The Virtual Island Summit 2020, was an online event designed to enable islands globally to connect and share ideas through a digital platform held 7-13 September 2020, and which attracted 10,000 registrants. It was a pleasure to interview Sangeeta Laudus – Island Innovation Ambassador for the UK and Cayman Islands and learn how she became involved with the summit and her own passion and interests in supporting island states in developing climate initiatives
Q&A with Sangeeta Laudus, Island Ambassador UK and Cayman Islands
ECC : How did you get involved with Island Innovation Virtual Island Summit?
SL : I met James Ellsmoor the founder of Island Innovation last year on LinkedIn, around the time I was preparing to relocate for work to the Cayman Islands. I was keen to learn as much as I could about my new island home and indeed how climate change was affecting island states and looking at ways in which I could support the changes needed to tackle the challenges.
I was really impressed at how James was organising the first ever virtual conference for islands states, and leveraging off my background as a former finance lawyer, offered to help provide advice around the growing importance of sustainable financing and impact investing and curated a session for him entitled ‘Financing a Blue-Green Economy for Islands’.
ECC : What did your role as an ambassador entail?
SL : I believe the role of the ambassadors was two-fold : 1) to promote the Virtual Island Summit on the island(s) each of us was aligned to and 2) to feed back the latest news and innovations on their island(s) to the wider group and act as a bridge to facilitate involvement at the summit.
ECC : What have you loved most about being an ambassador?
There are around 200 ambassadors across the globe representing the Virtual Summit and it’s been a really nice community to be a part of – from sharing news and ideas on our WhatsApp and other group channels, to developing new friendships and contacts. What I also love is the diversity – from students to retirees, and people from a broad spectrum of professional backgrounds, but all united by a common purpose.
ECC : Which guest speakers and topics have you enjoyed the most?
SL : I was definitely looking forward to the Opening Sessions on 8 September (both for the eastern and western hemispheres) and enjoyed hearing the keynote addresses from island leaders on how island communities are responding to a wide range of challenges. Last year there was a keynote from the former prime minister of Aruba Mike Eman, and it was really inspiring to hear how his island had implemented initiatives like electric trams powered by batteries augmented by hydrogen fuel cells which are in turn powers by the islands trade winds! I think one of the most important outcomes from this summit is to be able to share innovative solutions and good practices.
And of course, I very much enjoyed the “Brexit and Beyond” session on 12 September which focused on how Brexit will impact Britain’s Overseas Territories and how the UKOTs will need to recalibrate their relations not only with the EU, but with the wider world and Britain itself. Indeed, I was delighted that André Ebanks (Representative of the Cayman Islands Government Office for the UK & Europe) accepted my invitation to be a panellist on this session. He did an excellent job discussing the role Cayman can play within the Global Britain family and the areas for possible collaboration.
ECC : What is your background in environmentalism?
SL : I have always had a deep appreciation for nature, and a sense of our being connected to something bigger than ourselves. As I was growing up we would hear about global warming caused by greenhouse gases and the increasingly dire impact this would have on the environment, and you would do what you could (recycle, switch off lights etc) but I don’t think the message of just how serious a crisis this was had really resonated until the last few years. Although the challenge is acute, you really get a sense that this has become a global priority and that is empowering. I work for the City of London Corporation and a lot of our work is trying to support the mobilisation of capital in the directions it is needed to facilitate the transition to a more sustainable economy.
ECC : What advice would you give for individuals trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle?
I think my best piece of advice would be to just start being mindful of how you are living your life and start to make changes where you can. One of my good friends Cathy is a sustainability guru and has an excellent blog which I find to be a great source of information. We can’t be expected to know all the recycling symbols or best practices, these things take time to learn and so I would recommend you find support or sources of information like her blog, which helps to navigate the sustainability maze. My hope is that as technology and government policies start to develop in this space, we as consumers will be able to do our bit more easily but for now, don’t get overwhelmed and don’t suffer from “green guilt.
ECC : And finally can you tell us about your love for the islands and your connection to Cayman.
SL : I have always had a real attraction (and connection) to the Caribbean, the warmth and friendliness of the people, the beauty of the islands and the richness of the ecology and cultures, not to mention the laid-back lifestyle and indeed I even got married in Jamaica. Of course, the personal challenge has been to find a way to enjoy island life whilst pursuing a career, which is why the Cayman Islands was always on my wish list as it seemed to offer both.
I was thrilled to get a job on island last year, and indeed came across for a short while and fell in love with the island and the warm spirit of “Caymankind”. And although for a number of reasons, I was only on the island for a short amount of time, I made so many friends from my time there and have created a fabulous network since, all of whom I am still in touch with regularly, I am very much committed to supporting and promoting the island as much as I can from afar.
I truly believe Cayman has a real opportunity to become a leader amongst island states in creating a sustainable future and dealing with the challenges of climate change, and I look forward to being part of that journey with a number of initiatives which I hope to be able to share more widely soon!