Ahead Of The Curve: Alliances for Global Sustainability CEO Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan
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As the great granddaughter of the late H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, Alliances for Global Sustainability CEO Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan doesn’t have to look too far from her own family when it comes to seeking inspiration for her work in the environmental domain. Consider, for instance, her visionary great grandfather’s words in 1998, which he said on the occasion of the UAE’s first Environment Day: “We cherish our environment, because it is an integral part of our country, our history, and our heritage. On land and in the sea, our forefathers lived and survived in this environment. They were able to do so only because they recognized the need to conserve it, to take from it only what they needed to live, and to preserve it for succeeding generations. With God’s will, we shall continue to work to protect our environment and our wildlife, as did our forefathers before us. It is a duty, and, if we fail, our children, rightly, will reproach us for squandering an essential part of their inheritance, and of our heritage.”
UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment H.E. Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi with Imkan CEO Walid El Hindi on the occasion of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and Alliances for Global Sustainability signing a memorandum of understanding with Imkan to announce The Guardians’ Initiative.
Source: Alliances for Global Sustainability
It's easy to see that these lines by Sheikh Zayed have had an indelible impact on Sheikha Shamma, especially when you consider her contribution to the quotation wall at the Møller Institute at Churchill College, Cambridge in the UK, which goes: “It is our collective duty to lead responsibly to create a better world for future generations.” As the youngest person to have been quoted on this particular wall (her words are showcased alongside those by Winston Churchill, Michelle Obama, and others), Sheikha Shamma, who has a master’s degree in sustainable leadership from Cambridge University, was chosen for this particular honor in July last year on account of her achievements as both a businesswoman and a philanthropist.
After all, besides her leadership of Alliances for Global Sustainability (a for profit venture that facilitates projects and partnerships across various entities and sectors that are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals), Sheikha Shamma is also the founder of a charitable foundation called Circle of Hope, which has run initiatives like Wanna Read? (this drive saw over 7,000 books placed for children in hospitals in the UAE), Beacon of Hope (this program saw solar light resource kits supplied to children in developing countries), and More Equity (which was formerly called Women Empowerment and Equality Board, and is aimed at promoting gender balance and empowering women in the UAE’s workplaces), among others.
I got to have a quick chat with Sheikha Shamma at the 2019 Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (where she was one of the headline speakers), and that’s when she told me about her motivations behind the work she does as the founder and CEO of Alliances for Global Sustainability. “When we look at the resources of the world, we are depleting them faster than we can replenish them,” she noted. “We also have a growing population, and that equates to an unimaginable scenario.” Her personal interest in the sustainability domain is thus what led her to her working in this space, where she aims to have different entities work together to realize outcomes that benefit us all. An example of this would be the recent memorandum of understanding that was signed between Alliances for Global Sustainability and the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment with Abu Dhabi-based developer Imkan to announce The Guardians Initiative, which has the real estate player pledging “to safeguard, protect and preserve Abu Dhabi’s diverse heritage, nature, wildlife and marine environments.”
While efforts like the above seek to affect change on a macro sale, Sheikha Shamma makes it clear that there’s a lot that one can do (and lead) from a more personal level as well. “When I talk about leadership, I’m not waiting for someone to lead,” she explained. “I’m encouraging everyone to take that initiative, because, everyone, no matter how small they think they are in the grand scheme of things, they do have an impact on the planet. And if they are more responsible, then it makes the world a better place for generations to come.” And that, in effect, sums up what is Sheikha Shamma’s hope for the future. “I’d like to see a more sustainable world, a world where we’ve moved from a linear economy to a circular economy,” she said. “A world where our children will have the resources and the environmental privileges we’ve had, if not more.”