COP28 Talks: Dr Maryam Ali Ficociello of Red Sea Global

Dr Maryam Ali Ficociello, Group Chief Governance Officer of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Global development company, on climate challenges and solutions

Red Sea Global, the Saudi-based multi-project developer behind the ambitious regenerative tourism destinations The Red Sea and Amaala projects, was only formed in 2018, but has already opened the doors to two hotels, serviced by a brand-new international airport.

That pace of development would be bewildering anywhere else in the world, but not in the Middle East. However, while large-scale construction projects have always made impressive progress, they have not always been environmentally friendly.

The same charge cannot be levelled at Red Sea Global (RSG), which is embedding responsible and regenerative tourism into its projects, to not only protect but also enhance the environment for future generations.

When complete by 2030, the destinations set along the northwestern coast of Saudi will include 50 resorts and around 8,000 hotel rooms, plus 1,000 residential properties.

Those will be powered by 100% solar energy, and served by electric cars, boats, and aircraft. These destinations play key roles in the realisation of Vision 2030, the Kingdom's blueprint for economic diversification and sustainable development. 

By 2040, RSG has committed to delivering a 30% net conservation benefit – effectively adding mangroves by the millions, seagrass, coral reefs, and land vegetation.

Dr. Maryam Ali Ficociello is leading governance for Red Sea Global, providing direction in ensuring that RSG's business is conducted with the highest ethical standards. Under her leadership, it became the first company in the Kingdom to achieve ISO 37000 for good governance, and continues to raise the bar in the region.

For Dr Ficociello, the commitment shown on the opening day of COP28 towards the Fund for Climate Impact Response (FCIR), was a great start.

“Emphasising climate justice within governance frameworks is essential, in order to support the communities that are most vulnerable to climate impacts,” she tells Business Chief.

“The conference offers a stage to share best practices in sustainable governance and risk management, inspiring nations and organisations to adopt similar strategies and ensure a cooperative approach to climate risks. 

“So, my hope for COP28 is a progression in global governance structures, with a shift towards concrete, enforceable actions in climate change mitigation.”

Challenges and opportunities

Pressing Dr Ficociello on the greatest challenges facing the corporate sector in the region when it comes to climate change, she says they are embedding climate governance and compliance into core business strategies.

“The key is to reconcile economic growth with environmental stewardship, a complex task in a historically oil-dependent region,” she says.

“Innovations in governance and risk management are vital, as they aid in navigating the transition to greener energy sources. Developing robust regulatory frameworks that enforce sustainable practices is another significant hurdle. 

“However, the region is uniquely positioned to pioneer sustainable governance models, utilising its abundant natural resources, such as solar energy, to spearhead a regenerative approach in corporate practices.”

COP28 hosts the UAE are already leading by example, being the first to pledge US$100 million to FCIR in the opening minutes of day one of the global gathering.

Dr Ficociello believes it is especially important for the UAE to be central to the climate conversation.

“The UAE hosting COP28 highlights the country’s journey from traditional energy economies to embracing renewable and sustainable practices,” she says. 

“Initiatives, like Masdar City, illustrate the country’s commitment to sustainable development. COP28 offers a platform to globally showcase the region’s efforts in sustainable transformation, setting an example for other resource-rich nations.”

Certainly in Saudi, Red Sea Global is setting an example, and showing what is possible.

Meet Dr. Maryam Ali Ficociello

As Group Chief Governance Officer of Red Sea Global (RSG), provides substantial direction in ensuring that RSG’s business is conducted with the highest ethical standards and is also responsible for overseeing compliance monitoring and management programs across the organisation.

Maryam is responsible for developing effective, transparent, and accountable governance practices that are in compliance with both regulatory requirements and leading practices. She identifies, assesses, and manages RSG's internal and external risks in order to help the company achieve its objectives. She has led the development of an Internal Control Framework as well as an Enterprise Risk Management and Resilience Framework and monitors the company's performance against them.

Prior to joining RSG in 2017, Maryam supported a variety of public and private organisations in Real Estate Development, Hospitality, Aviation, Defence, Media, Healthcare, Education, Manufacturing, and Construction – creating and developing governance parameters, risk management and internal control frameworks. 

Her expertise has led to her serving as an advisor on topics such as governance, large-scale technology implementation, and public sector management and she is a GCC Board of Directors' Institute member.

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