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Leading Voices in Global Sustainability

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Cynthia Jaya

Co-Founder, Project Planet Indonesia

10 Questions to Change The World

February 2022

How do you think climate change and the global sustainability agenda will impact your industry over the next 3-5 years?

As the effects from climate change becomes harder to ignore, governments will have to take more drastic measures to prevent further deterioration of our environment. The current generation is more exposed to information through the internet and have shown more concern towards environmental sustainability than previous generations. I believe in 3-5 years, environmental education will become the norm in most schools, universities, and other institutions. More people would choose to educate themselves on environmental issues and become impact driven in their career choice. NGOs and other initiatives working at a grass-roots level will continue to be instrumental in spreading awareness and will play an important role in implementing new environmental policies.

What have you observed as being the biggest issues for organisations ability to transform into a more sustainable operation?

In the context of a traditional organisation that has been operational for decades, there are a couple of issues. First is the dependency on current revenue streams or standards of operations. Change can take a lot of time and investment, and the ones that are purely environmentally-motivated are especially easy to ignore because there are no major incentives unless policy and regulations are enforced.

That is why most companies who are adapting to sustainable operations, only start due to the economic and social benefits of doing so. The second is the development of technology. A lot of research is put into creating more efficient and sustainable technology. However, while new technologies are not yet commercially available at a reasonable cost, companies and organisations in traditional industries such as plastic/commodity goods would continue to operate as they currently do.

 I believe in 3-5 years, environmental education will become the norm in most schools, universities, and other institutions.

Why have you embraced sustainability in your professional career?

We know that our planet runs on many intricate ecosystems which maintain life on Earth. Although nature is known to adapt well to change, through our studies of years of evolution, humans are introducing pollutants at an unnatural pace. Living in Indonesia, we are seeing first hand the impact of environmental negligence, global warming, and climate change. The passion and fear that drives me comes from understanding the causes and consequences of the environmental issues we’ve created. If we are seeing huge numbers of people affected by air pollution, natural disasters, waste, right now, what will the world look like 10 years from now?

What are some of the wins you have achieved in your career to date?

Living in Indonesia, we are seeing first hand the impact of environmental negligence, global warming, and climate change.

Project Planet has contributed to the environmental education of over 50,000 people across all social media platforms from our content and events. We worked with 200+ collaborators on campaigns and events. We’ve secured funding for a reforestation project in Sumatra.

What do you want to have achieved before you retire?

To successfully run and maintain a massive forest and biodiversity conservation project in Indonesia.

What advice would you give for people looking to start or advance their career in sustainability?

I follow organisations/social enterprises & people who inspire me through the work they do. Such as Sungai Watch, BOSF, Lindungi Hutan, Greenpeace, Topiku, EwasteRJ. I love to learn sustainable and mindful living from Ibu Suzy Hutomo, Melati Wijsen, Maurilla Imron.

Don’t be afraid to take opportunities as they come, even when they’re not directly in your area of interest, because you might discover a different purpose along the way. Find your goal, but don’t be afraid if it changes overtime.

Explore areas of sustainability to find where your passion is. Don’t be afraid to take opportunities as they come, even when they’re not directly in your area of interest, because you might discover a different purpose along the way. Find your goal, but don’t be afraid if it changes overtime.

Who do you go to for inspiration in this space?

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- Project Planet's Launch -

How do you offset your own footprint?

I live in a typical Chinese household with 4 other people, but I personally take it upon myself to live minimally and reduce any unnecessary purchases. I have also implemented the 5Rs in our house, although not perfectly yet, but it encourages everyone to see the waste they created. Some of the easier things we do are waste separation at home, recycling paper & plastic containers, reducing food waste, refusing plastic packages, and always opting for reusables.

What is your one ‘guilty / non-eco’ pleasure? (that you can’t live without)

Meat. Trying to be fully plant-based has been such a journey of ups and downs for me, and it’s never been 100% successful.

If you had to choose one person to lead the world in sustainability, who would it be and why?

I honestly don’t want to name a single person for this question. But I do know that the main thing this leader must have, is the understanding that:
1. Climate & environmental issues are very real and are an urgent matter.
2. Government intervention is necessary to set the foundation for any major changes to our current way of living.

3. Achieving sustainability takes time & investment, in some industries, it’s also not yet possible to operate sustainably. Industries that are hard to disrupt but have a substantial impact to the environment must be acknowledged and the government needs to prioritise funding for research of new technologies to address the issues they create.
4. Economic growth and sustainable development is possible.

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"If working apart we are a force powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it. In my lifetime I have witnessed a terrible decline. In yours you could - and should - see a wonderful recovery.”

 

-​ Sir David Attenborough