The Environmental Imperative and What It Means for Businesses


Sunway’s Centre for Planetary Health’s newly appointed Executive Director, Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood, or Dr Jim as she prefers to be called, is no stranger to crises. The founder and former CEO of humanitarian NGO Mercy Malaysia, Dr Jim has been to locations devastated by war, famine, and natural disasters, and has seen her share of hardships. Now, however, the scale of the devastation that is under way is global and we cannot return to “business as usual”.

“The business-as-usual attitude that has spanned entire generations, is one the main reasons that the pandemic happened in the first place, with zoonotic leaks spurred on by the human-created, human-generated imbalances in our relationship with the natural ecosystem,” Tan Sri pointed out in her keynote address at the CEO Forum, “The Environmental Imperative and What It Means for Businesses”.

She reminded businesses of the importance of taking care of the environment and why a focus on the bottom line can backfire. “A sick planet ultimately means sick people equals damaged economies and bankrupt or at the least under-performing businesses. Our endless quest for economic growth needs to be tempered with acknowledgement that nothing lasts forever, that this economic model is actually NOT sustainable, by any definition that you choose, and that it’s way past time to think about a new way of ensuring that the human race can survive on this planet…To exercise the environmental imperative, we need to recognise that our economy cannot be designed just for the rich to get richer and the cost be damned. The economy should be embedded within, and dependent upon, society and the living world.”

In her recorded address, Dr Jim elaborated on some of the measures that businesses can adopt for the environment, including rethinking the supply chain, and educating communities on renewable energy. Consumers, too, should push for greater ESG (Environmental, Social, and (Corporate) Governance) accountability from businesses. In Dr Jim’s words, it’s “way past time” for all of us to act to save our planet.

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