12 September 2017: Yale-NUS graduate learns more about sustainability through Dutch Embassy’s training programme

Text by Julian Low | Images provided by Orange ASEAN Factory

In May 2017, Toh Hui Ran (Class of 2017) was one of 24 participants who took part in the ‘Orange Factory’, a three-week intensive sustainability workshop designed for young professionals, entrepreneurs and students from the Netherlands and Southeast Asia. The workshop was part of Orange ASEAN, a joint effort by the Dutch government, Dutch companies and non-governmental organisations to bring sustainability into Asian economies.

Over the course of three weeks, participants learnt about different consulting tools and business models while discussing the topic of ‘Sustainability in Businesses’. They also gained invaluable insights and knowledge through talks by experienced professionals from various sustainability industries. At the end of the workshop, the participants gave group presentations on their proposed solutions for regional sustainability challenges to six Dutch companies.

An Environmental Studies major, Hui Ran had stumbled upon the workshop via its Facebook page. “At Yale-NUS, I had taken classes ranging from natural to social sciences sustainability. However, I never took classes in the business aspect of this field. When I saw that the programme encompassed this, I saw it as a great opportunity to expand my knowledge,” she said.

At the workshop, Hui Ran’s group was tasked to find an innovative solution for Dutch multinational company, AkzoNobel, to increase their contribution to shipping and marine sustainability. “It was really challenging for me initially as I had never done a corporate project before,” she said. “I was unsure of how business models worked or even how to integrate a business’ sustainability and bottom-line concerns successfully. Furthermore, I was working with people who had more work experience than me.”

However, Hui Ran remained undaunted and applied the skills learnt at Yale-NUS to her advantage. “I’m grateful that the diverse student body at the College had helped me learn how to work with people from different nationalities, cultures and educational backgrounds. We were also trained to be critical thinkers and good communicators. These skills came to the fore during our group discussions,” she said.

In the end, Hui Ran’s group came up with several ideas for AkzoNobel and even managed to connect them with a potential client – the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The group proposed that AkzoNobel could optimise its resources by working with WWF.  “It was an unexpected achievement and we were very happy with what we had accomplished,” she beamed.

Currently working as an executive in the sustainability department of City Developments Limited, Hui Ran hopes to pursue her passion in sustainability through her career or at graduate school. “As inhabitants of this world, we have to be conscious of how our choices of lifestyle, careers and politics affect the environment,” she said.

Students who take Environmental Studies as their major are exposed to a broad understanding of environmental issues along with in-depth expertise in a specific topic or area of interest. They also explore the fundamental drivers of environmental problems and develop the skills and aptitude needed for creative problem solving.

Hear what Hui Ran and other participants had to say on the benefits that they had gained from their experience at the Orange ASEAN Factory here.