How corporations can play their part in environmental sustainability
By AARON TANG
In a world where greed and short-term profiteering is commonplace, environmental sustainability seems to be an elusive dream.
Politicians and business leaders may occasionally mention environmental responsibility, but we’ve become accustomed to just hearing things, and not really seeing change. Is there really hope for Mother Nature and the Malaysian environment; or will climate change overwhelm us all and our way of life?
Over the past few months, we’ve seen several things that have given us hope. Here are four reasons we believe there’s hope for the Malaysian environment.
1. Responsible corporations
Despite many corporations paying lip service, there are environmentally-responsible companies supporting worthy environmental causes. A recent example is Alliance Bank, who recently partnered with several companies including the Malaysian Green Technology Corporation (GreenTech), Malaysian Environmental NGOs (Mengo), Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia (Cetdem), and Leaderonomics to launch the Eco-Biz Dream Project in the last quarter of 2016.
The competition was recently concluded in February 2017 and it aimed to raise awareness on the current environmental concerns in Malaysia and how to best address these concerns. The competition targeted tertiary students specifically as the bank believes that the next generation of great leaders consisting of our youth, can inspire great change in our nation.
Alliance Bank wanted to embark on a unique programme involving the Malaysian youth and invested into this competition, which included a grand prize of RM10,000 for the winning team – proving their commitment towards youth and the environment.
2. Engaged youth
As the competition was in its first year of conception, there were doubts as to whether Malaysian youth would be interested to join a competition that taps into their idea of a sustainable eco-business.
These doubts have since been laid to rest. The response to the competition was overwhelming: student groups from 23 different institutions submitted more than 200 entries in total. In fact, the judges had a hard time narrowing down the submissions to the 10 best teams.
These 10 teams were invited to meet Alliance Bank and a panel of judges to present their ideas. What really impressed the judges was how innovative and mature some of the students were despite their young age.
It was also heartwarming to see how, for many of the participants, it wasn’t just about winning the competition for the sake of money and glory. Their hearts were in the right place; they really wanted to help sustain the environment.
“It enlightened me that through creativity and innovation, we can help create a better place for the future of mankind.” –Brenda Chow Gynn, Sunway University
3. Innovative thinking methodologies
From the initial 10 teams that were shortlisted, five teams were selected to attend a series of Design Thinking coaching sessions. The idea behind this was to help students refine and improve their ideas in preparation for the final pitching session.
Being Alliance Bank’s learning partner, Leaderonomics provided the executive coaching and plan for the student teams. The Design Thinking methodology was chosen as it helps solve problems using a human-centric approach.
In layman’s terms, it is a process which helps us solve problems by focusing on what end users really need as opposed to focusing on the constraints or designers’ beliefs.
Although Design Thinking was specifically chosen for these students, there are a multitude of other frameworks and methodologies that can be used to guide people to solve other problems, environmental or otherwise.
As human knowledge continues to expand, learning partners like Leaderonomics can help equip our future leaders with tools that they will need to solve our biggest problems.
“The Design Thinking workshops were insightful and fun. It helped open up different perspectives that we hadn’t thought of for our products previously.” –Melvin Khoo, HELP University
4. Supportive institutions of learning
The Eco-Biz Dream Project would not have been successful without the support of the multiple partner universities and colleges. As part of the awareness campaign, Alliance Bank and Leaderonomics organised a series of free workshops and engagement sessions at these institutions.
Feedback from the universities was overwhelming; they would like further collaboration with industry partners like Alliance Bank. Some universities have huge student populations of more than 10,000 students, but the majority have not been given the chance to meet with industry partners.
It is clear that there are huge opportunities for corporations to partner more closely with universities and colleges to achieve significant progress. These institutes with huge student populations have often been overlooked, but are brimming with ideas, youthful passion and energy to do great things.
The people on the ground and the institutions are hungry. But will more corporations answer the call?
The first edition of the Alliance Bank Eco-Biz Dream Project recently came to a close during an action-packed final pitching session at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center. For the finalists and partners, all their hard work paid off.
In the words of finalist Melvin Khoo from HELP University, “It has been an amazing journey with the team. Thank you, Alliance Bank, for providing us with such an opportunity.”
Our environmental problems remain one of the biggest challenges of our time. But with the combination of responsible corporations, engaged youth, innovative thinking, and supportive institutions, there is hope for the future.
How will you help the Malaysian environment today?
Do you know of similar corporations that are involved in sustainable projects? Do tell us their story by e-mailing email@example.com
Aaron is the founder of mr-stingy.com, where he writes about optimising time, money and relationships.
He was previously head of the campus team at Leaderonomics.