Page 5 - Berita Sunway - Issue 69
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I  am  an  optimist  by  nature.  Even  in  these  deeply  pessimistic  times,               One of these key initiatives is for the SDG Academy, an online knowledge
               I strongly believe that humanity will rise to the challenges that confront   network, to draw up a curriculum on sustainable development to be
               us, and that we can navigate our way to a better tomorrow.   mandated as a compulsory subject at K-12 levels around the world.
                                                                      Another is to set up three overarching SDSN centres to coordinate
               Let’s start with our current economic system. Over the last 200 years,   continent-wide sustainability initiatives. These centres will be located
               the world has enjoyed tremendous economic growth. The progress and   in New York City (North and South America); Paris (Europe and Africa);
               prosperity are remarkable, but they have come at an enormous cost.  and Sunway City Kuala Lumpur (Asia).

               We are now struggling to cope with the environmental, social and   These plans were scheduled to be announced by the Pope Francis at the
               governance problems that growth has brought in its wake. The COVID-19   Vatican City on May 14. That announcement has now been rescheduled
               pandemic has starkly exposed many of these shortcomings.  to a later date because of the pandemic.

               The reasons for how we have come to be where we are today are many.   I am particularly proud that Sunway University, where the SDSN centre
               But I believe a major factor is our obsession with unbridled growth, as   for Asia will be housed, has been chosen as an important player in this
               measured by the metric known as Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  global effort. It reflects Sunway’s embrace of the sustainability agenda
                                                                      and our commitment to advancing the SDGs in the Asian region.
               GDP has come to be perceived as a proxy for the wealth of a nation. But
               while GDP may arguably be effective in measuring the standard of living,   The necessity of such efforts, at both practical and policy levels, takes
               it largely falls short in valuing the quality of life.   on greater urgency in the wake of the pandemic and its threat to lives
                                                                      and livelihoods.
               We need a wider lens to measure how we are doing. We need metrics
               that reflect our well-being as nations, communities and individuals, not   The impact of COVID-19 on public finances all over the world, with even
               just a GDP number which bears little relation to every day reality.  governments led by neoliberal ideologues ramping up massive deficits, and
                                                                                          on the bottom lines of corporations clearly
               In the words of Professor Kate Raworth of                                  implies the need for a change.
               Oxford University’s Environmental Change
               Institute and author of the influential     I mean a                       The very ethos of the capitalist system that
               book “Doughnut Economics”: Instead of                                      has dominated the past four decades is now
               economies that need to grow, whether or   (compassionate)                  under increasing scrutiny.
               not they make us thrive, we need economies
               that make us thrive, whether or not they                                   I welcome such initiatives. I am an
               grow.                                capitalist system                     entrepreneur, and a firm supporter of
                                                                                          capitalism and the efficacy of markets. But
               Her views offer a conceptual framework                                     I submit that to build a better tomorrow, we
               that prioritises people and shifts the focus   that motivates and          must seize the opportunity to move beyond
               to  quality  of  life,  with economic  growth                              what some have called “cowboy capitalism”
               being a means towards those ends.  incentives us to do                     towards “compassionate capitalism.”

               The good news is, the path towards this                                    To put it simply, I mean a capitalist system
               transformation has already been charted   well by doing good.              that motivates and incentivises us to do well
               for  us.  On  25   September  2015,  the 193                               by doing good — one that shifts the focus
               members of the United Nations  General                                     from  the  quarterly  bottom-line  of  profits
               Assembly adopted the UN 2030 Agenda for                                    to the “Three P” bottom-line of People,
               Sustainable Development. The resolution                                    Planet, Prosperity by taking into account the
               calls for action through long-term development pathways comprising   interests of all stakeholders.
               17  Sustainable  Development  Goals  (SDGs).  These  goals  serve  as  a
               comprehensive and holistic global vision towards development that   This will entail a more balanced approach on determining the roles of
               seeks to heal the socio-economic and environmental ills afflicting the   the market and the state. Indeed, over and above systemic change, it
               world.                                                 requires a shift in societal values.

               A crucial aspect of the SDGs is their interconnectivity, and their emphasis   Perhaps this is best encapsulated in the remark by Mahatma Gandhi
               on the human condition. For instance, many tend to think “climate   “The world has enough for everyone's needs, but not everyone's greed.”
               change” when they hear the term sustainable development. However,
               it is noteworthy that the first five SDGs – no poverty, zero hunger, good   In the wake of the pandemic, fulfilling everyone’s needs requires us to
               health and well-being, quality education and gender equality – prioritise   take a piercing look at ourselves as individuals, and as a society. It calls
               people.                                                for us to emphasise values such as compassion, empathy, tolerance and
               Despite world-wide adoption, the SDGs are still largely perceived to be
               aspirational. Their implementation by nations varies by wide degrees   It demands more equitable outcomes in policy-making by governments
               and is limited by our economic and financial structures, and mindsets.  and market operations by the private sector.
               The COVID-19 crisis offers a genuine opportunity to address these   And in keeping with Gandhi’s words, it means a system and values that
               limitations and to advance the sustainability agenda through the SDGs.   place the highest priority on societal needs and curbs individual greed.
               The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)
               is formulating several avenues through which to channel these efforts.  Systemic change and a shift in values represent an immense challenge
                                                                      to humanity. Are we — as individuals, families, communities and nations
                                                                      — prepared to “reset” our future?

               Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah AO is founder and chairman of Sunway Group, one of Malaysia’s largest conglomerates, and founder and trustee of the
               Jeffrey Cheah Foundation. He is also a member of the global Leadership Council of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)
               and chairman of its Malaysian chapter.

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