Leading Voices in Global Sustainability
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Director - Livingseas Asia
10 Questions to Change The World
How do you think climate change and the global sustainability agenda will
impact your industry over the next 3-5 years?
Being in the diving industry, the changes to the environment are clearly visible to anyone who has been around long enough. The damage to the reef is not fixing itself, and the storms and changes in weather and seasonal patterns are very noticeable.
After time, if nothing is done, we will have fewer reefs for diving, and marine life that comes with it will disappear. This will affect the diving industry greatly, as diving conditions as well as diving sights will be diminished, resulting in a loss of income from the decreased number of tourists.
That said, there is an increasing awareness in divers that this is a problem that needs to be addressed, and having seen for themselves the effect of climate change, most have a good sense of wanting to do something to help.
What is one ‘sustainability hack’ you’d recommend to an organisation wanting
to transform into a more sustainable operation?
Sustainability is a very large umbrella term encompassing many different areas, from environmental to social, and from big organizational changes to small daily tasks.
Teach yourself about sustainability, then teach what you have learnt to the rest of the organization.
The first hack I can think of recommending is to educate the top level executives about it, and then embrace a culture of sustainability education within the organization. This means to first teach yourself about sustainability, then teach what you have learnt to the rest of the organization.
There are many paths to being more sustainable, and with more minds thinking and being aware about the issue, you'll get more solutions, both big and small, on how to be more sustainable in your operations.
Why have you embraced sustainability in your professional career?
For me personally, it was because as I was travelling to dive all over the world, I noticed that upon returning to certain places after some time, the damage was very obvious as I had seen what it looked like before the impact.
Places like Maldives and Phuket prior to the coral bleaching events in 1999 and 2009 come to mind. Having seen these places rich and full of life, and coming back again and seeing everything dead made quite a visceral impact on me.
I knew we needed to do better, and that's when I started learning more about what I could personally do to make a difference.
What are some of the wins you have achieved in your career to date?
Having seen these places rich and full of life, and coming back again and seeing everything dead made quite a visceral impact on me.
Due to the loss of tourism during the pandemic, we decided to scale up our coral restoration site. We got started in late 2020, and in 1.5 years have increased the coverage of seabed with coral by 10X to 700sqm, and increased the company's staff size by 3X.
This has helped us to survive and even thrive during the pandemic, whilst a lot of other diving companies were suffering from the loss of tourism. Apart from growing out the coral reef, we also implemented a Fellowship program where we train local youth to scuba dive and participate in our project. So far we have trained 18 young fellows, with the majority of them women.
We are also training them on environmental issues, and have embarked on other waste management projects and socialization with the larger community.
What do you want to have achieved before you retire?
Before I retire, I want to have replanted 1 hectare of reef and have it growing well. I also want to see the local community really embrace the ideas of sustainability and be able to take care of their environment on their own.
What advice would you give for organisations looking to start or advance on their sustainability journey?
Definitely learn more about it! It's such a big field that there is so much to learn. Explore more into whichever field interests you, then find a way to talk about it and share what you've learnt. Through that you'll start to build a name or reputation for it, and you can start making some positive changes through direct influence on your surroundings.
Who do you go to for inspiration in this space?
Explore more into whichever field interests you, then find a way to talk about it and share what you've learnt.
I don't have any person specifically that I go to for inspiration, but LinkedIn is a great resource as I've connected with many others who are in sustainability too. Uplink is a great resource for innovations as well, so I get a lot of the latest news from that platform.
- Baung Penyu Coral Site -
How do you offset your own footprint?
Apart from making net positive impact through coral planting, I personally minimize my own footprint by being as efficient as I can with anything I'm doing. This means not taking 2 trips when I can do other stuff "along the way", or making sure I plan my days effectively so that I'm not doubling back and wasting time or resources. I even use a Terra filter for water, so I don't even have to buy bottled water anymore! I also implemented as many sustainable options in the company as we can think of, and also encourage all of the staff and people in my vicinity to adopt these sustainable practices.
What is your one ‘guilty / non-eco’ pleasure? (that you can’t live without)
If you had to choose one person, organisation or community to lead the world in sustainability, who would it be and why?
Even though he's not thinking too much about sustainability, I would say Elon Musk. I say that purely because of his influence online and in the markets and the seemingly impossible things that he can make possible.
The global sustainability movement needs its own "Elon Musk" to be able to galvanize the masses into doing more and on a bigger scale, and also to come up with a few big ideas that can solve these pressing issues.
"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