"One is an environmentalist whether one likes it or not." So says Ruth Yeoh, Executive Director for YTL Singapore, Director at YTL's in-house carbon credit and clean development mechanism (CDM) consultancy, and winner of the inaugural Singapore Environmental Achievement Award, conferred by the Singapore Environmental Council in 2012.
It's the 'caring' aspect that makes it part and parcel of life for Yeoh - something she believes should be instinctive, even if the finer details of making it work have to be learnt. She's a Christian, and quick to attribute her own conviction to her faith, which is also that of her family. "I understand stewardship from biblical scripture: we are meant to be God's stewards of this Earth. 'Sustainable living' is simply a lifestyle where we attempt to take as little from the Earth as possible. The concept of reducing our carbon footprint is the more modern way of looking at this - as the world comes to realise that in many cases, humans have not used resources sparingly or wisely."
"My Father, and our Managing Director, Tan Sri Dr Francis Yeoh, consistently reminds us to be a 'force for good'. One of the biggest themes we emphasise at YTL is environmental evangelism, and this is not geographically constrained. It involves educating the public about the environment but also placing responsibility on key leaders in the community to pay it forward."
Little wonder, then, that Ruth - in contrast to many sustainability pioneers - found her ideas to protect the environment and serve the community "well accepted and embraced by the board, senior management and staff from the start".
For YTL, setting an example is not just about establishing the brand as a global leader but about bringing others along too. Ruth points to YTL Construction, which was recently awarded the Green and Gracious Builder Award, introduced by the Singapore Building and Construction Authority to set standards for green practice in the construction industry.
During 2012, Ruth recounts, YTL's Wessex Water exceeded government targets for biodiversity recovery, through habitat management for birds, bats and bees on nearly 300 hectares of land that it manages which are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. YTL's Wessex Water also works with farmers to help them manage their use of nitrates and pesticides to prevent contamination of drinking water sources, and in 2013 partnered with the South Wiltshire Farmland Bird Project, working closely with farmers along a new pipeline route they are laying to protect some of the UK's rarest farmland bird species.
But real leadership - beyond the incremental - requires continual innovation, she asserts. "Take YTL's Wessex Water's subsidiary, GENeco. It has developed a Volkswagen Beetle vehicle that is powered by methane gas derived from human waste during the sewage treatment process. the first such test done in the UK.
YTL has strategic partnerships with The Nature Conservancy, Rare Conservation and Reef Check Malaysia, among others. With Rare Conservation, we have developed the YTL-RARE Fellowship programmes throughout South East Asia, where we educate community leaders who will go on to create their own 'mini' campaigns for their communities."...