Setting sustainability goals for island countries
For the past year, Arnaud van Dijk has been working on a survey of how well prepared countries such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Malta are for net zero.
The KPMG Cayman Islands principal has quickly found that some sustainability ideas look great on paper but have to be adjusted for small island nations.
On a personal level, when he left Canada for Cayman last year, he expected to be pedalling to work. But that turned out to be impractical.
“It was the safety aspect of the roads that concerned me,” he said.
And it was a lot hotter than Canada.
He loves sustainable clothing and wears sneakers made from recycled plastic bottles, but has struggled to find the clothing he loves in his new home in George Town.
“I guess there is no market for it,” he said.
Mr Van Dijk is co-lead for KPMG Impact, the accelerator for the firm’s global ESG strategy.
KPMG aims to be carbon neutral by 2030 with the use of renewable energy being the driving force behind that.
But on small islands renewable energy solutions can be limited. Bermuda, for example, remains highly dependent on oil. The move away from that has been slow.
Mr Van Dijk said in such circumstances “there will likely have to be some offsets”.
But Mark Allitt, managing director and insurance sector lead at KPMG Bermuda, said there still are also positives to launching sustainability programmes in small countries.
He said while there are not a lot of public transport links as there would be in a big city, people do live closer to the office, making it a little easier to bicycle or walk to work.
Mr van Dijk was a moderator at the Bermuda Climate Summit 2022. He said: “Bermuda’s goal to be the climate-risk capital of the world is well aligned with what the island has to offer.
“There is a lot of opportunity for Bermuda. You have electric buses coming in and you already have sustainable water storage.”
He drew similarities to Cayman, where he said officials are also looking to the future.
“For the first time, Cayman has a ministry focused on climate change. They have put forward an ESG framework. You have to talk the talk if you want to have that conversation around your vulnerability to climate risk.”
KPMG is seeing a sense of climate urgency in many island economies, many with shared characteristics and tensions.
“Island states can learn a lot from each other about what is going well and what is challenging,” he said.
KPMG itself, which has 236,000 employees in 150 countries, aims to be carbon neutral by 2030.
“Globally, we are on track to reach our target but there are definitely challenges, particularly in small island economies such as the Caymans and Bermuda,” he said.
KPMG is rolling out sustainability education programmes for its employees around the world.
Since moving to the Cayman Islands, Mr Van Dijk has enjoyed working with KPMG’s strong asset management programme.
“I also enjoy coming in with an ESG impact lens, building products that have not only a financial return but also a positive impact,” he said.