Inside Asia Podcast
Reimagining “Community” (w/ Kai Soto)

Reimagining “Community” (w/ Kai Soto)

December 2, 2021

I open this episode with a question: What is community? It’s changed, I’d argue. Not by definition, so much. But in terms of what people have come to expect from it. And I’m putting emphasis here on the word “expect.” 

In our digital world, joining a community can be as basic as adding one’s thoughts to a chat, then leaving. Or as complex as building a movement and enlisting global “followers.” There are even names for these modes of engagement. In the first instance, post a controversial or unpopular message, and you’re called a “troll.” In the second instance, say or do something big, rash, or daring, and you’re branded an “influencer.” In the crazy and mixed up world of digital communities, these traits foster both envy and derision.

My guest this episode, Kai Soto, suggests that something’s been lost in our rampant drive to build community solely on the foundation of datasets. That’s what the world of digital social media has done for the most part. Some good has come from it. I wouldn’t be so bold to suggest it hasn’t. But something has gone missing as well. My conversation with Kai tries to get to the bottom of it.

The Hard Problem of Carbon Emissions and Developing Asia (w/ Jeff Delmon)

The Hard Problem of Carbon Emissions and Developing Asia (w/ Jeff Delmon)

November 15, 2021

After a slow start, delegates to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, or COP26, found momentum. That’s cause for hope. Even the reps from Green Peace seemed satisfied.

The question on everyone’s lips now is: What’s next? Will the world go back to business-as-usual, consume-at-will, and climate-be-damned? Or this time around, has the prospect for change wiggled its way into the crevices of human complacency?

This battle is far from won. And on the front lines, where change really matters, countries must now contend with how to practically meet those carbon emission obligations. This puts the developing world in a bit of a pickle. For many, obligations to their own people rival commitments to climate. And in burgeoning democracies, leaders elected to improve infrastructure, provide healthcare, and create jobs won’t last the political season if they don’t deliver. It’s complicated. But that’s why Jeff Delmon is here with me this episode to explain. Jeff is a Singapore-based Senior Public-Private Partnerships Specialist at the World Bank.

In Search of Impact Heroes (w/ Tomo and Aska Hamakawa)

In Search of Impact Heroes (w/ Tomo and Aska Hamakawa)

November 9, 2021

This week we head south to the equator and to the Indonesian island of Bali where two individuals are working to make a difference. Tomo and Aska Hamakawa are Co-Founders of Earth Company. It’s stated mission: “To empower and inspire change-makers who realize social change for our future generations.” It doesn’t get more noble than that. 

In the wake of so many high-powered gatherings where the political and financial elite debate the future of our planet, I thought it important to hear from just two of thousands of young activists who have committed themselves to grass roots efforts. This is where real change occurs.

Asia’s Turning or Tipping Point? (w/ Cindy Hook)

Asia’s Turning or Tipping Point? (w/ Cindy Hook)

November 2, 2021

At this very moment, representatives from some 197 nations have arrived in Glasgow, Scotland to discuss prospects for net zero carbon emissions by mid-century. The so-called COP26 gathering represents a pivotal moment and a real test of the world’s ability to cooperate in the face of climate risk.

The consequences of doing nothing are severe. Wild swings in climate patterns causing forest fires in the U.S. and floods in Europe all point to one thing. And that is, unless we act – and act now – the world will soon become a far less hospitable place. I’m talking about melting glaciers, rising sea levels, declining fish populations, widespread drought and mass migration of people fleeing famine and pestilence.

OK, hold on, that’s all a bit too dark. But if this Old Testament imagery moves you…even a little…it’s time to take up the cause and pressure those that can make a difference, to make a difference!

Asia is at the epicenter of this ecological sea change, and here to talk about it is Cindy Hook, CEO of Deloitte Asia Pacific. Cindy and her colleagues have recently released a new report, entitled Asia Pacific’s Turning Point: How Climate Action Can Drive Our Economic Future. It’s a provocative piece of research that quantifies the risks the region faces in doing nothing to counter the impending effects of Climate Change.

Sustainable Talent (w/ Jeanne Ng)

Sustainable Talent (w/ Jeanne Ng)

October 28, 2021

As climate countdown continues apace, we look this week at a central bottleneck – that if not addressed – could confound even the best intentions. I’m talking about talent, and the tens of thousands of sustainability-related jobs that will go unfilled in coming years unless the public and private sector line up to address the problem.

One woman is doing something about it. Dr. Jeanne Ng is Chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Qualified Environmental Professionals. She and her colleagues are bent on transforming Hong Kong into a center of excellence in professional environmental services. And not solely as a defence against climate disaster, but as a way of accelerating research and innovation to transform business and the economy.  

To get there, both government and private sector must step up and support the training, development, and hiring of people with new skill sets for a new era. This means expanding Sustainability programs at Universities, creating accreditations through professional institutes, and encouraging companies to create roles and career paths to hone that expertise.

Are We Facing a Global Mental Health Crisis? (w/ Anurag Banerjee)

Are We Facing a Global Mental Health Crisis? (w/ Anurag Banerjee)

October 11, 2021

My guest this week is Anurag Banerjee. He’s sounding the alarm on mental well-being. Anurag isn’t a medical professional, a healthcare expert, or a policy-maker. He’s a miner…of data, that is. And through the organization he founded and runs, he’s excavating insights that point to leading trends and developments in human behavior. 

He describes his organization, Quilt AI, as a mission-first technology company that’s looking to reverse fractures in society and generate empathy. From time-to-time, his team of analysts and data scientists point their lens at issues worthy of global attention. Mental health is one such subject. And on this World Mental Health Day, the data is revealing, if not somewhat disturbing.

Here’s the headliner: In the past 18 months – or since the onset of the global pandemic - there’s been a 500 percent worldwide increase in conversations about mental health and well-being. This comes from data collected by his firm from 177 cities across 70 countries. It’s an astounding jump and the analysis is only made possible through the use and application of artificial intelligence. 

The research raises a bevy of questions. Why the dramatic increase? What’s the root cause? What – exactly – is mental health? To be frank, the findings are inconclusive. And yet, the data is indicative of a problem brewing at a universal level. This is a vast subject with nuances as varied as the tens of millions of individuals now engaged and in search of mental health support. In the course of this 25-minute discussion, we try to unpack the problem, then ask: What can be done about it?

Join us at www.insideasiapodcast.com to learn more.

Purpose Nomads (w/ Zayd and Akshita Khoury)

Purpose Nomads (w/ Zayd and Akshita Khoury)

September 19, 2021

It’s been said that the global pandemic has offered us a rare moment of existential reflection. When not battling the disease or avoiding infection, it has allowed time for us to consider what’s most important. Young professionals are no exception. Data shows that increasingly “the best and brightest” are opting into life and career choices that take them out of the corporate career path and land them in the midst of a gig economy re-energized by a world in crisis. 

Headlines announcing “The Great Resignation,” “The Big Quit,” or “Global Burnout” suggest that even when times are tough and unemployment is a real possibility, well-educated professionals are voting with their hearts, not their wallets – leaving behind well-paid jobs in search of something more. But what, exactly?

For some thoughtful insight on the subject, I’m joined by Zayd and Akshita Khoury – two extraordinary people who speak to a broader trend that could prove good for the world, but bad for corporates. What do I mean by that? Well, stay tuned. This is a conversation you won’t want to miss. Visit us at www.insideasiapodcast.com.

Seeding Purpose (w/ Elizabeth Hernandez)

Seeding Purpose (w/ Elizabeth Hernandez)

August 29, 2021

When was the last time you thought about where your food comes from? And I don’t mean from your local supermarket… Well, according to the U.N. Food & Agriculture Association, 70% of food consumed globally comes from so-called “smallholder” farmers. 

There are an estimated 570 million of them, and nearly half live and operate in the world’s poorest countries. In most developing markets, agriculture contributes anywhere from 15 to 35% of GDP. Without this constellation of farming communities, unemployment would soar and economies would crumble. 

Not surprisingly, there’s a political dimension to supporting the smallholder farmer. This requires governments throughout the region to make constant adjustments – balancing local subsidies against foreign food imports.

Into this socio-economic brew enters Corteva Agriscience, a company that a little over two years ago spun off from the chemical giant DowDupont in order to focus exclusively on agribusiness. Today, the company produces high-yield, pest-resistant hybrid seeds, land management, and digital solutions. As my guest, Elizabeth Hernandez, explains, the timing and focus of their market entry offers a unique opportunity for farmers and investors alike.

This is the latest in a series of episodes we have planned featuring companies that are delivering on Corporate Purpose. Two episodes back we featured another Corporate Purpose leader, T.C. Ng, Asia Pacific Managing Director of the iconic tech company, HP. If you missed that episode, you can listen or read about it by  visiting www.insideasiapodcast.com

In coming weeks, we will feature on this program conversations with leaders of other purpose-driven institutions. Our discussions are founded on in-depth case studies created in a three-way partnership between Inside Asia, The Conference Board, and the Center for Creative Leadership.  

One year ago, we came together to introduce the Asia Corporate Leadership Council, which today is comprised of 20 plus Asia-based CEOs, Regional Managing Directors, and heads of family-run businesses. It’s a select group of senior individuals representing best-practice corporate purpose. The case studies – and these accompanying podcasts – are designed to demonstrate what Corporate Purpose in action looks like.

The Age of the Employee-Centric Workspace (w/ James Soback)

The Age of the Employee-Centric Workspace (w/ James Soback)

August 22, 2021

In this most recent episode of Inside Asia, I speak with James Soback, Director of Sustainability and Hospitality Advisory for OMNE/WX, a firm pushing the edge of the “work-from-anywhere” culture. 

It’s safe to say that thanks to Covid, work will never be the same. What it will ultimately look like is anyone’s guess. For decades, creating efficient, yet pleasant workspaces has been the subject of some debate. 

Finding that balance between efficiency and comfort is not always easy. More often than not, available space and design features are the result of limited budgets and doing what the boss wants, while claiming to have the employee’s best interests at heart.

These days, words like “engagement” and “productivity” are bandied about. Words that are measured. In order to increase the two, you need to find ways of motivating and inspiring the workforce. 

To this end, companies have experimented with open architecture, free drinks and snacks, adding a ping-pong table or creating lounging areas. All fine attempts, but still, mostly determined by the culture or the preference of the powers-that-be.

In the world of work 2.0, something’s got to give. My guest suggests that “employee-centric” workspaces are a good first step.

Driving Purpose Through Partners (w/ T.C. Ng)

Driving Purpose Through Partners (w/ T.C. Ng)

August 15, 2021

There are few businesses in the world that have a sales and distribution network as vast and varied as the tech giant, Hewlett Packard. HP has been building and selling personal and enterprise technology for over 80 years. And during that time, it has assembled an ecosystem of business partners that reach from Beijing to Belfast. 

Not surprisingly, that kind of network generates some significant revenue. HP today is a US$60 billion dollar a year business. And according to my guest this episode, 85% of that income is derived through tens of thousands of distributors, wholesalers, and retail operators. HP has mastered the art of building and coordinating its partner networks. So, it may come as no surprise that when it comes to driving a corporate purpose and sustainability agenda, enlisting its network is mission critical.

Here to discuss how it’s done is T.C. Ng, HP’s Managing Director for Greater Asia. In coming weeks, we will feature on this program conversations with some of Asia’s most purpose-driven institutions. Our discussions are founded on in-depth case studies created in a three-way partnership between Inside Asia, The Conference Board, and the Center for Creative Leadership.  

One year ago, we came together to introduce the Asia Corporate Leadership Council, which today is comprised of 20 plus Asia-based CEOs, Regional Managing Directors, and heads of family-run businesses. It’s a select group of senior individuals representing best-practice corporate purpose. The case studies – and these accompanying podcasts – are designed to demonstrate what Corporate Purpose in action looks like.

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