Kirby Gimson, Senior Consultant in the Liability Portfolio Management and Remediation (LPMR) team at ERM, joined the Arctic Basecamp team on secondment to contribute to their work to create real impact in the global fight against climate change. This included joining the team at this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. Here she shares her experiences.
In my role as a Project Manager at ERM since 2014, I spent several years effectively managing both small and large projects for the remediation team in South Africa, but I had been itching to get more involved in sustainability and climate change work. I joined ERM’s Sustainability Network, wanting to do whatever I could to promote awareness around how we, as individuals, can still contribute to the global climate crisis, but I wanted to branch out even more and reach people with the power to make significant changes in the world.
A secondment opportunity at non-profit organization Arctic Basecamp was shared with me by our Global Sustainability and ERM Foundation Manager, who knew I was interested in getting more involved in sustainability programs. I had not heard of Arctic Basecamp at the time, but after looking into their organization and the work they do, it sounded exactly what I was looking for, so I put my hand up without a second thought!
Comprised of Arctic scientists, communications and social media experts, event coordinators, and climate vulnerability specialists, the Arctic Basecamp team helps to bring awareness to the global risks that come from Arctic change (and by association, climate change).
My official role was Project Manager for the Arctic Risk Platform (ARP), which is a web-based platform developed for the organization's target audiences (namely policy-makers, business leaders, media, etc) to help make informed decisions based on science. In addition to managing the day-to-day tasks required to enhance the ARP, I assisted with fundraising initiatives, event management, and overall team management.
I also joined the Arctic Basecamp team at the 2022 World Economic Forum Conference, mainly as Project Manager for the ARP, but also as a general set of hands to help set up for events, coordinate meetings, build relationships, etc.
The overall experience of being in Davos during the WEF 2022 conference was incredible – there were so many high-profile individuals present, including US Congressmen, WBCSD CEO Peter Bakker, and Prince Albert II of Monaco, and tons of incredibly important discussions happening. It was an honor to meet these individuals and discuss important world matters with them.
The highlight for me personally was bumping into my favorite artists (Alex and Allyson Grey) at a drinks reception one evening.
I had never held a position like this before, so this was completely new territory for me. Although I am passionate about climate change and promoting awareness on what we can all do to help save our planet, this type of work was different. My educational background is in geology, and my role at ERM has always been a technical focus in the contaminated land management space, whereas the work with Arctic Basecamp was less technical, and more operational.
Becoming more familiar with various business consortiums, potential funders, and the overall ways of working for a small, start-up organization were challenges at first. But with support from the Arctic Basecamp team, as well as other ERM personnel involved in the secondment, I was able to get up to speed and be the best Project Manager I could be for Arctic Basecamp.
Throughout my secondment, I received ongoing support from ERM’s Global Sustainability Director, Linden Edgell, as well as the project Partner-in-Charge, Simon Van Wyk, and I am grateful to my team and to my line manager, Neil Ackermann, for their continued support, and for helping to make this happen.
Before joining the Arctic Basecamp team I had no idea how vulnerable the Arctic truly was. We all hear that glaciers will melt and sea levels will rise, but there is so much more to it than that. Science shows that the Arctic is the barometer of global risk — from trade and supply chain disruption and food and water insecurity to economic losses and public health and humanitarian crises - what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay there.
While my time at Arctic Basecamp has ended, this experience has taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to, as long as the passion is there. This in turn has enabled me to feel more confident about my work with ERM. The satisfaction I feel when speaking science to power, and the engagement that those in power demonstrate when discussing these issues, was one of the most rewarding aspects of this position. It’s incredible to know that people want to learn, and that they want to enact change. We just need the whole world on board in order to save our precious planet!
Kirby Gimson is a Senior Consultant in the Liability Portfolio Management and Remediation team, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. As part of her role, she assists with the development of remediation designs, oversees remediation construction, and conducts site investigations and risk assessments.