Passion Unleashed SG 50

It was Passion Unleashed‘s 30th talk as part of the SG50 series, and it was a pleasure to be invited along with Adrin Loi, Executive Chairman of Ya Kun Kaya Toast to give a keynote talk.

I was asked to share my journey from finance into environmental advocacy, and currently as a speaker and trainer in organisations for sustainability, mindfulness and leadership.

We had an interesting panel discussion at the end with the lively moderator, Felicia (middle)

Panel Discussion Passion Unleashed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was nice to hear a rising music band – a young local group called Babushka! Rachel (left) on the violin and Fauzo(right) on the guitar rocked along with the rest of the band. I’m holding their instrumental album called ‘Flights of Fancy’


With Babushka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the Passion Unleashed flyer:

Passion Unleashed Flyer

Mindfulness at Work

As a Senior Trainer and Consultant with The Potential Project, a global organisation leading mindfulness training at the workplace, I find it very meaningful to bring mindfulness to various organisations as part of in-house programs and workshops, or lunch & learns.

It was wonderful to do a lunch & learn with NVPC recently.  We started off with a ‘Mindful Eating’ session which is always an interesting experience for participants, as it is not usual for them to eat slowly paying full attention to every bite. It brought out some interesting insights as a segway into the mindfulness presentation. NVPC presented me with a lovely in-house publication entitled, ‘Is Giving Worth It?’ by Richard Hartung featuring interviews with 25 volunteers.

 

 

 

Here is one lunch & learn that I did recently for a shipping company. The lunch & learn was oversubscribed, and the company had to limit the number of attendees to 40 to fit the training room! It was heartening to see such a positive response to Mindfulness at Work.

Mindfulness at Work Lunch and Learn

APTS talk on Leadership: The Art of Powerful Questions

I was kindly invited by Karen Foo, of Asia Professional Trainers Singapore (APTS) to give a talk to its members on 26th March 2015. It’s always a delight to present to one’s peers, seniors and juniors in the training and speaking industry, and I chose a topic that I embed in my leadership programs that I train. In it I included various facets of questioning, including elements of positive psychology, mindfulness, strengths based and solutions focused approach.

Here’s a group photo after the event:

APTS talk on Leadership The Art of Powerful Questions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APTS Talk

Tommy Loke, one of the Exco members of APTS had this to say about the talk, “Your  session is very interactive and engaging with lots of experience and positive outcomes. Our  Exco members were very impressed “

Annual Event Talk for 130 employees: Growing Happiness

An MNC had conducted a tree planting event as part of their annual CSR activity, and invited me upon seeing the full page article on me by Straits Times and DBS Bank as part of the SG50 celebrations (ST 9th March 2015). I used the occasion to talk about ‘Growing Happiness’ as a metaphor surrounding the tree planting for 130 managers including the CEO of the company and senior managers.  I shared my story of how I switched from a finance career and of discovering my strong sense of ‘purpose’ being the sweet spot where what one loves to do is what the world needs, and one happens to be good at it, and get paid for it too.

Green Drinks: Enabling Behaviour Change Talk + Panel on Shifts and Solutions for Green Offices

It was enjoyable to support Green Drinks Singapore on two consecutive months:

Firstly on 25th February 2015 I gave at talk at The Hub on Enabling Behaviour Change in Organisations and in Society, based on the Toolkit that I’m compiling on ‘Engaging Employees in CSR’ which draws from interviews with 11 Singapore based companies and organisations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secondly, on 25th March 2015, I moderated a panel discussion on Shifts and Solutions in Sustainable Commerical Interiors

Here’s the outline:

Space has always been a premium in Singapore. With shorter lease periods, a rapidly growing talent pool and continuously changing regulations, the commercial interior industry in Singapore is one of the fastest developing studies in human behaviour and the environment.

But sustainable interiors don’t simply mean planter boxes, recycling bins or green walls. To create a sustainable environment takes better planning, better design, better construction and better regulations. How does the industry tackle the shifts and challenges of growing population and balanced workspace? What does it mean for users who spend 8 hours a day in an office?

This month, Green Drinks present insights and solutions from industry leaders: Haworth and Interface in a panel discussion, to dig deeper into users’ expectations and industry regulations in relation to workspace wellbeing.

Moderating Green Drinks Panel Discussion on Sustainable Interiors

 

Moderator:
Ms Bhavani Prakash, founder of Green Collar Asia, Eco WALK the Talk and TEDx Speaker.

Panellists:
Mr. Robert Coombs, CEO, Asia Pacific, Interface Inc.
Ms. Faye Hugo, Workplace Wellness and Sustainability Consultant, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Haworth
Mr Tan Phay Ping, Board Member, Singapore Green Building Council and Managing Director, Building System & Diagnostics Pte Ltd

IIMPACT 2014: Speech in front of PM Lee Hsien Loong and industry leaders

As an alumnus of IIM Calcutta, I was one of three speakers to give a talk at the gala dinner of our Global alumni event IIMPACT 2014 held in Singapore on 22nd August 2014. The theme was ‘I am the change’ and I covered the ‘Transform’ section of the sub-themes ‘Create, Transform, Disrupt’.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was the guest of honour at the event, which was also graced by the Chief Minister of Telengana K. Chandrasekhar Rao, the Indian High Commissioner to Singapore Ms Vijay Thakur Singh, Former Indian Tennis Player Vijay Amritraj, TED founder Richard Saul Wurman, apart from several notable CEOs including Piyush Gupta of DBS Bank, and other industry leaders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo Credit: Organisers of IIMPACT 2014)

Here’s the video of the speech:

 

Here was the transcript of the speech on the topic of Transformation and Sustainability:

Dear Prime Minister, guests and friends,

I’d like to say thank you for the opportunity to share my message today. It was Mark Twain who once said, ‘The two most important days in your life – are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.”

If I were to go by that logic – India would be the place of my birth, and Singapore the place of my rebirth, for it was here that I found my true calling and purpose in life.

But it was most accidental. When I came to Singapore 11 years ago, I thought I’d be continuing a career in finance, but most unexpectedly, ended up guiding at the Singapore Botanic Gardens in the rainforests section.

I’m not sure how many of you know – Singapore is the only other city in the world, apart from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to have remnants of ancient primary rainforests within city limits. (That could be a great tagline for Singapore Tourism Board!) The biodiversity of a small island like Singapore is incredible. For instance, there are more plant species on Bukit Timah hill, than in the whole of North America. For the first time in my life, it came into my awareness that tropical rainforests which are so rich in biodiversity and that have taken millions of years to evolve, are being rapidly destroyed- for things we consume in seconds such as tissue rolls, soap, shampoo and cookies – stuff we buy in supermarkets every day. And we are collectively responsible for this massive ecological destruction as consumers of products, as companies making these products, and as governments setting and implementing rules.

Our planet came with a set of instructions that every single species respects, except of course, us humans, and we are meant to be the most intelligent. These are pretty important rules – don’t poison the air, water and soil, don’t overexploit resources, don’t destroy ecosystems, and for heaven’s sake, don’t meddle with the delicate thermostat and make the planet hotter than it should be.

The turning point for me really came in 2008, when I sat on a metaphorical rocking chair. It’s a thought exercise that I invite each one of you to try out when you have a quiet moment by yourself..in your home or office. As you sit on that imaginary rocking chair near the imaginary end of your life, what is the ONE thing you’d regret NOT doing in this lifetime? (Repeat) What is the ONE thing you’d regret NOT doing in this lifetime?

For me the answer jumped out with immense clarity. I’d regret not doing everything I could, knowing what I did about the state of the earth, to create massive awareness, and encourage each one of us to take action. And it is this journey of the last few years that brings me in front of you today.

I believe there is ONE thing that is really important for transformation to happen if we have to shape a better future for all.

And that one thing is OWNERSHIP – Transformation happens when we take ownership for our lives and the issues around us.

Of course, it really easy NOT to take ownership.

Apathy is one reason saying ‘I don’t care or I can’t be bothered.’

Busyness is another reason – a classic symptom of this age and age. “I’m too busy with work, too busy with family, too busy with facebook!”

The third killer of a sense of ownership is helplessness – “I’m too small to make a difference or I don’t know how to. It’s the system – my shareholders won’t change, my government won’t change, my neighbours won’t change, my family won’t change.” One thing I hear about often in Singapore, especially for sorting out waste segregation and recycling, “My domestic helper won’t change!”

The thing is – there is no one else in the world we can change but ourselves.When we take ownership, WE change. We become role models. People respond, they see us take action, they see a living example, and they say, “Hey…if he or she can do that…surely so can I.”

Many of you here are CEOs of companies, industry leaders…or CEOs of your own homes. You’ve probably realised by now, that merely telling others what to do seldom works. Empowering them to make choices and decisions often does.

When I go to a supermarket with my children and they pick up something from the shelves – say a cola, candy or chips, they ask me, “Can we buy this?” I never say yes or no. I simply smile and ask, “ Have you read the labels?” Chances are, more often than not, they’ll read the labels, and quietly put the stuff back on the shelf, because they realise that the artificial colourings, flavourings and preservatives are not stuff they want to shove into their bodies.

Taking ownership starts with a sense of curiosity. “What do those ingredients mean? What is it that I’m putting inside myself? How does it affect my health and that of my family? Where do the raw materials come from? How are these manufactured? How does this treat people and the environment thousands of kilometres away?

Raise your hands if you have own a mobile phone. This seemingly harmless device has metals whose mining causes civil conflict and extinction of gorillas in the Congo basin of Africa. Its e-waste at the end of life, makes the environment and people sick in countries like Ghana, Pakistan and India. It has even caused factory workers to commit suicide in China. According to the Guardian UK, the top 3000 firms in the world cause $2.2 trillion dollars of environmental damage. This really means about a third of their profits are not rightfully theirs because they have externalised these costs.

I’m sure you’d agree that there are far more sustainable ways of making a phone or any product for that matter. It requires that companies take ownership for social and environment impact, because it is the right thing to do – not just because it is mandated by some authority. Corporate social responsibility is not about making money and then giving to philanthropic or social causes. It’s about making money the right way the first time.

And not to forget – Good business is also good for business. It leads to product and process innovations and cost savings from efficient resource and energy use.

Ethical and sustainable business practices also increase trust. I’m currently working on a project being funded by the National Environment Agency on how companies in Singapore can engage their employees around sustainability. Ultimately people – whether it’s employees or customers or suppliers or other stakeholders, they will trust doing business with responsible companies.

The question I’m often asked is – what does sustainability really mean? It’s tempting to get lost in a lot of jargon…but sustainability to me is interchangeable with the word empathy. Empathy comes from the realisation that we are all one. Empathy comes from a deep understanding that we are all interconnected in an intricate web of life that we are very quickly unravelling, and we need to act with a great sense of urgency. There are tremendous challenges ahead for humanity…and no single government, no single company, no single NGO, no single individual can do this alone – however each one of us can make a difference, and collectively can make a massive difference….if we choose to move into the space of curiosity and empathy, and move out of the space of apathy and greed.

If there’s one thing that I’d like you to remember from my talk today – it’s the one realisation that our children and future generations will thank us for. And here it is – this finger. Everyone please raise your forefinger like this and repeat after me…

We have only ONE planet

Now turn your finger to yourself and say…I take ownership to make a difference.

Thank you!

 

Philanthropy in Asia Summit 2014: Polluted Asia

Photo: Philanthropy in Asia Summit 2014

It was a pleasure to moderate a panel discussion at the ‘Philanthropy in Asia Summit 2014′ on a ‘Polluted Asia’ on 21st October 2014. The summary of the discussion has been reproduced from here

The panelists were Todd Stevens from WCS, Von Hernandez from Greenpeace, Lynda Hong from Singapore Environment Council and Suzy Hutomo from The Body Shop, Indonesia.

Synopsis

Borderless environmental and sustainability challenges are stumped by the localised nature of current solutions. Ranging from polluted air and water, to long-term impact on sustainability, what constructive and realistic collaborative actions can be taken to preserve resources for our future generations?

 

Session Notes

During this breakout session, a few key takeaways are summarised here:

The current imbalance between consumerism and biodiversity constitutes a lack of awareness and support for environmental conservation in Asia. This results from the transportation of a dirty development model from the North to the South.

The planet should always come first, as our planet supports people and society; without the planet, where is the profit?

A framework for change is needed in terms of worldviews, institutions and technologies. A model of sustainable development should be highlighted, respecting the environmental rights and heritage of current and future generations.

Tripartite cooperation is required between the government, the public and NGOs, essential to helping our environment.

Currently, our borderless environmental challenges are still met with seemingly localised solutions. These solutions can take business steps to make their impact bigger, merging economic development and conservation.

Philanthropy bridges the gap between the current programmes to help create a future where investors can make substantial impacts.

It was also mentioned that raising environmental awareness would create new and innovative ideas. In fact, early childhood education has the greatest impact on environmental awareness. Examples of such education include green awards and the Envision Campaign in Singapore to help educate Singapore’s youth to create care responsibility and ownership of the environment.

Asia Foundation Development Fellows at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

It was an honour to facilitate on of the modules for a leadership program recently at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore. The program was co-ordinated by Phillip Merry, CEO of Global Leadership Academy for the first ever cohort of Asia Foundation’s Development Fellows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Asia Foundation,

“The 2014 Asia Foundation Development Fellows are talented individuals, under age 40, who have demonstrated outstanding leadership potential within their professional fields and within their larger community. They each have experiences and accomplishments related to The Asia Foundation’s fields of expertise – governance and law, economic development, women’s empowerment, environment, and regional cooperation.

The new initiative leverages the Foundation’s rich 60-year history, extensive 18-country network, and deep commitment to innovative leaders and communities across the region. Highlighting the catalytic role that individuals and local communities play in the development of their societies, Asia Foundation President David D. Arnold remarked: “We have been investing in innovative and entrepreneurial leaders for more than 60 years. The Asia Foundation Development Fellows program continues this tradition by helping to identify, nurture, and support the next generation of leaders for this dynamic and developing region.”

The Fellows (10 in number) were selected from a group of over 600 extraordinary candidates from over 20 Asian countries. I learnt so much from each of these inspiring leaders who are changemakers in their own countries.

Bhavani Prakash facilitating at LKYSPP for Asia Foundation Global Fellows 2014

 

 

Speaking at TEDxSingaporeManagementUniversity

I was delighted to present at a TEDx event on April 4th, 2014 – for the third time in the last one and a half years!  There’s always something special about speaking at a TEDx event. For me it’s the entire process of preparing, getting feedback from curators and presenting an idea worth sharing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The TEDxSingaporeManagementUniversity event was entirely curated by students of Singapore Management University (SMU), and they were very helpful in sharing with me their world, and what would be really meaningful for students hardpressed to do well in exams and get good jobs.  The best tip I got from the curators was to give ideas that would not be too difficult or far-fetched for them to implement, but ones within their reach.

The theme of the event was ‘Fine Print.’  I spoke about ‘Reading the Fine Print of Nature’ – why it’s important to connect with nature at a physical and emotional level, as well as by understanding her core principles.  I ended with practical suggestions for students to do.

 

Bhavani Prakash speaking at TEDxSingaporeManagementUniversity on ‘Reading the Fine Print of Nature’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to the volunteer team of TEDxSingaporeManagementUniversity for organising a great event!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are my other two TEDx talks:

TEDxSingapore April 2013 : Living on our one apple planet

TEDxSingapore Women December 2012: Food plant diversity – the key to life

SONY-IWA Woman of the Year 2014 Award

It came as a wonderful surprise to be nominated, and finally be selected on March 7th 2014 as the SONY-IWA Woman of the Year 2014.  The award was in recognition of being a ‘woman of significance’ contributing to community well-being.  It was humbling to receive the award from the Indian High Commissioner, Her Excellency Ms Vijay Thakur Singh.

Bhavani Prakash receiving the SONY-IWA Woman of the Year 2014 award from the Indian High Commissioner, Her Excellency Ms Vijay Thakur Singh

 

Sony IWA Award 2014 writeup in Tabla!