Sustainability Warriors

Ruth Yeoh: Sustainability Has Everything To Do With Stewardship

“If you don’t take care of the earth, there won’t be an earth left for us to inhabit,” says the executive director of YTL Group.

Ruth Yeoh: Sustainability Has Everything To Do With Stewardship

We all have at least a vague sense of what sustainability refers to. There is the social responsibility component, where we feel that companies should not harm our environment, should be responsive to both employees and shareholders, and should help civic life to flourish. But solid sustainability is more; much more. It requires companies to be daring and determined, intelligent and innovative.

And YTL Group has had admirable accomplishments in the area of sustainability using those traits. Still, its executive director Ruth Yeoh says, “We have achieved some short-term goals but, as my father and mentor, Tan Sri (Sir) Francis Yeoh always says, the way forward is actioning long-term thinking. We believe in going beyond short-term goals and continuing to create long-term positive changes.”

What is YTL’s approach to sustainability? 

We look to protect the environment, enrich communities, empower our people and embrace the marketplace. We prioritise environmental strategies in our core business decisions with the goal to positively impact the lives of communities where we operate, over the long term. 

Our collective efforts to minimise environmental impacts of our operations have resulted in YTL Group’s growing portfolio of green investments, environmental technologies, resource efficiency and biodiversity-conservation programmes over the years. This has been particularly visible in YTL PowerSeraya in Singapore with solar installations, and the use of carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates, which have been rolled out to customers of our energy retail brand Geneco. 

Describe three of YTL’s sustainability initiatives. 

Across the region, three initiatives stand out for us: First, the YTL Group’s Say No to All Plastic (SNAP) campaign. This is a group-wide campaign to eliminate avoidable single-use plastics from all of our operations by 2025 through the adoption of the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle concept. Already, over 1 million pieces of single-use plastic have been eliminated annually since we started in 2019.

Second, YTL Hotels’ biodiversity protection and conservation measures in Malaysia. We’ve saved 73,000 turtle eggs and 700 nests at the Tanjong Jara Resort, started a hornbill breeding programme at the Pangkor Laut Resort, and set up a turtle-rescue centre and wildlife centre at Gaya Island Resort to carry out wildlife rescue works and identify over 400 flora and fauna species around the island.

Third, YTL Jawa Timur’s economic and community empowerment programmes in Indonesia. These are in collaboration with the local authorities and communities to provide sustainable energy for more than 7,000 villagers living off-grid.

Based on YTL’s experience, what does it mean for a business to be sustainable? 

Industrialisation throughout the years has caused waste to be rife, and we are only now exploring ways to solve this global crisis. It is important to design and create sustainable processes from the onset that look at the function and operations of entire supply chains. This is how sustainability has grown to become the heart of our approach to business. Socially responsible and sustainable operations are a norm for us, and are also vital in our business strategy.

To us, sustainability has everything to do with stewardship. I’ve learned how God created the earth, and you cannot ignore the magnificent biodiversity and wonders of creation all around us. Sustainability is also about survival. If you don’t take care of the earth, there won’t be an earth left for us to  inhabit. It is as simple as that. We need to use resources sparingly, and within the ability of the planet to regenerate them.

Finally, sustainability is about responsibility and properly defining our purpose in business. How we treat the earth, people and the environment is crucial. This is what really determines our fate — which ultimately is in our hands and the hands of our children.

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