The Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University recently partnered with The Economist Events for a day-long summit, themed Going Full Circle, highlighting the need to embrace long-term initiatives that will lead to positive effects in economic goals while leaving a better planet for future generations.
“Asian governments, companies, groups and others can use circular initiatives to benefit changing societies without sacrificing economic growth,” said Miranda Johnson, South-East Asia Correspondent at The Economist.
“From mass urbanisation to innovation in agriculture, new ideas for sustainable initiatives matter to the region. By bringing global and regional experts to Kuala Lumpur we plan to debate how such ideas can be implemented effectively.”
A circular economy means businesses are conducted with sustainability in mind, where resource usage is minimised and wastage is reduced, without sacrificing economic growth or quality of life for the consumer.
Without doubt, there are challenges to be met.
Towards A Greener Earth
Speaking at the conference, Sadhguru, a much sought-after speaker on world issues and positive action, had a pragmatic message: “We need not destroy business, we need to transform businesses. We should strive to officiate the marriage between ecology and economy.”
He emphasised the significance of taking care of the earth, especially the insects and worms that help to create healthy soil environments to maintain the long-term health of ecosystems at large.
Sadhguru is an Indian yogi who has been involved in social outreach, education and environmental initiatives. In 2017, Sadhguru started Rally for Rivers, a river rejuvenation plan to restore the depleting waterways of India.
Throughout the summit, delegates addressed the need for public-private partnerships to align interests and significantly step up its development efforts across sectors to find multilateral solutions to overcome transboundary challenges.
Robert Kraybill of the Impact Investment Exchange and Chandran Nair of the Global Institute for Tomorrow debated on whether sustainability must be approached using global free market principles or otherwise.
Attendees generally agreed with Nair’s position that policymakers were crucial to curb the free market’s tendency to put profits and individualism before the planet.
“Rights and freedoms have to be redefined. Rethink governance [so that]collective welfare comes first. I urge the Malaysian government to rethink that,” he said.
Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia’s Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Climate Change and Environment, urged her government to take action. In her closing remark, she emphasised the importance of the reuse, reduce and recycle imperative, and hoped that each Malaysian think about the problems plastics create, suggesting bio-degradable alternatives.
“We are living in an age where technology is transforming the world. We can already see the effects of technology on the global economy, geopolitics and society. With the right innovation and invention, I believe the circular economy is achievable in Asia. I trust this summit will provide meaningful solutions to advance the sustainable development agenda in the region,” said Jeffrey Cheah, Founder and Chairman of the Sunway Group and Chancellor of Sunway University.
Running Out Of Time
On the climate change issue, Jeffrey Sachs, who is also the Director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, noted that the devastating impact of climate change in the world today is caused mainly by humanity, as opposed to class divides between the rich and the poor. Co-operation between nations is required but ongoing trade wars are a distraction, he added.
Clearly upset about the current US administration’s climate policy “putting the world in danger,” he believes that Asia will play a larger role in determining the world’s future in terms of climate change.
“The US and Europe are the past and are responsible for the rise in temperature that is happening today. But Asia will determine whether rising temperatures will be in control as Asia is now the centre of the business economy, he said.
Asian leadership is arguably needed in reversing the causes of climate change and achieving the environment-focused sustainable development goals, he concluded.