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Latin America’s Top 100 Sustainable Companies

BrazilLightForAll

Indexed as one of the Top 100 companies in Latin America, the Spanish utility Iberdrola has brought sustainable electricity to this Brazilian family many thousands of others through its Luz para Todos (Light for All) program, a joint initiative with the Brazilian government. (Photo courtesy Iberdrola) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

November 24, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – A new corporate sustainability index that assesses companies operating in Latin America and the Caribbean based on their corporate governance and environmental and social performance has just released its first listing of the Top 100 companies in the region.

IndexAmericas  is the first index of its kind established by a multilateral development bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the first to evaluate socio-economic development as a key component of sustainability.

To be updated twice a year, the index lists the 100 most sustainable global companies operating in the region as well as the top 30 multilatinas.

But the new listing must be taken with a grain of salt, as not everyone would agree with all the selections.

It includes some companies, such as the Dutch multi-national Unilever, that are recognized the world over for their sustainability efforts.

For instance, Unilever has committed to achieving zero net deforestation associated with four commodities – palm oil, soy, paper and board, and beef – no later than 2020.

Hannah Hislop of Unilever’s Global Sustainability Office, writes in a post on the company website, “Our particular focus is on palm oil where, as the world’s largest single buyer, we have the scale and influence to make a difference.”

The production of palm oil in Latin America is growing fast. Colombia, Latin America’s largest palm oil producer, has plans to increase production six-fold by 2020. Palm oil production in Ecuador has grown seven percent per year over the past decade. Peru quadrupled production between 2000 and 2013. And Guatemala, the largest palm oil exporter in Latin America, has increased the amount of land available for oil palm cultivation by 10 percent annually for the last few years, reported Aditi Sen of Oxfam in October 2016.

Unilever’s approach has three elements: transforming its supply chain, so what the company buys is “fully traceable and certified sustainable;” encouraging the whole industry, from growers and traders, to manufacturers and retailers, “to set and meet high standards;” and working with governments and other partners “to embed no-deforestation pledges into national and international policies.”

But IndexAmericas also includes in its 100 most sustainable list, companies such as the Chevron Corporation, that have come under strong criticism and legal action by local residents and environmentalists for their practices.

Residents of Eccuador’s Lago Agrio region have sought to force Chevron to pay for soil and water contamination caused from 1964 to 1992 by Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001. Chevron has said a 1998 agreement between Texaco and Ecuador absolved it of further liability.

The class action case was originally filed in 1993 on behalf of an estimated 30,000 rainforest villagers in federal court in New York, but in 2001 a U.S. federal judge moved it to Ecuador’s courts at Chevron’s request after the company accepted jurisdiction there.

On February 14, 2011, following an eight-year environmental trial that generated a 220,000-page record, a local court in Ecuador ordered Chevron Corporation to pay US$18.1 billion to the affected communities.

The court designated the funds to be placed in a trust account to compensate the affected communities for environmental harm resulting from the abandonment of hundreds of unlined waste pits and the dumping of billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into waterways relied on by local inhabitants for their drinking water.

The verdict, believed to be the largest environmental judgment ever from a trial court, was unanimously affirmed by an intermediate appellate court in 2012 and by Ecuador’s Supreme Court in 2013, but the latter court later reduced the award to $9.5 billion.

Chevron has refused to pay the award and vowed to fight the claimants “until hell freezes over.” Chevron claims it had been victimized by fraud in Ecuador, including the bribery of the trial judge. Ecuador’s appellate courts rejected Chevron’s fraud allegations.

The lengthy legal battle was documented in “Crude,” a 2009 documentary film.

Companies must be publicly listed to be assessed by IndexAmericas, and they must be active in the Inter-American Development Bank 26 borrowing member countries.

IndexAmericas rates firms’ environmental, social and corporate governance, or ESG, performance and “commitment to development.”

The ESG criteria is a set of standards for a company’s operations that socially conscious investors use to screen investments. The standards apply to: how a company performs as a steward of the natural environment; how a company manages relationships with its employees, suppliers, customers and the communities where it operates; and a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits and internal controls, and shareholder rights.

IndexAmericas defines “commitment to development” in the region as “advancing sustainable growth and reducing poverty and inequality,” according to a new institutional strategy affirmed by the Inter-American Development Bank in 2010 and updated in 2015.

IndexAmericas also applies a proprietary IDB methodology to analyze the development commitment of all assessed companies.

The IDB looks at how corporations handle three development challenges: social exclusion and inequality, low productivity and innovation and lack of regional economic integration.

The bank says it strives to address three cross-cutting issues that apply to all these challenges: gender equality and diversity, climate change and environmental sustainability, and institutional capacity and the rule of law.

IndexAmericas was created by the IDB and IDB Invest, the newly rebranded private-sector arm of the IDB Group, in partnership with S-Network Global Indexes and Florida International University (FIU).

“We wholly support IndexAmericas because it aligns with the College of Business’ mission and vision,” said José Aldrich, acting dean of the FIU College of Business.

The FIU College of Business will do research and education around the index. College of Business faculty, and its Capital Markets Lab, will offer regional workshops and forums designed to help companies improve their corporate sustainability performance based on the index.

“At the IDB, our close partnerships with the private sector have allowed us to witness firsthand the evolution of corporate sustainability both in the region and around the world,” commented Bernardo Guillamon, manager of the IDB Office of Outreach and Partnerships.

“IndexAmericas is a testament to the growing importance of sustainability in Latin America and the Caribbean, and both celebrates corporate champions and encourages more companies to do the right thing,” said Guillamon.

The methodology, developed by IDB/IIC, is based on 172 ESG indicators including 15 specific to the Latin America and Caribbean region.

The ESG data is powered by Thomson Reuters Global ESG Research. S-Network provided methodology verification and the ranking calculation and IndexAmericas will be recalculated and reconstituted semi-annually by S-Network with oversight by the IndexAmericas Committee.

Gregg Sgambati, head of ESG Solutions at S-Network Global Indexes, explains in an interview with “AlphaQ” that the IndexAmericas is not a financial index, published on an exchange, but step towards creating such an index.

“All involved feel it’s an obvious next step,” Sgambati said. “The driver comes from the IDB and their desire to encourage a greater amount of sustainable behavior for companies in the Latin American region, reflecting an approach towards shared value, which does good for the company but also has an impact for the region.”

The new index is based on financial information, but it reflects a ranking related to the region rather than a general world ranking.

“The index does not have any financial stock price information so it wouldn’t be used by investors at this point,” Sgambati says. “However, when you have a company that has achieved the status and recognition of a ranking, which we believe this is, then it does have some value that investors might consider.”

The aim is to encourage companies to take steps towards greater sustainability and shared value in the region.

IndexAmericas relies on more than 400 data points to evaluate the practices, standards, policies, and activities of companies with a presence in Latin America and the Caribbean, assessing them along environmental, social, and corporate governance lines.

The practice of socially responsible investing is booming as investors look for more than financial returns. According to the US SIF Foundation , as of year-end 2015, more than $1 out of every $5 under professional management in the United States – at least US$8.72 trillion – was invested according to socially responsible strategies.

“IndexAmericas recognizes the leading companies in Latin America and the Caribbean for their efforts in the field of sustainability,” the IDB said in a statement. “It is the first initiative of its kind led by the largest multilateral agency for economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean.”


2-DAY GRANT

Featured Images: Puerto Madero is a revamped dockside area in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sleek skyscrapers house multinational corporations and high-value apartments. Trails loop around several lakes at the wildlife-rich Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve. February 2011 (Photo by Alex Proimos) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Is Climate Change to Blame?

Houston, Texas resident up to his knees in floodwaters dumped by Hurricane Harvey, August 28, 2017 (Photo by Jill Carlson) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Houston, Texas resident up to his knees in floodwaters dumped by Hurricane Harvey, August 28, 2017 (Photo by Jill Carlson) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

MIAMI, Florida, September 20, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Contemplating the destruction and suffering that four ferocious hurricanes have brought to the Caribbean over the past three weeks, UN Secretary-General António Guterres blames it on climate change.

This year’s hurricane season “fits a pattern,” he said at a high-level event at the UN to secure help for Hurricane Irma survivors. “Changes to our climate are making extreme weather events more severe and frequent, pushing communities into a vicious cycle of shock and recovery.”

“Extreme weather linked to climate change has an impact all over the world, including floods in southern Asia and landslides and droughts in Africa,” said Guterres. He also noted the impact of rising ocean surface temperature on weather patterns.

In the past month alone, four major hurricanes have ripped through the islands in the western Atlantic Ocean the Caribbean and lands lining the Gulf of Mexico. First Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Texas; then hurricanes Irma and Jose tore through, and now Hurricane Maria blasted in with Category 5 winds on Wednesday.

AT little less intense as a Category 4 hurricane, Maria made landfall as dawn broke in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on September 20 with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour (250 km/h).

“Maria is an extremely dangerous category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, and it should maintain this intensity until landfall,” said forecasters at the National Hurricane Center. The last category 4 storm to hit Puerto Rico was in 1932.

Maria is following a similar track as Hurricane Irma blew down in the first two weeks of September, again striking small island developing states that were already reeling from Irma.

It is exceptionally rare to have two category 5 hurricanes in such a short space of time and on a similar track.

On September 18, Maria intensified rapidly from a category 1 to a category 5 hurricane. It hit the island of Dominica with maximum winds of 159 mph (257 km/h), the first Category 5 hurricane ever to hit the island. The entire island was under the influence of peak eyewall surface winds and it took more than 150 mm of rainfall.

Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico with 155 mph winds, the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall on the island since 1932. Now all of Puerto Rico is without electricity.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center is warning of a life-threatening storm surge for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin islands.

Puerto Rico could get an additional 12 to 18 inches (300 to 460 mms) of rainfall, with 25 inches (640 mm) in some locations.

Earlier today, Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, asked President Donald Trump to declare the region a disaster zone. The White House gave the territory an emergency declaration, one designation below “disaster.”

And there’s more…

Dominca, a small mountainous island with about 70,000 residents, lost all communications during the storm.

As Hurricane Maria struck, Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit posted a message on Facebook, saying, “Initial reports are of widespread devastation. So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace. My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains.”

“So far,” wrote Skerrit, “the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with. The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside.

“Come tomorrow morning,” he wrote, “we will hit the road, as soon as the all clear is given, in search of the injured and those trapped in the rubble. I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating…indeed, mind-boggling,”

“My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured. We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds. It is too early to speak of the condition of the air and seaports, but I suspect both will be inoperable for a few days,” wrote Skerrit.

Skerrit is seeking help from friendly nations and organizations with helicopter services, because he is “eager to get up and get around the country to see and determine what’s needed.”

What many people believe is needed is a concerted decision to limit the greenhouse gas emissions they fear are driving climate change and causing these hurricanes to become even more devastating.

Most scientists say that changes in Earth’s atmosphere did not cause Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose or Maria to form.

But most agree that the effects of climate change, such as warmer oceans and rising sea levels, made these storms more destructive than they would have been in earlier decades.

“The short version is, climate change makes these very bad storms worse,” said Sean Sublette, a meteorologist with Climate Central, a nonprofit organization of scientists who conduct scientific research on climate change and journalists who inform the public of key findings.

“It’s not the proximate cause of the storm, but it makes these bad storms worse,” said Sublette. “And in the case of a really bad storm, climate change can make it totally disastrous or catastrophic.”

The question of how climate and extreme weather interact will be central to the upcoming Science Summit, organized by the World Meteorological Organization’s <public.wmo.int> Commission for Atmospheric Sciences in Bali, Indonesia from October 20 to 22.

The Summit is an opportunity to shape the WMO’s research agenda, building toward a closer collaboration between weather, climate, water and environment research.

Scientists have been hard at work analyzing the relationship between climate change and extreme storms for years.

Back in May 2016, Australian scientists published a study in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters” showing that cities face harsher, more concentrated rainfall as climate change intensifies storms and draws them into narrower bands of more intense downpours.

Engineers at the University of New South Wales found that this has major implications for existing stormwater infrastructure, particularly in large cities, which face high risks of flash flooding.

“As warming proceeds, storms are shrinking in space and in time,” said doctoral student Conrad Wasko, lead author of the paper. “They are becoming more concentrated over a smaller area, and the rainfall is coming down more plentifully and with more intensity over a shorter period of time. When the storm shrinks to that extent, you have a huge amount of rain coming down over a smaller area.”

That analysis will sound familiar to the residents of Houston, Texas who were flooded with record-breaking amounts of rainfall – at least 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, with a maximum of 51.88 inches – in late August.

Hurricane Harvey brought record multi-day rainfall to the Houston area, after it stalled in the region following landfall.  Harvey had intensified before landfall after travelling over unusually warm waters (~2°C) in the western Gulf of Mexico.

“There is no clear evidence that climate change is making the occurrence of slowly moving land-falling hurricanes in the Houston region, such as Hurricane Harvey, more or less likely. However, some aspects or “ingredients” of the Harvey event may have linkages to climate change,” said the WMO’s Expert Team on Climate Impacts on Tropical Cyclones, led by Tom Knutson of NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

Because the tropical atmosphere now holds about seven percent more water vapor than it used to due to climate warming, Knutson and the Expert Team say the rainfall rates associated with Harvey “were likely made more intense by anthropogenic climate change.”


Maximpact+WASTE

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week Glitters in the Sun

AbuDhabiSustainabilityWeek

The International Renewable Energy Agency exhibit at the World Future Energy Summit 2017, a part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, January 16, 2017 (Photo courtesy IRENA) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, January 19, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The oil-rich Middle East’s largest gathering on sustainability is happening this week, featuring the rock star business and opinion leaders who are shaping the present and future clean energy world.

An estimated 35,600 people representing 170 countries are attending Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) under sunny skies, including 80 government ministers, 382 exhibiting companies, and more than 200 high-level speakers.

As a global platform for addressing the interconnected challenges of clean energy, water and sustainable development, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week has developed lasting partnerships with many of the world’s most admired experts and opinion formers on sustainability issues,” said Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, chief executive officer of Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company and the host of ADSW.

ADSW 2017 explores the theme “Practical Steps Towards a Sustainable Future” from January 12-21 with presentations, discussions and workshops on clean energy, water and waste.

From the podium, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto said, “Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week is a testament to the commitment of the United Arab Emirates to sustainable development and a new diversified, low carbon economy. Similar to how Mexico is leading the way as a developing country, the UAE was in fact the first country in the Middle East to set renewable energy targets at a time when there was widespread doubt about renewable energy’s viability and value.

Workshops are considering strategies to drive investment, implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate, and the challenges of adapting existing infrastructure to the new market reality of small-scale, distributed power.

Another critical new market reality was detailed by Michael Liebreich, founder and chairman of the Advisory Board, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and Board member, Transport for London.

Developing countries are overtaking the wealthiest economies in attracting clean energy investment, with the Middle East & North Africa playing a growing role,” said Liebreich, citing research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The global profile of ADSW is valuable in bringing emerging market opportunities to a wider stage,” he said, “thereby enabling greater cooperation between developed and developing economies.”

All kinds of clean energy investments are being forged in Abu Dhabi this week. “The clean energy sector has moved from the margins into the mainstream as a dynamic, commercially viable growth market,” Al Ramahi said.

The UAE Ministry of Energy, SKM Air-Conditioning and the Masdar Institute Wednesday signed an agreement to develop advanced energy-efficient building chillers specific to the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

If adopted nation-wide, the new efficient chillers could provide the UAE with national energy savings of over 20 percent while lowering life-cycle cooling plant costs. Currently 50 percent of the UAE’s electricity consumption goes towards cooling energy requirements, which can rise to as high as 75 percent during peak-day electricity use in the summer.

On another front, the United Arab Emirates announced a landmark new US$50 million grant fund for renewable energy projects in Caribbean island countries. 

Launched by Reem Al Hashimy, minister of state for international cooperation, the UAE-Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund is one of the largest-ever single investments in the region’s clean energy sector. It represents a significant deepening of bilateral relationships between the UAE and Caribbean countries.

Grant funding is provided by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs managing the initiative and Masdar leading implementation.

The announcement, which brings UAE development assistance for renewable energy to almost US$1 billion since 2013, was made on the sidelines of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, as part of the annual General Assembly meeting of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

AminAbuDhabi

International Renewable Energy Agency Director-General Adnan Z. Amin at the World Future Energy Summit 2017, a part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (Photo courtesy IRENA) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin anticipates great success ahead for renewable energy. “Renewables are gaining ground by nearly every measure,” he said. “Accelerating the pace of the energy transition and expanding its scope beyond the power sector will not only reduce carbon emissions, it will improve lives, create jobs, achieve development goals, and ensure a cleaner and more prosperous future.

Introducing the third and latest annual issue of IRENA’s report, “REthinking Energy,” Amin said that the falling costs of renewable energy, driven by innovations in technology and policy, is behind the rapid spread of renewables and an accompanying host of socioeconomic benefits.

As we advance deeper into a new energy paradigm, we need to pick-up the pace of our decarbonization efforts. Policies and regulations continue to remain crucial to this end and to develop the renewables market,” explained Amin. “We are seeing more and more countries hold auctions to deploy renewables, and as variable and distributed sources of renewables take-on a greater role, regulators have implemented changes to enable grid integration at scale.”

Heating and cooling, and the potential of renewables for transport, are areas where future efforts are needed,” Amin said.

REthinking Energy,” provides insights on the innovations, policy and finance driving further investment in sustainable energy system, finding that:

  • Renewable energy auctions are gaining popularity in both developed and developing countries, generating record-breaking low energy prices;
  • Demand for battery storage is increasing rapidly and playing a larger part in integrating variable renewables;
  • New capital-market instruments are helping increase available finance by offering new groups of investors access to investment opportunities;
  • Institutional investors are moving into renewable energy as it offers stable returns over the long term;
  • New business models promise new ways to finance renewable energy.

Of the clean energy technologies, the report finds that solar photovoltaics will grow the fastest in terms of capacity and output, and new ways to store electricity will be a game changer for growing variable renewable energy generation.

IRENA estimates that battery storage for electricity could increase from less than 1 GW today to 250 GW by 2030.

Cost-effective off-grid renewables already provide electricity to an estimated 90 million people worldwide. “REthinking Energy” describes how off-grid solutions can provide modern energy to hundreds of millions more people to help the world achieve its sustainable development goals.

Achieving universal electricity access by 2030, will require us to boost global power generation – nearly 60 percent of that will have to come from stand-alone and mini-grid solutions,” said Amin. “Meeting this aim with off-grid renewables depends on the right combination of policies, financing, technology and institutional capacity.

At the World Future Energy Summit 2017, a part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week that aims to build the business case for renewable energy, India’s solar power industry is showcasing an unprecedented range of investment opportunities, after the Indian government’s announcement of its plans to add an additional 175 GW of renewable energy to the nation’s electricity supply by 2022.

The Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy plans to install 100 GW of solar power, including utility-scale and rooftop solar. The remaining capacity will include 60 GW of utility-scale wind energy, 5 GW of small hydro, and 10 GW of bioenergy.

Private sector investors are showing new interest in Saudi Arabia’s solar energy market, after the nation’s leadership included plans to add 9.5 GW of renewables to the energy supply as part of Saudi Vision 2030, a strategy announced last April.

The Vision 2030 strategy sets 9.5 GW as an “initial target” to help build the Saudi renewables sector, noting that energy consumption will triple in the next 14 years. The Saudi government confirms that it aims to achieve that target by 2023, a rapid increase from the nation’s 25 MW of installed renewable energy capacity at the end of 2015.

Saudi Arabia’s plans are supported by a comprehensive restructuring of government departments responsible for energy. Vision 2030 calls for a complete review of the country’s legal and regulatory framework to allow the private sector to buy and invest in the renewable energy sector.

The projects that will flow from Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy plan create a landmark opportunity for technology manufacturers, developers and investors in solar energy, setting out a very real, very achievable ambition,” said Roberto de Diego Arozamena, CEO of Abdul Latif Jameel Energy, the largest GCC-based solar photovoltaic developer and one of the largest in the world.

A highlight of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week took place on Monday with the awarding of this year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize to nine pioneers in renewable energy and sustainability.

Founded in 2008, the Zayed Future Energy Prize has lit up the world for more than 289 million people through the actions of its international community of winners.

This year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize winners:

Li Junfeng, director general of China’s National Center of Climate Strategy Research, won the Lifetime Achievement award for his commitment to the adoption of renewable energy in China.

General Electric won the Large Corporation award for leadership in the wind and solar energy markets. GE’s wind business alone has commissioned 41.3 GW of total generating capacity and installed more than 30,000 wind turbines to date.

Sonnen, the German smart home and commercial energy storage system manufacturer, was awarded the prize in the Small and Medium Enterprise category for leadership in providing battery storage solutions.

In the Non-Profit Organization category, UK-based Practical Action was recognized for its work in providing deprived communities with clean energy in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Joining them were the winners in the Global High Schools category, five schools spanning five regions of the globe: Starehe Girls’ Center, Kenya for the Africa region; Green School Bali, Indonesia for the Asia region; Bolivia’s Unidad Educativa Sagrado Corazón 4 for the Americas; Belvedere College in Ireland for Europe; and Huonville High School, Tasmania, Australia for the Oceania region.

Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State, took great satisfaction in announcing the winners. “The Zayed Future Energy Prize continues to honor the legacy of sustainability advocated by the UAE’s late founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan,” he said. “With each awards ceremony, the UAE leadership accelerates the pursuit of innovation, reinforces the significance of sustainability at the top of the global agenda, and gives opportunities and far-reaching benefits to communities around the world.

Since the start of the Zayed Future Energy Prize awards, over 25 million people in Africa and Asia have been provided with access to modern, clean energy, off-setting more than one billion tons of carbon emissions, and ensuring that 17 million school age children can study at night using innovative solar-powered utilities.

Chair of the Zayed Future Energy Prize Jury Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, former president of the Republic of Iceland, said, “Through the sustainable actions of its winners, the Zayed Future Energy Prize is a model example for how far the world has come in the last nine years. It is extraordinary that, through the impact of each winner and the lives they continue to improve, we now see a growing strength in being able to deliver a sustainable future.


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Maximpact’s Tom Holland Founder & CEO was proud to attended the ADSW from Maximpact‘s Masdar City Office.

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