When it comes to taking sustainable action, all eyes are on the United Arab Emirates.
As host country of COP28, which kicks off in Dubai just over two months’ time, the wealthy Gulf nation is pulling out all the stops to showcase its sustainability credentials.
As well as being the first country in the Middle East region to ratify the Paris Agreement, and commit to an economy-wide reduction in emissions, the UAE was the first to announce a Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative, and was just one of 25 countries in the world to revise its climate targets at Glasgow’s COP26 – raising its 2030 reduction target from 23.5% to 31% by 2030.
And since declaring 2023 the Year of Sustainability, the UAE has continued to roll out pledges, initiatives and partnerships as it looks to not only accelerate its own goals but contribute to the energy transition in the region and globally.
In July, the UAE government announced plans to triple the contribution of renewable energy to its power mix over the next seven years and just weeks ago, unveiled a finance initiative that will provide US$4.5 billion to help unlock Africa's clean energy potential.
Supporting the UAE government's ambitious sustainability goals are the country's and region's leading businesses, many of which are accelerating their own pathways to net zero and facilitating in the reduction of emissions.
Driving this are some of the region's leading sustainability minds – chief sustainability officers who are spearheading strategies and leading transformations that are leading their companies towards a more sustainable future.
Here, we recognise 10 of the leading CSOs in the UAE.
Chief Sustainability Officer
Credited with being a LinkedIn Top Voice Green in the Middle East, seasoned banker and CSO Shargiil Bashir is among the most passionate, competent and loud voices on regional green finance.
During his more than two-decade career in banking, with experience in multiple countries across corporate governance, strategy, risk management and sustainability, Shargiil has spearheaded group-wide strategic and transformation projects that drive change management – from pioneering group strategy and implementing best-in-class governance at Danske Bank in Denmark, to establishing a new division and strategy for sustainability at First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB).
Shargil has led FAB's ESG efforts for the last three years, responsible for developing, leading and implementing the bank’s ESG strategy and initiatives. He was among the main drivers behind FAB joining the UN convened Net-Zero Banking Alliance as the first bank in the UAE and GCC to make a net-zero commitment by 2050.
Under his leadership, FAB was awarded the Best Bank in ESG in the UAE in 2022 at the Euromoney Awards and with a target of US$75 billion in green financing for the period ranging 2022-2030, FAB is all set to be a strategic enabler of the UAE’s sustainable future.
Prior to taking the CSO role at FAB, Shargiil spent seven years at Danske Bank, where he held various senior leadership roles, including Group Head of Risk Quality Assurance and COO International Banking, where he headed operations for 14 global units.
He earned his EMBA from the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark.
Group Chief Sustainability Officer
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 regional voice known for taking sustainability and CSR initiatives to the next level 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.
As sustainability head at ADNOC for the last year, Ibrahim leads the oil giant’s ambitious sustainability strategy and performance and ESG disclosures and reporting. Under his leadership, ADNOC has accelerated its decarbonisation plans, recently bringing forward its net zero target from 2050 to 2045 and its goal to achieve zero methane emissions by 2030.
Last year, for its industry-leading methane intensity, ADNOC was awarded the Gold Standard Pathway by the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0, and the organisation also achieved GHG emissions reductions of around 4mt by using grid energy from solar and nuclear power to supply 100% of its onshore operations and 1mt from energy efficiency. This performance puts ADNOC in the top tier of lowest carbon intensity oil and gas producers in the world.
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 as CSO led the ‘net positive’ sustainability strategy across Majid Al Futtaim Group’s operations. He raised the Group’s impact and profile regionally and internationally – writing a book, How to ‘Net’ Positive, about the journey to help firms with theirs.
His sustainability efforts are felt far and wide in the region through alliances with various organisations – including as senior associate of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, agenda contributor to the WEF, and as an Emirates Green Building Council board member, Vice-Chairman of the World Green Building Council, and regional ambassador for Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project.
He also co-founded marine conservation non-profit Emirates Diving Association.
Head of Sustainability
A senior sustainability specialist with more than 20 years of experience working in the built environment, Jane Boyle is leading the sustainability charge at Abu Dhabi Airports Company.
Jane is responsible for supporting the aviation sector and UAE’s ambition to achieve net zero by 2050 through investments and programmes that promote decarbonisation, social initiatives and effective governance to realise tangible results.
Scheduled to open early November 2023, Abu Dhabi International Airport’s brand-new state-of-the-art Terminal A has placed sustainability at its core with energy-efficient lighting, a solar photovoltaic system in the car park roof, and a glass exterior that maximises natural light. Advanced biometric technology is also being used throughout.
Jane is no stranger to the UAE or airports having previously served as senior manager energy and sustainability at Dubai Airports for nearly three years. She also held a senior role in energy and sustainability at the University of Aberdeen, where she produced its net-zero strategy, and has extensive experience in ESG consultancy.
Specialising in creating and delivering sustainability and carbon reduction strategies, and with expertise in decarbonising the built environment, Jane has a proven track record in achieving targets through collaboration with multi-disciplinary teams and key stakeholders.
Among advisory roles, Jane most recently led construction consultant Arcadis’s sustainability advice business in the UK and Ireland – and before that, she was UK sustainability director at JLL EMEA.
She has also held senior sustainability roles at WSP and EY.
Jane has assisted in the development of numerous global sustainability standards and spoken at more than 50 global industry events throughout EMEA on everything from carbon reduction to energy management.
Chief Sustainability Commercial Officer
As a tech sector veteran with more than 25 years of experience in managing diverse geographical regions, Sherif Tawfik has a proven track record of driving commercial success while simultaneously creating value for people, profit and planet.
With impactful and purposeful leadership a driving force throughout his career, it is little surprise to find technologist Sherif leading sustainability for Microsoft – overseeing Central, Southeast Europe, Middle East and Africa, more than 100 countries on three continents.
Sherif drives the commercial business for Microsoft’s sustainability solutions, working to empower large organisations with the technologies to create a better world. He also plays a key role in developing and implementing scalable business strategies for Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability platform.
Given the remit, Sherif, who resides in Dubai, travels extensively and meets with leading organisations and public sector decision makers, and actively collaborates with partners and startups to develop innovative solutions that address sustainability challenges.
As with previous COPs, he will be taking an active role in COP28, taking place in Dubai later this year. As he told Business Chief in a recent interview, “I think this year there will be much more representation from the private sector involved in decision-making. The UAE has always prided itself on leading the technology and innovation agenda and I think that’s something we will see at COP28 – how technology and innovation can help the climate change agenda – not only policy, not only regulation.”
Sherif was promoted to this expanded role in March this year following years as Microsoft Chief Sustainability Officer for the Middle East and Africa and prior to that, he served as the GM for Microsoft operations in Bahrain and Oman.
Sherif, who was a computer science major in engineering school, always dreamed of working at Microsoft, and after key roles in startups where he secured diverse skills, Sherif joined Microsoft in March 2000.
He has secured multiple leadership awards throughout his career, including the Microsoft Circle of Excellence Platinum Award five times and a Microsoft Chairman Award.
Describing himself as an ‘impact entrepreneur and established thought leader in the environment and sustainability industry’, Samer Kamal has worked on numerous sustainable ventures across North America, the Middle East and Africa over the last two decades.
Highly respected in the waste management industry in particular, Samer founded the region’s leading sustainability pioneer, Beeah Group, in 2007, and more recently has taken his vast ESG credentials to Averda – the leading end-to-end waste management, treatment and recycling company in emerging markets.
As the first-ever CSO of Abu Dhabi-based Averda, Samer is driving transformation of Averda towards more sustainable products and technologies – accelerating its Renew24 corporate strategy, which aims to reduce waste to landfill, derive secondary value from collected waste and help companies and governments achieve their net-zero goals.
The company is developing the first commercial-scale municipal waste to renewable methanol plant regionally, turning unrecyclable waste into low-carbon fuel to help shipping containers achieve up to 90% CO2 emissions reductions.
Among Samer’s many ventures and projects, he has advised New York University, Air Miles and Nestle in aligning their commercial aspirations with their responsibility to society and the planet; and been an investor and adviser to various environmental startups and private equity funds supporting waste strategy and sustainability initiatives.
More specifically in the region, Samar has developed several waste and wastewater treatment facilities – most recently a PET recycling venture in Abu Dhabi with Veolia Middle East.
Head of Sustainability
With a multidisciplinary background in renewable and nuclear energy, natural resource management, change management, and the management of technology and innovation, Mariam Musallam AlQubaisi started as a Manager of Sustainability at Etihad before becoming Head of Sustainability for the UAE national airline.
She supports a pro-sustainability transformation within the organisation, making it a thought leader in sustainable aviation focused on cleaner fuels, operational efficiency and carbon offsets.
Under her leadership, Etihad has rolled out initiatives focused on creating operational efficiencies, including its flagship Greenliner programme, and explored new technologies of net-zero flying – last year operating a flight from Tokyo to Abu Dhabi using a 40% blend of SAF and also flying their ‘first net zero carbon flight’ from Washington to Sharm El-Sheik for COP27.
Among industry firsts, Etihad unveiled the first consumer-focused ‘green’ loyalty and rewards programmes to incentivise more environmentally friendly choices among passengers and became the first airline to secure commercial finance based on verified compliance with the UN SDGs.
And in its most recent sustainability report, announced it had achieved a 26% reduction in CO2 emissions per RTK, operated 40 ecoFlights in 2022, planted 68,916 mangrove trees, as well as introduced its new circular economy dining service.
The airline has been named Environmental Airline of the Year for the last two years in the prestigious Airlines Ratings awards and secured further accolades including Best Airline for Sustainability 2022 by Business Traveler USA and the Environmental Sustainability Innovation of the Year award at CAPA’s annual awards in Singapore.
Mariam is an active sustainability expert serving taskforces and representing Etihad within various committees including the GCAA, IATA and ICAO.
Mariam has also worked as an instructor in the department of Interdisciplinary Studies at Zayed University where she taught Environmental and Natural Sciences. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health from Zayed University and an MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development from the University of Cambridge.
Group Chief Sustainability Officer, Group Head of ESG
As the first-ever Group head of ESG at Emirates NBD Bank, Dubai-based Vijay is embedding ESG principles and policies across the organisation and business strategy, as well as significantly increasing the bank’s sustainable finance offerings and investments and supporting clients in their net-zero transitions.
With more than 15 years of sustainability experience across the Middle East, UK, Europe and North America under his belt, Vijay has extensive experience both building and implementing ESG strategies and teams.
As well as designing and marketing sustainability loans and green bonds, he has extensive experience advising on sustainability for IPOs, and in designing and building ESG finance products – from mortgages to loans.
Among his many prior leadership roles, Vijay most recently served at KPMG in the UK where he advised clients on sustainable finance, ESG strategy and ESG regulations. He has also held roles at EY, Lloyds Banking Group and the European Bank of Reconstruction & Development.
Group Chief People & Sustainability Officer
Leading the people function at DP World since 2017, and sustainability and people since 2022, Maha AlQattan was recently appointed the new focused role of Chief Sustainability Officer – responsible for driving the sustainability strategy across the portfolio as DP World strives to be a carbon-neutral business by 2040 and achieve net-zero goals by 2050 across its entire operations.
Maha is focused on empowering DP World’s global trade portfolio of more than 70,000 people in over 60 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.
Most recently, she attended UNGA78, meeting with sustainability leaders from organisations including UNICEF, the United Nations Global Compact and the Blue Marine Foundation as well as other high-level officials and attending events like the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit.
DP World will play a leading role in COP28 as a Principal Pathway Partner
Under her leadership, DP World has bagged numerous accolades including two awards at last year’s Dubai Award for Sustainable Transport, recognising its latest sustainable mobility initiatives, and more recently landed the Sustainability Company of the Year award at the 2023 Multimodal Awards.
Not only that, but the logistics giant recently announced it had cut direct carbon emissions from its global operations by 5% last year, reflecting good progress towards its 2040 carbon-neutral target.
Since joining DP World, Maha has transformed the HR function 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.
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.
Group Vice-President for Sustainability and Climate Change
A strategy and sustainability leader with more than 15 years of experience across energy transition, climate change and sustainability, Fazil has led some of region’s most iconic and first-of-its-kind projects focused on energy strategy, decarbonisation, ESG strategy, sustainable finance, greenhouse gas accounting, climate risk assessment, green economy and carbon markets for leading governments, asset managers and corporates.
As Group VP for Sustainability and Climate Change at TAQA, one of the largest listed integrated utility companies in the region, since July 2022, Fazil leads the ESG and net-zero by 2050 strategy, along with special projects, ESG disclosures and stakeholder management.
Under his leadership, TAQA announced its 2030 ESG Strategy including interim GHG emissions reduction goals, with a commitment to a 25% reduction of scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030 across the Group, and also launched a new Green Finance Framework for the issuance of green vbonds, sukuks, loans, and other debt instruments aligned with global best practice.
As one of the first International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) scholars and a Masdar Young Future Energy Leader (YFEL), Fazil has made green waves globally as well as regionally, introducing the concept of Demand Response Mismatch to the research world – and for developing the concept of ‘self-sufficient villages employing renewable energy’, he secured the prestigious ANERT award.
Among previous roles, Fazil has been an advisor on net zero and carbon abatement for the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, an advisor on sustainability to Dubai Tourism and held senior roles in climate change and sustainability at big four firms EY and PwC Middle East.
Chief Sustainability and Climate Change Officer
Recognised as a regional sustainability expert, Alia Busamra not only leads sustainability strategy at Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC), but is also the Global Alliance Lead for the World Green Economy Organisation – responsible for promoting the objectives of the WGEO on a global platform.
With proven success of improving and developing best practices, Alia has nearly two decades of multicultural corporate experience across the entire Oil & Gas supply chain at ENOC.
A leading integrated global player operating across the entire supply chain, ENOC services thousands of customers across 60 markets and employs more than 9,000 workers.
As Sustainability and Climate Change Officer at ENOC and head of Group Sustainability Department for the last nearly 20 years, Alia manages the key corporate functions of energy transition and decarbonisation, sustainability and climate change and CSR.
Under her leadership, ENOC has secured multiple awards, including the Golden Peacock Award for Sustainability.
In her 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.