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Janice lao

Director, Group Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd

 

And - Winner, WEF's Women of the Decade award 2018

Never dim your light for someone else, instead show them their own light too. 

What do you do?

I use my environmental science and development economist background to make business a force for good. I lead all our global environmental and social efforts to ensure that our business has a positive impact to society and environment. I work on environmental initiatives such as plastic, waste and food waste reduction to climate change strategies and supporting social enterprises and giving opportunities to the most vulnerable in our society using the strengths of our business. 

 

Why did you choose this field?

"Nature is one of [STEM's] most elegant examples."

I'd always known since I was 7 years old that I was always going to commit my life to a worthy cause - to make the world a better place, no matter how cheesy that sounded. When I was 18 after having struggled a bit in maths, I had gotten some support from my father who was a math genius and he unlocked a whole world for me.

 

I learned to love the magic of STEM. I decided then I was going to do everything I could to preserve this wonderful gift to humanity and that I was going to do it by using STEM and being an environmental scientist. I took economics as well to understand how business could play a role in this and I have continued on this path since then.

 

I am a firm believer that people cannot thrive without nature. We have not yet, even with all of the technology we have developed, been able to mimic the elegance and functionality of nature - from trees, to the water cycle, to even how our bodies work. I want people to flourish and to have the best the world can offer, without sacrificing on clean air and water, food and the services that nature's ecosystem provides.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

That you could make a practical career out of being an environmental scientist. I braced myself to the possibility that I probably was not going to make a living out of it, but I have done so successfully. Also that I was ever going to be internationally recognised for my work and be named in  Forbes or see my work in Fortune magazine, that has been incredibly surreal.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I get to use the principles of STEM and translate them from what is perceived to be boring and complicated into something very practical and inspiring. I wake up everyday knowing that I am going to make difference in a business decision every single day that will impact so many people.

Best advice for the next generation

There will always be someone in your life who will not believe in you, don't ever let it be you. Never dim your light for someone else, instead show them their own light too.

Fun fact

I absolutely love going to gym - doing high intensity workouts and lifting weights because it challenges me both mentally and physically everytime and makes me feel unstoppable!