Green lessons begin in her Abu Dhabi home

The sustainability expert Eva Ramos helps organisations manage their environmental, economic and social impact in a country with a hefty ecological footprint.

Eva Ramos, pictured at the Environment Agency, has noticed awareness of sustainability issues on the part of organisations.
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ABU DHABI // Eva Ramos is in the daily habit of reminding her six-year-old daughter Lucai to turn off the tap when she brushes her teeth.
The effort may have a limited effect in a country that has one of the world's highest water consumption rates, she said, but it is not just Lucai's attitude towards resources that she wants to adjust.
The senior sustainability specialist for the capital's environment agency, Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) provides training and support for numerous organisations to manage their environmental, economic and social impact.
The biggest challenge is highlighting the costs of the region's sudden economic development, she said. The country has one of the highest ecological footprints in the world.
"We live in a mirage and forget that our ecological system here is very limited, so we need to use these things in a very wise way for future generations, otherwise we will leave them with nothing," she said.
"The Government alone cannot change the other social problems we are facing, such as the high unemployment rate or labour practices, unless companies and citizens participate in resolving these issues.
"My job is to coordinate these efforts," she said.
Mrs Ramos' main focus is managing the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Group, which was created in 2008 by EAD and the Abu Dhabi Executive Council. The group works with 21 government agencies, private companies and non-profit organisations, with several others in the process of joining.
The group members are required to submit an annual report that explains their management approach and measures their sustainability performance.
Mrs Ramos, who grew up in Alicante in Spain, has advised similar projects in developing and emerging countries around the world for more than 15 years. She moved to the UAE two years ago after working for a private Spanish foundation. She was also working as an independent consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank on a cluster of projects in Latin America.
Mrs Ramos, 43, lives in Dubai with her daughter and husband, Jesus, who manages a consultancy firm and works mostly in Saudi Arabia.
She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Universitat d'Alacant in Spain, and later a degree in development studies from University of Sussex.
She met her husband while the two were college students working in Turkey for the student-run leadership organisation, Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales. That trip to Turkey, as well as her studies and experiences working on development projects in Mexico and the Philippines, led her to pursue sustainability.
"I've always wanted to improve and change things, and I saw how that kind of work was a way to contribute to the world that I live in," she said.
As she evaluates the habits of local companies and government departments, she has noticed awareness on their parts. She expects a proposed increase in utility prices to have a huge impact on waste and consumption levels, for example, and has seen evidence of improved labour conditions.
However, changes are difficult to measure. Solving an ecological problem, for instance, could have social or economic implications, she said.
"It is an ongoing path, not a destination," agreed Belinda Scott, assistant manager of corporate social responsibility at Mubadala Development Company, which joined the group this year.
"When you touch on one of the three dimensions of economic, environmental or social issues, one will usually have an effect on another and you often have to go back and find the right balance. Eva is able to do that with great focus."
When the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) introduced talking automated teller machines and payroll cards to ensure fair and timely payments of labour wages, for example, they later had to consider incorporating more languages and pictures for the service to be effective and fair, explained Ms Scott.
She was the corporate social responsibility officer at NBAD up until a couple of months ago, and has worked closely with Mrs Ramos in both positions.
"These kinds of things take time and testing, and Eva has been a wealth of information and ideas for approaching similar issues," she said.
Mohammad Yousif al Jawdar, director of the AED's policy and strategy sector, credits Mrs Ramos with building up the group's membership.
"Eva's clarity amid all of the noise has helped her to create good relationships, sharing what she knows with our members," he said.
"She brings new ideas and, I believe, the missing pieces that will help us complete this sustainability puzzle."
econroy@thenational.ae