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Environment Protection the Responsibility of Every Single Individual

   
Tan Sri (Dr ) Francis Yeoh, Managing Director of YTL Corp Bhd

MGCC, November 2007 issue

As one of the leading infra-structure conglomerates in Asia, YTL Group has made it its commitment to possibly fulfill every responsibility it carries with regards to environmental protection while the Group's business activities continue to grow worldwide. Malaysian German Chambers of Commerce (MGCC) talks to Tan Sri (Dr.) Francis Yeoh, Managing Director of YTL Corporation Berhad, and learns of his personal thoughts on Climate Change and the Private Sector's responsibilities.

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MGCC: YTL Corporation Berhad held a Climate Change Week earlier this year, highlighting environmental issues and concerns, and the fact that the private sector has to be actively involved in protecting the environ-ment. One would perceive that this is a typical issue the Government has to deal with. Which is the private sector's role?

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Tan Sri Francis: How can we avoid the truth? Our conscience tells us very well that the private sector has a strong role to play. The Government can only enact legislation. At the end of the day, it is up to the private sector to deal with these issues directly. Environmental protection has been a core issue at YTL for many years now and personally sustainable development is a topic that is very dose to my heart.

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When we started to develop Pangkor Laut Resort many years ago, it was dear to me that the forest is 180 million years, old and should be pre-served at the heart of this deve-lopment. Generally, every developer likes to tear down the forest to build high-rise condominiums. But to me, any development should be wrapped around nature and be part of it, not overwhelm it.

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The importance of preserving the natural environment has also been the key to the design of our other hotels and resorts, particularly in our Tanjong Jara and Cameron Highlands resorts. We have taken considerable efforts to ensure that the development of the resort integrates environmental aspects into the design, including the types of building materials used, location of the buildings, forest conservation, sustainability and waste disposal. ?When it comes to construction of homes, we decided in our Sentul project to maintain a 35-acre green lung in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, to improve the residents' quality of life. In order to maintain a balance between nature and development, we reduced the number of units, and have adopted building and design techniques that make the most of natural sunlight and improve airflow.


   
Green Haven in the City - Residents at The Maple enjoy the serene life with private access to Sentul Park, a 35-acre private gated park complete with lakes, trails and forest.

Even our power plants and cement plants are heavily landscaped to adapt to the environment. We always remind our staff that the word "plants" 'should be literally under­stood in the same way we perceive a real natural plant - as part of nature. So I think the whole culture of sustaining the environment has gradually been accepted as an internal culture by the YTL Group, and naturally, our people have come to love to be part of an organisation that cares for the environment.

 

When you take the environment into consideration, you start to design and develop things alongside preserving the nature. When we developed our Pantai Hillpark project, we visualised a resort full of trees and gardens wherever we were. In our Lake Edge project in Puchong, we have a gated park area. It can make economic sense to keep the environment in mind - after all, a property as such is always worth more with all these advantages.

 

The private sector's response to environmental protection should be common sense - it's an enlightening self-interest to look after the environment. But I see that a lot of developers are still not doing so. This is very surprising, given the oppor­tunity to do something beautiful. They tear down the forest because the first thing they want to do is to make money from the timber logs. People make money at the expense of the environment but this going to come around and haunt them.

 

As a matter of fact, environmental protection is not only the responsibi­lity of the public or private sector. It's the responsibility of every human being on this planet. In this regard, I think I can say that that probably every human being is guilty for not doing enough good for the environ­ment.

 

MGCC: The actual problem with the climate change has been mostly caused by the developed countries in the first world. When their industrial structures were first developed decades back, it was done without taking much of environmental pro­tection into consideration. And now it seems  that they are asking the developing countries to adhere to many environmental rules and regu­lations, buy expensive environmental technologies and so on. How can we balance this picture?

 

Tan Sri Francis: I think we should not use this as an argument against the West. Given the fact that those somehow involved and responsible for contributing to climate change have come out and confessed: "Yes, this is what we have done and now we are going to do it differently, compensate and do more for nature," I think this should be applauded.

 

The fact is they are making the world aware of the significance of environ­mental protection, confessing they are responsible for climate change and at the same time asking Asia to respond in a positive manner, to avoid making the same mistakes. I think this is good. So we shouldn't knock the West with this argument.


   
Bird Island in Sentul Park.

There is no need to talk about who is right or wrong in the past. It's what is the present and what you are going to do that determines the future for Asians today. I am quite happy that this is well propagated and I'm sure that many more Asian companies today are responding to the issues of climate change and that they will be rewarded in the economic sense at the end of the day.

 

As an example, the West coast beaches of Malaysia used to be so pristine. But right now the pollution is bringing so much slime and mud to the beaches. The sandy beaches used to be powdery white but now they are slimy and brown due to pollution. But if pollution would stop and if all the polluted rivers flowing to the West coast were cleaned up, Malaysia would have some awesome tourist attractions. This is all part of doing the right thing and then being rewarded for it. Then only will there be sustainable value for the people.

 

How many children are allowed to swim in the Malaysian West coast waters today without the fear of being infected by diseases? In the West today, not only are the rivers protected but the beaches as well. In Europe, they are cleaning up the beaches so that it is safe for people to swim. This is actually a conscious spending of money to do the right thing for quality of life. This is an advantage not only to their own country but also to the world, and from the economic perspective, a tourism pull-factor.

 

MGCC: If now Malaysia were to be one of the very few countries in the region to implement drastic measures to fight environmental pollution but other neighbouring countries do not do anything, would that put Malaysia at a disadvantage when it comes to foreign investment? Perhaps a potential investor might be drawn to set up production facilities in a country with minimal environmental rules and regulations to be adhered to?

 

Tan Sri Francis: Today, where the green issue has become of such global significance and interest to every institution and every newspaper, there is no way that someone can go to any country, pollute it and get away with it. I think the reward at the end of the day would be bigger if you take a strong stand with the green policy. Therefore, I don't think a strong environmental policy will discourage foreign investors - I think it's the other way around.

 

Long-term and long-sighted thinking is very important and we should preserve a quality environment for the sake our next generations. It is up to us now to do something to save this planet and I hope everybody will do his or her part so that at least we are not guilty of not doing the right thing at the right time.



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