Goumbook interviews Simarna Singh, a young and passionate entrepreneur, a power house in pushing the SDGs and an inspiration to not just youths but to everyone in her drive to push the sustainability agenda both locally and internationally.
“Reflect on the present situation, envision and take progressive action so that we are better prepared for our children, who are the Youth of Tomorrow. Let’s make every day count – every little impactful action prepares us collectively. Let’s connect and collaborate to be change leaders and make a difference!” Simarna Singh – UN Youth Ambassador | Youth & Women Empowerment | SDGs Advocate
- How and why did you become involved in sustainability and environmental causes (SDGs)?
I have always wanted a career that is purposeful and makes a difference. My journey with Sustainability started in 2017, with Coco Veda, whilst I was pursuing my Undergraduate Degree. During this period, I was chosen as a United Nations Global Compact Youth Ambassador in the UAE, and aligned Coco Veda’s Sustainability Journey with the SDGs.
- You have so many projects and are so active, please can you tell me about them?
As the Chief Sustainability Officer for Coco Veda, I am now taking a leadership role to drive e-Commerce and expand to 25+ countries by integrating technology into the sustainability roadmap, accelerate the SDGs and create socio-economic impact. With a wide range of 100+ proprietary Coconut Health and Wellness, Natural, Vegan Products (Healthy Food, Personal Skin Care, Wellness Oils, Pet Care and Cleaning Range) that are certified Organic, Halal, ISO, GMP are all handmade by a 100% Women Team in the Philippines who have been trained in line with the Japanese Kaizen Philosophy. As Coco Veda grows in each of the nine countries, we are currently present in, it will by default, employ and empower more women as there is no machinery. As a company, we have committed to nine of the SDGs and aim to uplift the lives of the Farmer Communities who earn below USD2 a day. In 2017, we conceptualised and created Sustainable Relationship Partners as a Coco Veda initiative, which brought together like-minded individuals across Government, Academia, Private Sector and Civil Society to help bridge the gap in understanding Sustainable Development holistically. Since then, we have already had 40 well-attended educational networking sessions in UAE. Moving forward, we hope to build this as a digital platform targeted for the Youth, based out of Singapore, that activates their Voices, and provides opportunities in terms of mentorship, internships and hopefully, employment in their own sustainability journey. This Digital Platform will be integrated with events and high-level networking which should lead to career progression through the nexus we intend to build and grow.
- Can you tell us about your experiences at the United Nations Climate Change conference?
I am truly very grateful to have been selected to represent the United Arab Emirates Youth Delegation along with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, under the flagship of Masdar’s Future Sustainability Leaders Program. I had the opportunity to witness what transpired during the Paris Agreement negotiations and the deadlock between the countries, which was a powerful learning experience. There were fantastic networking opportunities in such a large event of over 25,000 delegates from over 200 countries, and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the Spanish Culture and Hospitality.
- How do you think the youth can become more active in terms of knowledge and interest in environmental issues?
In my opinion, the only way to be active is for all stakeholders to be thoroughly passionate, purposeful and involved to solve an existing problem. As we all realise from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we can no longer neglect the environment and this is a perfect opportunity for youth to learn practically, by executing and achieving impactful solutions. This is also my mission for the Sustainable Relationship Partners, as we get the right stakeholders on board.
- How important is environmental education and what can be done to improve this?
Experiential learning needs to be integrated into education along with providing the youth exposure to the various aspects of Environmental impact not only on the planet, but also on Business and Governance.
- What are your thoughts on Greta Thunberg?
Greta Thunberg was present at the United Nation COP25 in Madrid, and I personally witnessed how the Fridays for Future School Strike movement empowered the Youth. She has become a Climate Action Leader who raises awareness, inspires other Youth to take action and be changemakers.
- What for you is the most pressing problem facing the world and the UAE in terms of the environment?
Just before Eid, I was in conversation with Suzy from Abu Dhabi Media Radio 2 where we discussed the National Food Security Agenda under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Ministry of Food Security, led by Her Excellency Mariam AlMheiri. Many developed and developing countries can take away valuable lessons from how the leadership of the UAE recognises environmental challenges and addresses other important issues such as Water Depletion, Energy Crisis, Climate Change, Air Pollution, Waste Management and Biodiversity. These are common challenges for many nations across the world, which were actively discussed at side events during the UN COP25 in Madrid and various other forums.
- Are you optimistic about your future?
My vision is to build resilient societies for a more sustainable future. In the next 5 years, I intend to make an impact in the livelihoods of the Coconut Farmers, the Women Community who make the Products at Coco Veda, and through the Sustainable Relationship Partners Platform build a scalable socio-economic ecosystem for Youth.
- What are the biggest challenges to achieving the SDGs and which one for you personally is the most pressing and achievable?
The United Nations 2030 SDGs Agenda was already an ambitious expanded version of the previous MDGs. In my opinion, achieving goals without execution plans are inadequate from an impact standpoint and this is the real challenge that needs to be addressed urgently. On the other hand, if all stakeholders demonstrate solidarity and clear action on the SDGs it is achievable.
- Who is your Sustainability Hero?
Malala Yousafzai is an inspirational Sustainability Practitioner, I concur with her mission that every girl deserves the right to be educated and I believe that to execute the SDGs effectively, it does require re-education and upskilling. It is wonderful to see how she is changing and shaping the lives of girls from less fortunate backgrounds in developing nations, with many of them from communities who discriminate based on gender.
- Do you think the impact of COVID on the environment will last or will we revert back to our ‘old ways’?
Post COVID, Governments need to pave the way for an environmentally sustainable future in terms of legislation and governance – there are early signs being visible from a few countries across the world. Clearly, sustainable finance is going to be more prominent across the financial sector. Whilst, this may not be applicable to all corporates, there is hope that sustainability, inclusion, diversity and a circular economy will be emphasized and a part of their KPIs, which is a shift from the previous profit driven agendas.
- Have you seen a shift in mindset re the environment due to COVID?
The lockdowns have given everyone time to take a step back and reflect. I do believe that mindsets have changed, and we will see consumer behaviour shifting towards more responsible and conscious consumption. There will be opportunity for small and medium businesses and brands, as well as innovative start-ups aligned to the new normal. On the other hand, those who do not adapt will face serious challenges.
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Simarna Singh is a passionate sustainability advocate and she is actively involved in actioning the SDGs, with a strong belief that “the Youth will make a difference and they will not stop until they are heard…”
Her exposure and experience revolve around consulting the 4- and 5-Star Hospitality Industry in the UAE on their sustainability compliance. Academically she holds a 1st class Honors degree from the Emirates Academy of Hospitality
Management, in International Hospitality and Tourism, affiliated with École Hôtelière de Lausanne. She also handles business development and sustainability for a Philippines based social enterprise in the coconut industry, who have
developed a wide range of natural and organic sustainable products, handmade by women communities.
In parallel, Simarna has been privileged to be a part of MASDAR’s Future Sustainability Leader’s program to complement her academic studies. She represented the UAE Youth Delegation in Yekaterinburg at the GMIS conference along with the UAE Ministry of Energy and Industry, and Madrid at the COP 25 United Nations Climate Change conference with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.
At the start of her career in October 2017, soon after Simarna was accepted as a United Nations Global Compact Youth Ambassador in the UAE, she initiated and founded the Sustainable Relationship Partners in Dubai which has held 39 well attended educational sessions bringing together a diverse group of accomplished leaders from the Government, Academia, Private Sector and Civil Society.