Founder and managing director
“I think we’ve reached a point where people expect companies to behave responsibly,” says Jessica Cheam, founder of Eco-Business, the Asia-Pacific’s leading media organisation on sustainable development. In her books, responsible businesses must be purpose-driven to not only make profit but to also solve problems for society and the planet. This helps to guide the business decisions one makes.
The former Singapore Press Holdings journalist used to cover energy issues and found that it was closely intertwined with those related to climate change, yet there wasn’t a news agency in Asia dedicated to it. “You can’t improve what you can’t measure – or don’t even know about,” says Cheam.
Eco-Business was incorporated in 2010 to fill this unique gap in the market and to provide decision makers in the region with information to advance corporate sustainability and sustainable development. In 2019 and 2020, it won multiple Asian Digital Media Awards that caught the attention of more than 1.5 million unique, senior-level visitors with almost three million page views per year.
This company with almost 20 staff has also walked the talk. It has been carbon-neutral every year since 2017. “We have a policy of reducing resource consumption as far as possible,” says Cheam. Whatever carbon footprint it cannot avoid making, it uses offsets obtained from Singapore-headquartered clean energy company Sindicatum Sustainable Resources to make up for it.
Eco-Business also hosts an annual initiative called EcoBank with City Developments Limited, which saves tonnes of pre-loved goods, including clothing, from the landfill each year and raises money for a social charity in Singapore.
Its mission is to help businesses along an environmentally and socially responsible, low-carbon path through educational programmes and advocacy on sustainable developments. And its own activities focus on three areas: the environment by advocating clean energy transition and a circular economy, a social standpoint by encouraging diversity, human rights and community investments, as well as corporate governance by providing information and developing governance structures.
Having corporate governance and sustainability is the right and smart thing to do and helps with brand reputation and risk management, according to Cheam. “Instead of looking at sustainability as a compliance issue, look at it from the standpoint of having a competitive advantage. Unilever, for example, sets certain guidelines for all its suppliers. It will only do business with a company that has responsible policies.” This is why it is becoming increasingly important for global MNCs and their suppliers, including SMEs, to ensure that there is sustainability in their supply chains.
In 2018, Eco-Business launched The Liveability Challenge with Temasek Foundation, which has become Asia’s largest sustainability solutions platform. This global call for viable solutions to some of the greatest problems facing cities in the tropics in the 21st century had contenders vying for a grant of $1 million to support their work. Over the years, the Challenge has also built an ecosystem consisting of entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, policymakers and anyone else passionate about solving the world’s problems.
Eco-Business also created a flagship initiative called Changing Course, a multimedia exhibition and journalism initiative to educate a global audience on how to respond to the critical climate crisis, in October 2019. It was staged at the Art Science Museum and later travelled to several locations across Singapore and beyond. Besides photographs and a documentary, it also featured a virtual reality experience that explored humanity’s relationship with our planet and outlined the challenges in our global patterns of consumption and production.
At the same time, Eco-Business’ non-profit sister organisation, EB Impact, launched a Reforesting Asia programme, planting trees around Asia and, most recently, a programme for youths called Sustainability Exchange in partnership with Facebook. From the looks of these, there is no stopping this rapidly racing news agency from saving the earth.
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