Cover Sarena Cheah, Datuk Lai Voon Hon, Bryan Loo, Datuk Ruben Gnanalingam and David Mizan Hashim are each a force to be reckoned with, in their respective industries

In conjunction with Malaysia Tatler’s 30th anniversary, we caught up with past Tatler awardees to find out how they fared on their path to success. They share with us their thoughts on sustainability in the areas of leadership, their industry and work in general.

Datuk Lai Voon Hon

Life is full of failures and successes, this is how we can learn and grow. To ensure we continue to achieve success, we need to have big dreams in life so that we can continue to strive to achieve our dreams despite setbacks and obstacles.
Datuk Lai Voon Hon

Datuk Lai Voon Hon is group managing director of Ireka Corporation and a recipient of Malaysia Tatler’s Most Promising 2004 award

The man who was once recognised as Tatler’s Most Promising in 2004 begun his venture into the hospitality industry by opening the Westin Kuala Lumpur that same year, to much acclaim and accolades. “I vouched there and then that the award would further inspire me to introduce more innovative products to Malaysia’s hospitality scene,” Datuk Lai Voon Hon says. Since then, Ireka has proceeded to develop 3 trend-setting hotels—Aloft KL Sentral, Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan Hotel, and the RuMa Hotel and Residences, which opened late last year.

“I am happily surprised by the speed we have achieved the #1 spot on Trip Advisor in less than 5 months since the soft opening. I was trying to create a uniquely Malaysian hotel with not only local design characteristics but also our renowned, charming hospitality, and I am happy to say that the final product has largely met my expectations.”

With environmental sustainability uppermost on his mind, he ensures that Ireka’s projects are benchmarked to Green Building Index standards. In his mind’s eye, Ireka will continue to do its part by placing great emphasis on sustainability in all their design, development and construction activities. In the mid and longer term, it will also actively promote a new business direction of providing urban transportation solutions to cities, towns and urban communities using green technology. “We hope that by promoting better connectivity and the use of public transportation, we can help contribute to improving the overall sustainability of our environment through lowering the use of fossil fuels and reducing our carbon footprint,” he says.

See also: Watch RuMa Hotel's Chef Tyson Gee Taste & Guess The Ingredients While Blindfolded


Above What went behind the scenes for the August cover

Datuk Ruben Gnanalingam

Port equipment is fairly similar across the world. What differentiates Westports from others are our work culture and values.
Datuk Ruben Gnanalingam

Datuk Ruben Gnanalingam is group managing director of Westports Malaysia and a recipient of Malaysia Tatler's Entrepreneur Par Excellence 2012 award

At Westports, culture is everything, and it’s driven by three main themes: family, merit and innovation. “We treat and want everyone here to feel like part of a family,” says Datuk Ruben. “Merit means everyone is rewarded accordingly, based on their output, and innovation means we are constantly looking to evolve.”

As one of the mega transshipment hubs and container terminals in Southeast Asia, Westports has not only positioned itself as the pit stop for container vessels, along the Straits of Malacca, but is also ranked high in the area of productivity. Environmental sustainability comes in the form of investing in energy efficient machinery, such as variable speed and hybrid RTGs which reduced fuel consumption by 33 per cent and 53 per cent respectively. Over the years, Westports has been tracking its carbon emissions, and have a long-term commitment to reduce its carbon emission intensity in the near future.

And as the biggest employer in Pulau Indah, Klang, 41 per cent of their 4,600 staff stay on the island itself. “We don’t only believe in the sustainability of the company but also sustainability in the community,” asserts Datuk Ruben. “So far we have managed to massively reduce poverty, reduce crime and also planted over 1,000 mangrove trees on Pulau Indah.”

Bryan Loo

I believe if we stay true to ourselves and continue building on our strengths, we are only going to grow stronger and better as a unit.
Bryan Loo

Bryan Loo is CEO of Loob Holding and a recipient of Malaysia Tatler's Entrepreneur Par Excellence 2015 award

Bryan is the mastermind behind Tealive. As such, he has created lasting impressions and joyful experiences for all Tealive customers by pioneering the bubble tea culture nine years ago.

In pursuit of going beyond expectations, Bryan and his team are practising sustainable leadership to heighten positive societal impact, while drifting away from the idea of simply providing thirst quenching beverages. To him, sustainability encompasses the values of passion, entrepreneurship, teamwork and honesty in everyday work, and it is also part and parcel of the values upheld at Loob. And believe it or not, Bryan found resonance with sustainability through fatherhood.

“Before my children were born, I used to think only about creating and selling my businesses for profit, and not about building a brand,” he recalls. “Now, my views on sustainability have changed; it means leaving a legacy, and as a father, it has taught me to create something for the next generation.”

Bryan’s vision of building a sustainable business for the future is to make Tealive the very first public listed bubble tea brand in Southeast Asia. That said, “The lack of understanding in franchising objectives hinders sustainable businesses, and most franchising models offer short-term gains. Authorities should take more proactive approaches in franchising businesses and educate industry players on the importance of sustainability in this aspect. Think about all the possibilities of introducing completely new offerings to society, or turning something existing or familiar into something new and exciting. The possibilities are endless.”

See also: Louie Loo Turns 100 Days Old With A Grand Carnival Celebration

Sarena Cheah

Our purpose is to build sustainable ecosystems that are resilient, and we have a clear sense of purpose on how we plan to achieve our goals, and shape how we view the journey ahead.
Sarena Cheah

Sarena Cheah is managing director of the Property Development Division of Sunway Berhad and a recipient of Malaysia Tatler's Most Promising Young Woman 2009 award

Inspired by her father, Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah, and his efforts on turning wastelands into thriving townships, Sarena finds passion in building and planning cities for communities and then managing them holistically. “Our purpose is to build sustainable ecosystems that are resilient,” she said. “We have a clear sense of purpose on how we plan to achieve our goals, and shape how we view the journey ahead.”

As a leader, Sarena is conscious of the example she sets for her team. She implements the practice of sustainability in her leadership by ensuring her colleagues are consistently aware of her decisions. “Team Sunway is driven to deliver long-term growth for the community, and for us to sustain into the future, we address affordability issues to match the country’s progress. As a master community developer, we believe in helping people, and we use our philosophy and values to carry us through adverse times.”

The crown jewel of Sunway Berhad still lies with Sunway City Kuala Lumpur. Recognised as Malaysia’s first green township by the Green Building Index, Sunway Berhad continues to implement sustainability efforts in all its endeavours under the watchful eyes of Sarena.

“Our awareness towards green buildings has picked up pace over recent years, and it’s encouraging to see people develop more environmentally friendly habits,” she said. “We as developers can design and build the hardware, but we still need everyone to play their part to ensure a more sustainable impact for our communities and the environment.”

David Mizan Hashim

It’s important for organisations to have a deeper purpose beyond making profit. They must be able to answer the question ‘why?’. The core purpose of Veritas is to improve the built environment for the pleasure of humanity, this is what motivates us to excel.
David Mizan Hashim

David Mizan Hashim is founder, group president and director of Veritas Design Group, and a recipient of Malaysia Tatler's Entrepreneur Par Excellence 2009 award

Being at the helm of his 32-year-old design practice, Veritas has been behind some of the iconic structures in the country, and what keeps David motivated as an architect is “the excitement and profound honour of contributing to this amazing body of work.”

From the firm’s very inception, sustainability has informed the process of design in substantial ways. Every project undertaken goes through an internal process of ensuring compliance to a set of customised rules for environmental sustainability, called the Veritas Green-Check.

The spirit of sustainability spills over to its people too, fondly called Veritasians. “Our commitment to sustainability is deeply instilled among our people. We have more sustainability-certified facilitators than any other firm in the country. In 2014, we launched the CARE scheme within the office, a unique initiative which motivates all staff to identify ways and means to reduce the carbon footprint of our internal operations, from turning off lights to recycling all waste materials and reducing usage of private vehicles. The substantial savings in overhead resulting from all these actions, is then returned to the staff themselves in the form of cash subsidies for public transport.”

See also: Curious About Sustainability? These Malaysian Activists & Lifestyle Brands Make It Easy


Grab a copy of Malaysia Tatler’s August 2019 issue at newsstands for the full feature, or subscribe to our digital issue here.

  • PhotographyKah Mun
  • Art DirectionElynn Hah
  • Make-UpJoey Yap
  • WordsElizabeth Soong and Fiona Kee
  • StylingAina Izzah, for Lai Voon Hon
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