Sustainability Manager, RA International
United Arab Emirates
When Vera Karmeback joined RA International in 2015, she urged the global infrastructure and support services company to create a position in sustainability.
With her perseverance, she became RA’s first sustainability coordinator in 2018 and created a corporate strategy linked to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Since then, she has worked to embed sustainability throughout the company’s culture and operating procedures and in 2020, the RA board formally recognised “growing the business sustainably” as a key pillar of its strategy.
“I can confidently say that the reason RA has invested in sustainability, and ESG factors are now deeply embedded within our company culture and processes, has been my personal vision and persistence,” Karmeback told the United Nations Global Compact.
Karmeback, who is Swedish, grew up in Berlin and has lived in Nairobi for the past 10 years, was promoted to Sustainability Manager in early 2021. Dubai-based RA International provides integrated facilities management, construction needs and supply chain operation and maintenance for companies around the world.
She was selected as a 2022 SDG Pioneer for Gender Equality by the UN Global Compact. The annual SDG Pioneers programme honors company professionals who are using business to advance and advocate for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
RA boosted its percentage of female employees to 15% as of 2022, up from 10% in 2019, improved its skills development and training to promote 6% of its local workforce between 2019 and 2022 and in 2020 set its first science-based targets to reduce emissions from its most established sites.
Karmeback has worked closely with RA’s business development team to encourage clients to consider low carbon choices and pushed for an approach to bidding in which RA offers a choice of a “traditional” and a “sustainable” solution to clients.
Aware of the importance of engaging her RA colleagues in the sustainability goals, Karmeback said she realized many of them did not respond to scientific language. She implemented a simplified, visual communications approach, such as describing 700 tonnes of CO2e emissions as the same as driving 137 cars for a whole year.
She holds monthly open-invitation sustainability presentations for staff to ask questions and share ideas that could contribute to the company’s goals.
“This bite-size approach motivates teams and individuals since they feel that the targets are achievable,” she said.
Looking ahead, she added: “In an ideal future, sustainability will be so deeply embedded within everything we do that there will be no need for dedicated sustainability professionals anymore!
“But until then, I hope to continue to be a catalyst for change both in my personal as well as my professional life.”