"Plastic waste has practically doubled because of Covid-19,” cautions Laurence Lien who has built a community of progressive philanthropists to tackle urgent global concerns and discusses strategic philanthropy and climate change

Where governments, private enterprises and civil society may fall short in resolving complex social challenges, the Asia Philanthropy Circle (APC) aims to step in and step up efforts to catalyse change.

Led by Laurence Lien, the membership-based platform brings together Asian philanthropists to accelerate private action for the public good by addressing systemic challenges through a collaborative approach to strategic philanthropy.

(Related: Introducing Asia's Most Influential: The Impact List 2020)

Take climate change, for instance.

“There’s not enough philanthropy in the region that’s going towards addressing climate change. We can already see what happens when humankind has to confront an existentialist threat like the pandemic—the impact of climate change could be even worse,” cautions Lien, who is also chairman of the Lien Foundation, which focuses its philanthropic work primarily on improving the lives of the elderly and children with special needs as well as those from low-income households.

His most pressing concern, perhaps, is the danger that rising sea levels pose to vulnerable communities in Southeast Asia, where APC is already heading up several programmes for the underprivileged. 

In Indonesia, for instance, its 1,000 Days Fund works to tackle the issue of stunting and malnutrition in children through a comprehensive set of interventions over a five-year period. A similar programme has also been launched in the Philippines Early Child Care Development Pilot, spanning the first eight years of a child’s life. 

“Southeast Asia is very vulnerable, and Indonesia and the Philippines are two of the most disaster-prone nations in the world. So we want to do more to mitigate climate change and help communities adapt. Many of these communities live on the coast and if sea levels rise, it’ll be even worse for them. We don’t have much time,” he urges.

Driven by the belief that we should not wait for governments to develop a solution, APC is doubling up efforts to help secure a sustainable future for Asia and stewarding an initiative with the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute to research ways to turn plastic waste into fuel. 

“We’re trying to develop a business case for it, as plastic waste has practically doubled because of Covid-19. We were making gains on single-plastic use but that seems so small and we’ve got even more of a problem now because of the use of disposables for takeaway food and PPE in the last couple of months,” Lien explains, referring to the Personal Protective Equipment that medical frontliners worldwide don daily during the pandemic.  

The project may be in its early stages of development, but the time to act is now.

  • PhotographyDarren Gabriel Leow
  • StylingJoey Tan
  • GroomingZhou Aiyi
  • Photographer's AssistantEric Tan
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