture Strategy, instrumental in organising the Accenture MENA International Women's Days, and Member of the Accenture Global Energy Leadership Team.

12

Raji Hattar

Chief Sustainability and Compliance Officer, Aramex 

Having been with Aramex since 1991 and as the lead on ambitious sustainability strategies for the last 15 years, Raji Hattar has been pioneering in his work there, leading on Aramex’s first Sustainability Report (2006), which marked the first report of its kind the region. He also spearheaded the team responsible for issuing Aramex’s first Carbon Footprint Report.

As CSO since 2008, Raji has led the company’s ambitious sustainability strategy, including converting its entire fleet to EVs and leading the successful Solar Farm project for Amman operations and the two rooftop Solar Farms project on Aramex’s Dubai Logistics City facilities. He is also expanding the implementation of the renewable energy strategy across the Aramex network. He has an MBA in Finance and Sustainability.

13

Daxita Rajcoomar

Chief Sustainability Officer, Africa, Middle East and Asia, ENGIE

Not only does Daxita Rajcoomar bring more than 18 years of success in leading Sustainability practices and effective initiatives for fast-paced, highly regulated organisations, she has established herself as a thought leader and influencer for environmental protection and climate change both in the Middle East and in Africa.

She is especially passionate about developing real-world strategies that balance the economy, society, and the environment. She spent nearly 13 years as Senior Manager EHS, Sustainability at Du telecoms and Virgin Mobile, where she established the Sustainability department function, set strategic direction and created internal policies and procedures, as well as serving as Chief Sustainability Strategist for all stakeholder engagement.

As CSO for the Middle East, Africa and Asia at French multinational utility company ENGIE since 2020, she implements and drives solutions that promote the firm’s Carbon Neutral vision as well as lobbying for climate action.

14

Her Excellency Dr Nawal Al-Hosany

Permanent Representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

For HE Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, who has a career spanning both business and academia, becoming a permanent representative of IRENA in 2018 fulfilled her lifelong endeavour to “make sustainability a way of life in the UAE”. In her role, Dr Nawal is committed to doing her part to strengthen the UAE’s partnerships with countries and institutions around the world to promote renewable energy and sustainable development.

She does this alongside holding positions across various business sectors, government entities and academic institutions in the UAE and internationally, including as Vice Chair for the Global Council of the SDGs; and is an active member of global and regional climate-focused boards and committees – as an advisor for UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change initiative. Dr Nawal previously served as Executive Director of Sustainability at energy leader Masdar and for eight years as the Director of Zayed Sustainability Prize.

Dr Nawal believes passionately in the leading role that women can play responding to global sustainability and climate change challenges and has secured numerous accolades for her work, including the Doctor of Letters Honoris Causa from Keele University in recognition of her achievement sustainability. She is an engineering graduate and has a PhD.

15

Florence Bulte

Chief Sustainability Officer, Chalhoub Group

As someone who has worked in the luxury business for two decades, in Australia, Singapore and the Middle East, Florence Bulte knows the business well enough to carry out sustainable change. And as sustainability lead of the almost 60-year-old luxury hybrid retailer Chalhoub Group for the last seven years, that’s exactly what she is doing.

Not only has she developed, executed and evolved the Group ESG strategy, but she has fostered a culture of Business Ethics and integrity for the Group, driven transformational change for people in the company, and promoted sustainability through advocacy and partnerships. Under her tenure, the Group set up The Greenhouse, an innovation hub, incubator space and accelerator for startups and become a member of the UN Global Compact Community and signatory of the Women’s Empowerment Principles. Florence is the Secretary of the Global Compact UAE network.

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