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So as COP 28 begins in the UAE you’ll hear a lot about three letters E, S and G. 

For the uninitiated that stands for Environmental, Social and Governance and are a measure of the sustainability of companies and countries.

On the latest episode of ‘the mentl space’ podcast we ask what is the link between ESG and mental health, particularly in the workplace? And we talk to a guest who has, a surprising, trailblazing sustainability story.

David Shepley is an inspiring individual whose life has been dedicated to conservation and cultural education. And now he’s taken the mission to prove that sustainability is the only true path to profitability as the Director of Sustainability with FIVE Hotels and Resorts

In less than a year since joining, he has led FIVE to earn the highest ESG Rating in the world through ISS, securing the only ‘A’ rating across all sectors. Within FIVE’s ‘A’ Rated ESG program, Shepley works with his colleagues to maintain FIVE’s 100% LEED Platinum operational hotel portfolio, first-in-the-world 3 Star SPIRE Smart Building Ratings, and 6 ISO systems (9001, 14001, 22000, 27001, 450001, 50001). 

Championing the UAE’s ‘Year of Sustainability’, David guides FIVE’s ongoing agreement with DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) and I-REC (International Renewable Energy Certification Foundation) which secured 100% renewable electricity for FIVE’s Dubai hotels in 2022. 

As a sustainability ambassador, he also cultivates local and global relationships with charitable hospitals, animal welfare societies, NGOs, and public and private sector partners

On ‘the mentl space’ podcast, we learn of David’s journey from a passionate teen with a keen interest in wildlife conservation to a committed advocate for sustainable community development. He describes his transformational experiences with the Maasai people in East Africa, focusing on empowering them educationally, socially, and economically.

At 16, he visited a remote Maasai community where he embraced the human aspect of conservation. He participated in social and economic programs aimed at creating sustainable income streams, such as a honey-producing business led by the local women. This initiative supported biodiversity and eco-tourism, and redefined women’s roles in the community by making them breadwinners of a new business.

He shifted his aspirations from pure wildlife research to a more people-centered approach, where he became involved in education and cultural exchange. Through seminars and educational workshops, he sought to equip and empower the local communities, rather than following old conservation models that overlooked local engagement. As he assimilated with the Maasai, learning their language and customs, he realised that his true passion lay in cultural collaboration and contributing to missions that support the environment and uplift people.

After this transformative experience, he decided to enhance his understanding of economics to tie it to meaningful missions with a focus on environmental care, rather than isolating himself in research or fieldwork. 

His mission at FIVE focuses on collaboration and execution, Shepley works to propel FIVE’s brand while implementing cutting-edge projects and building best-in-class systems underpinning environmental, social and governance excellence. 

This includes David’s responsibility of driving the ‘sustainability mindset’ revolution through FIVE’s ideation and training programs while working with senior management to develop corporate frameworks and policies in line with global excellence. 

His story emphasises the vital interconnection between conservation and community development, cultural respect, and the impact of immersive, hands-on experiences in shaping one’s life purpose.