Future focus: Ingenuity sustaining our future

Ingenuity sustaining our future

t is said that the best way to predict the future is to design it. Projections show that by 2050 society will require double the Earth’s available resources. It has never been more important for us to adopt smart, sustainable solutions to ensure that we can continue to enjoy a good quality of life – meeting the needs of the present while enhancing the ability of future generations to meet their own.

Governments, companies, and individuals are being galvanized into action to impact this trajectory – from educating the next generation, to building futuristic, integrated townships, to preserving intrinsic culture and heritage.

But just how do we combine innovation and preservation with forward-thinking ingenuity to redesign our future?

Sustainable Development Can Be Profitable

That is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the world in 2017, according to the International Energy Agency. The number is significant because it is a historic high and linked directly to the rise in global average temperatures, resulting in climate change.

Statistics like this invariably lead to the impression that the world has turned its back on sustainable development.

sea levels could RISE by six meters or more

n fact, if the world does not limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius as laid out in the Paris Agreement, sea levels could go up by six meters or more, resulting in entire, populous coastal urban areas being submerged underwater by 2100. The irony is these scenarios are not new to us. Sustainability, as we know it to be, can be traced back to the report The Limits to Growth first presented in 1972. It followed a study done by 17 researchers with a purpose of understanding the limitations of the planet and its implications on mankind.

Since then, sustainability has risen steadily in importance. Much has been written about what exactly it means, how to shift it away from gloom to hope, and how to keep it centre stage in the minds of humanity.

Yet, temperatures continued to rise, environmental pollution persisted, and flora and fauna kept going extinct. Clearly, we were not doing enough.

Leaving no one behind

Fortunately, in 2015, the world woke up to this hard reality. The United Nations (UN) created the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that was adopted by member states. Comprised of 17 to-dos, they aim to make the world a better place – from a social, economic and environmental standpoint – by 2030.

Given the high-level nature of this clarion call, it is no surprise that governments around the world have responded. Last year, China announced it is working towards a complete ban of the production and sale of cars powered by fossil fuels.

Which other countries plan to ban fossil-fuel powered vehicles?
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France and the United Kingdom plan to ban fossil-fuel powered vehicles by 2040

n Singapore, the government-led Sustainable Singapore Blueprint sets out to triple the current 72 hectares of rooftop gardens and green walls by 2030.

While it is largely governments that have led the charge to reach the UN SDGs, the private sector too is trying. Starbucks, for instance, has pledged to eliminate plastic straws in all its more than 28,000 outlets by 2020.

Eleventh Malaysia Plan (11MP)

In line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) theme of leaving no one behind, is the the theme of the Eleventh Malaysia Plan (11MP), Anchoring Growth on People, key to Malaysia’s future economical, political, social, spiritual, psychological, and cultural development.


n Asia, Malaysian conglomerate Sunway Group has walked the sustainability talk for four decades. It started in the 1970s, when its founder and chairman Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah rehabilitated a barren piece of land that was formerly part of a tin mine in the Klang Valley, and turned it into the thriving township that is Sunway City Kuala Lumpur (KL).

Recognizing that building a company was more than just about making money, Tan Sri Cheah wanted to place equal emphasis on profitability and sustainability. Since then, he has ensured that the latter especially be integrated into every facet of his business.

Case in point: In Sunway City KL, energy is optimized by using a co-generation plant and other initiatives such as regular audits and upgrading to make the equipment more efficient. 


nother example is a US$10 million endowment by the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation to the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network to set up the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at the Sunway University. It will be a regional hub for research on the subject.

Tan Sri Cheah sees such contributions as a way to change current mind-sets, and to educate future generations.

“We are hoping to impart all this good knowledge to the future generations so that the future generation becomes practitioners of sustainable development.”
Founder & Chairman of Sunway Group, Malaysia Tan Sri Dr. Jeffrey Cheah AO

ustainability is a mind-set that has to be ingrained in our way of life. It is a simple wish to ensure tomorrow is better than today, for the sake of posterity. It should be a collective effort by everyone in society, and not just a select few. As the Sunway Group – and many others – has demonstrated, all it needs is foresight and the willpower to take that first step.

The Case for Smart Cities in Southeast Asia

About one third of Southeast Asia’s total population currently resides in its cities, generating more than two-thirds of the region’s GDP. Urbanization is feeding economic growth, yet such developments come with challenges related to housing, infrastructure and services.

Cue the smart city

More than just public WiFi and driver-less trains, smart cities leverage technology to ensure all aspects of a city’s infrastructure connect with each other. Their influence can be felt in seven areas of urban life: economy, mobility, utilities, built environment, community, social infrastructure and security. Ultimately, they work towards making the urban environment more liveable, sustainable, and productive.

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