What Matters To Me: Patricia Dwyer

By Rachel Duffell

The founder of The Purpose Business on using business to spur positive environmental change

Tatler Asia

In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.

Patricia Dwyer has always wanted to make an impact. She began her career working with NGOs before becoming Ayala Land’s first manager of corporate social responsibility (CSR). She went on to become director of CSR and sustainability at Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, launching a number of groundbreaking and influential initiatives. But there was always the potential for more, and in 2015 she founded The Purpose Business. With a vision to help Asian businesses become a force for good, it counts the MTR Corporation, Jardine Matheson, Swire Properties, Cathay Pacific, Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, and Vitasoy among its clients. Here, Patricia introduces various aspects of her work in her own words.

My vision was to use business as an agent of change. It was about moving away from CSR, not because it’s bad—CSR is great in and of itself—but because businesses need to look at operations, at monetising their impact, and to look at sustainability through a business lens rather than a philanthropy lens.

Change lies in visionary leadership. To sustain your business you need to look at things differently. You need to change the way you operate, whatever your business or industry. It’s not simple and straightforward. There is no band-aid solution. You need to think about those policies that were put in place anywhere from five to 30 years ago and make changes.

Change is coming. I wouldn’t be in this if I didn’t believe change was imminent
Patricia Dwyer

We need to look long-term. Businesses are trained to report short-term results, and anything to do with sustainability is long-term. Take the simple investment in water filtration systems or biodigesters for restaurants—it’s expensive initially, but you will reduce waste significantly.

Change is coming. I wouldn’t be in this if I didn’t believe change was imminent. Regulation is being put in place, institutional investors are holding companies accountable, and the younger generation is becoming more and more conscious as consumers and as emerging business leaders.

Tatler Asia
Above  Patricia Dwyer (Photo: Jocelyn Tam)

You don’t know if you don’t ask. That’s the best advice I have been given. At Shangri-La, banning shark fin was a preposterous idea at the time but if I hadn’t asked, we wouldn’t have had that conversation and made that change. As an entrepreneur I had to ask if there was a market for assisting companies to get started in sustainability, and people said they needed help. An entrepreneur finds the problem and tries to solve it, and challenging people to think and do things differently is key to driving future success.

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