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Insights Engineering Net Zero: A Conversation with Mayuko Totsuka on Sustainability

As part of our #PeopleDriveResults campaign, this week we caught up with Mayuko Totsuka – Strategic Advisory, Sustainability Lead, Middle East, at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group. 



1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your role in the business. 


“As part of my role in sustainability and net zero strategic advisory, I help our clients across the public and private sectors create building and infrastructure assets that are climate resilient and enable them to achieve their net zero goals. 

With a background in Environmental Science and Policy, I am passionate about Sustainable Development enabled by the science-policy interface, especially concerning climate change and biodiversity.”

Working across the water, transportation and power and renewable sectors, we understand the opportunities and challenges in achieving a zero-emissions system. 

2022 marked the first full year that we began executing on our “Pivoting to Growth” strategy, delivering on our promises to achieve the financial, growth and ESG objectives we have set out for the year. Learn more about how we addressed pressing global challenges such as climate adaptation and the transition to clean energy in our Annual Report



2. Why is carbon reduction important to your role?



“In the Middle East, we are seeing an increased demand for carbon reduction with governments across the GCC committing to net zero targets. The UAE has pledged to reach Net Zero Carbon by 2050, and Saudi Arabia by 2060. UAE Energy Strategy 2050 aims for a mix of 44% clean energy, while Saudi Green Initiative aims to plant 10 billion trees. 

Through my strategic advisory role, I am helping our clients in the built environment sector meet these national targets by decarbonizing their developments throughout the project lifecycle.” 

The UAE Net Zero by 2050 strategic initiative aligns with the Paris Agreement, a worldwide effort to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5 C compared to pre-industrial levels. Here at AtkinsRéalis , including Atkins and Faithful+Gould, all of our projects in the Middle East are centred around sustainability and aim to minimise the impact we have on the planet and its people and contribute to this ambitious initiative.


3. Where do you see a shift in the approach to net zero?

“Net Zero is becoming a priority for businesses and clients, both globally and in the Middle East. We have seen a clear shift in the business agenda from compliance to performance. Earlier the focus used to be on regulatory compliance; now, there is a lot more emphasis on setting and achieving performance targets for carbon reduction. 

This requires calculating embodied carbon, running models for proactive design optioneering, and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions for asset management. Every decision we make, every process we use, preserving the planet is our underlying motivation and this is what Net Zero is about.”

Our core business strategy is led by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals because we really care about the impact we’re having on the world, and we want to create solutions to some of the most complex challenges. 



4. Tell us about a project you’re working on in this area.



“We’re currently working on a residential community development in Saudi Arabia and using microclimate, daylight and energy modelling to optimise both passive and active designs for thermal comfort and energy efficiency. It is important to make carbon visible for our clients so that we can analyze and improve the carbon performance of building and infrastructure developments.”



5. How should Net Zero concepts be applied to projects in the Middle East? 



“Achieving sustainability performance requires a holistic approach. While calculating site-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, we need to consider not only buildings but also infrastructure, such as energy generation and distribution, wastewater recycling, solid waste management and transportation networks in addition to the green infrastructure provided through landscaping.”

From designing end-to-end project solutions to pioneering new technologies and ways of working, we generate the knowledge, ingenuity and drive to meet so many of today’s most pressing challenges – population growth, transportation, and climate change.

Through a holistic approach, we connect people, technology and data to deliver outstanding project outcomes for our clients on time and on budget. 



6. What impact can your role have on this region in the next 10 years?



“In the Middle East, mega projects are being built in diverse environments and landscapes, from deserts to mountains and coasts. Considering the natural setting of each site, all new and existing developments need to become Net Zero Carbon to tackle our systemic climate crisis. We have the opportunity to play an active role in developing and implementing Net Zero strategies, to set the right path by 2030. The UAE will be hosting COP28 in 2023, which is a significant step towards shaping the global agenda for mitigating climate change.”

It is clear that Saudi Arabia is currently a world leader when it comes to mega projects. This makes the country a perfect destination for those looking to gain experience on some of the most ambitious construction projects the world has ever seen such as NEOM, AlUla, and Diriyah Gate.


7. What advice would you give to anyone looking to further their career in sustainability?


“Think holistically and apply an interdisciplinary approach as working in sustainability requires understanding and appreciation for the interconnected ecosystems in both the natural and built environment.” 


Explore careers in sustainability with the AtkinsRéalis Group in the Middle East.