How nine DBS employees are trying to change the world

The DBS talents taking part in UNLEASH 2018 together with DBS chief sustainability officer Mikkel Larsen (4th from right)

Can the world end poverty by 2030? Come 30 May 2018, some 1,000 of the brightest young minds from around the world are gathering in Singapore to work on precisely that.

They come as part of UNLEASH 2018 – a global programme that aims to create innovative, implementable and scalable solutions towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For a week, the 1,000 selected millennial thought leaders will work on challenges in eight different themes, each tied to an SDG, which are: Food, Health, Education & ICT, Water & Sanitation, Energy, Sustainable Cities & Communities, Responsible Supply Chain & Consumption, and Climate Action.

DBS is proud that nine of its employees have been chosen to take part in UNLEASH. They come from different backgrounds and have different expertise; and they’re all keen to do their part to contribute back to society.

‘I want to be part of the change that the world needs now’

Talent: Ravisankar Dendapani, Senior Associate, Technology & Operations

Passionate about: Water & Sanitation

Coming from a developing nation like India, I’ve seen the pain of the people waiting in lines just to get proper drinking water; so, from a young age, water scarcity has struck me as a real need that the world faces.

In developing countries like India, one of the biggest issues that affects people the most is drought. Yet at the same time, there is water all around in the seas and the rivers. While there are places that have desalination plants, it doesn’t appear to be enough.

I think we have to look at Singapore Newater as an example of converting waste water into something renewable and drinkable, and take it to a global scale. I believe that God didn’t create saltwater for no reason, and there should be some reason for so much water all around even though we can’t drink it now.

‘When the issue is right in front of your eyes, you feel motivated to do something’

Talent: Yusuf Aria Putera, Vice-President, Consumer Banking Group

Passionate about: Clean energy

Where I come from (Indonesia), energy is something very important. A few years ago, not all parts of the country had the luxury of electricity – you would see children in some parts of Indonesia studying at night using a kerosene lamp.

Living in Indonesia, it’s right before your eyes, you can see what’s happening to society, to the environment. I think for those people in developing countries where the problem is right in front of your eyes, there’s extra motivation and drive to do something about it.

‘The world is becoming more interconnected. Each of us has a role to play in promoting sustainability.’

Talent: Sharon Tan, Vice-President, Consumer Banking Group

Passionate about: Quality education – vocational training

Education is the foundation of modern societies. Having the right skills and knowledge can lift one out of extreme poverty.

A few years ago, a group of DBS colleagues and I visited Cambodia. Besides building a water system for a school in one of the villages, we also helped to set up a soap making training school for young women. The purpose is to empower these women with a lifelong skill so that they can make a sustainable livelihood out of this skill. It reinforced to me the importance of vocational and skills training and how it can help people to help themselves.

‘I don’t see any other platforms with such scale, bringing in bright minds from all around the world to target the SDGs’

Talent: Raghav Anant, Senior Associate, Technology & Operations

Passionate about: Healthcare

One of the problems I see in the world today is counterfeit drugs. Last year, the World Health Organisation found that one in 10 drugs sold in developing countries is fake or substandard, leading to tens of thousands of deaths.

What I feel is that we can use the new technologies that are currently in place, like Blockchain or Artificial Intelligence, to stop the spread of counterfeit drugs. If you can build up a distributed ledger and serialise each step of the drug production until it actually reaches the pharmacy, it’ll make a big impact not just in stopping the illegal trade but also saving all these lives.

‘It really has to do with my own purpose in life, trying to make a positive contribution back to society’

Talent: Sophearin Phann, Senior Associate, Technology & Operations

Passionate about: Quality education – Financing

I grew up in Cambodia and was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to pursue my university studies in Singapore. The four years receiving my education in Singapore totally transformed my life: it changed the way I behave, the way I think, and changed my perspective about the world.

The insight I have is that we should have some sustainable financing for education in developing countries. We have the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank in recent years, so why not an “Education Bank” to pool together investments from the private and public sectors to finance the development of the education sector around the world?

‘Change can come by starting from your own circle of influence, and letting it grow’

Talent: Lin Minghao, Senior Associate, Technology & Operations

Passionate about: Clean energy

Right now, I think that everything in our lives revolves around having energy to provide for whatever we are doing. Affordable energy thus is important to improve people’s lives and to bring up the consistency of people’s living standards, especially in developing countries.

Today there are clean energy certificates that companies can buy to show they purchased from renewable energy sources. However, we must stop this from being abused. It’s not a zero-sum game where I produce 100 units of carbon emissions, but offset it by using 100 units of clean energy.

‘My boy was a motivation for me to make the world a better place’

Talent: Kenneth Tan, Associate, Technology & Operations

Passionate about: Responsible consumption

Unlike many other talents or participants who have the sustainability passion for a long time, I only started being interested in this no more than two years ago – because of the birth of my son.

He motivates me to do better for myself, to make myself a valuable person living in this world. His arrival also made me realise the short lifespan of consumer products we have today. If you recall twenty years ago, those televisions and toys could last for decades - I never realised this until I saw my parents take out the toys I used to play as a kid for my baby boy. Today though, our iphones, our new technology all come out in a year, and then they go to waste.

‘If you haven’t realised it, we’re running into a problem of our resources running out’

Talent: Tan Jingxi, Vice-President, Technology & Operations

Passionate about: Quality education

I consider myself to be very lucky having grown up, and gone through the education system in Singapore. When you think about it, there are probably thousands of people born at the same time as you, but it’s almost like you drew a lot before you were born, and were born in this particular time and space. So for those who were given the luck of the draw, I feel we are obliged to help out the rest of the people who haven’t been given that same luck.

As opposed to just having a point solution to an existing problem we have, if we can help to develop people through education, then they can come up with their own ideas, and this will hopefully create a kind of snowball effect.

‘I was given an opportunity, and now I can give others opportunities too’

Talent: Lilian Loke, Senior Associate, Technology & Operations

Passionate about: Quality education

I come from Malaysia, and I can see that education really helps to transform lives. I was lucky to be born in this generation where there is gender equality and my parents didn’t stop me from coming to Singapore to pursue my further studies.

In terms of quality education, what I feel is lacking right now is that there’s a lack of awareness, sometimes because of cultural differences in terms of how females can contribute back to the workplace and to society. There are also some cultural taboos which prevent mothers from coming back to work, and we have to figure out ways, like using social media, to break these taboos.