Sustainability Summit in Asia 2018: Is the Circular Economy Achievable in Asia?

Policymakers, businesses and consumers need to align interests in order to realise the circular economy to drive nation's growth


KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA -  Media OutReach   - 15th November 2018 - Implementing the circular economy is arguably the best chance Asia has in reversing the causes of climate change and achieving the environment-focused sustainable development goals. Yet there are challenges to be met. Businesses and policymakers need to work together to adopt long-terms initiatives to realise the circular economy for the country's growth.


Leading the conversation, over 200 scientists, business leaders, entrepreneurs, policymakers, regulators, NGO representatives and academics across Asia gathered at Sunway City, Kuala Lumpur for a stimulating discussion about the circular economy.

"Asian governments, companies, groups and others can use circular initiatives to benefit changing societies without sacrificing economic growth. From mass urbanisation to innovation in agriculture, new ideas for sustainable initiatives matter to the region and to The Economist . By bringing global and regional experts to Kuala Lumpur we plan to debate how such ideas can be implemented effectively," said Miranda Johnson, South-East Asia correspondent at The Economist .

The full-day summit themed 'Going Full Circle' opened with a dialogue on policy framework for sustainable development goals adoption in Asia before outlining the need to drive mainstream conversation among policymakers, businesses, as well as citizens to embrace long-term initiatives that will lead to positive effect in economic goals while leaving a better planet for future generations.


Speaking to conference attendees, Sadhguru, the founder of Isha Foundation had a very pragmatic, reconciliatory message geared to galvanise positive action. "We need not destroy business, we need to transform businesses. We should strive to officiate the marriage between ecology and economy."

Throughout the dialogue, delegates addressed the need for public, private partnership to align interests and significantly step up its development efforts across sectors to find multilateral solutions to overcome transboundary challenges.

"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. We are delighted to partner with The Economist Events through the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University for the second consecutive year," said Jeffrey Cheah, founder and chairman of Sunway Group and Chancellor of Sunway University.

Another key highlight, The Economist debate motioning that sustainability must be approached using global free market principles saw a spirited exchange between Robert Kraybill of Impact Investment Exchange and Chandran Nair of Global Institute for Tomorrow. The motion was defeated by Nair's advocacy that policymakers were crucial to curb the free market's tendency to put profits and individualism before the planet. Said Nair, "Rights and freedoms have to be redefined, rethink governance (so that) collective welfare comes first. I urge the Malaysian government to rethink that".

Finally, in the closing keynote, Yeo Bin Yee, minister of energy, science, technology, environment and climate change, Malaysia urges her government to take action; it is not only important to reuse, reduce and recycle, she urges everyone to replace; "W e need to think about the problems plastics create and replace them with bio-degradable alternatives."

Chaired by The Economist editors , featured speakers included:

●      Yeo Bee Yin, minister of energy, technology, science, climate change and environment, Malaysia

●      Richard Kooloos, director, sustainable banking, ABN AMRO

●      Vincent Mortier, deputy chief investment officer, Amundi

●      Aloke Lohia, founder and group chief executive, Indorama Ventures

●      Leeko Makoene, founder, Made With Rural

●      Jeffrey Sachs, chairman, Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development, Sunway University and director, United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network

●      Stefan Ranstrand, president and chief executive, TOMRA Systems

View the latest agenda

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Founding supporter

The Jeffrey Sachs Center (JSC) is the hub of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN) for research and policy practice to advance achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the ASEAN region. JSC was established in Sunway University through a gift of $10 million from the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation. It is chaired by Prof Jeffrey Sachs, director of the UNSDSN and special advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the SDGs. 

The Center is located in Sunway City, a rehabilitated mining wasteland turned wonderland, and Malaysia's first green integrated township listed in the country's Green Building Index. 

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