Review | Peking University BXAI AFLSP Activities in the 2021–22 Spring Semester

Seven 2021 BXAI Scholars of Peking University sat with industry leaders from China, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore in online panels for the BXAI’s Asian Future Leaders Scholarship Program (AFLSP) for the spring semester of the 2021–22 academic year, themed “Sustainability of East Asia.”

The BXAI Scholars gained valuable insights into sustainability in East Asia and how companies have addressed sustainability challenges today by examining East Asian businesses concerning corporate social responsibility (CSR), ESG investing, and the circular economy.

On March 18, the BXAI Scholars and our guest speakers met for the first online session on CSR issues. The guests elaborated on corporations’ roles in sustainability by showing their businesses’ CSR efforts.

Guests’ remarks:

“Sustainability relies on innovation where talents must be cherished.”

Zhu Meiya (China), HUAWEI Global CSR Director

“I hope we can find better ways to address climate change and promote sustainability on a bigger scale.”

—Min Ko (South Korea), Co-founder and Co-director, B-Corp China

BXAI Scholars’ remarks:

“I’m interested in sustainability issues. But I had no chance to learn about companies’ CSR actions. The session was a good opportunity to understand sustainability around the world, particularly in China’s market.”

—Maria Abe (Japan)

“I know nothing about startups or commerce. Nonetheless, I was able to learn some business concepts during this session. It’s interesting to hear the guests’ experiences and life stories.”

—Promise Kim (United States)

On April 1, the second session, themed “Benefits beyond ROI”, focused on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing. We invited experienced ESG investment professionals to the session, sharing their companies’ efforts to balance financial returns and environmental and social impacts.

Guests’ remarks:

“ESG investing is more than the selection of investment objects. The idea itself is worth investing.”

—Jen Loong (Singapore), Investment Director, Sustainable Future Fund

“ESG investing requires patience; we can’t expect easy, fast revenues. A company’s embedded social values deserve more attention than its market performance.”

—Xia Ye (China), Associate, MPower Partners

“Investors are separating the performance of ESG funds from non-ESG ones because they are aware that ESG investing is the right thing.”

—Ronald Wu (United States), Head of ESG/Sustainability Research APAC, UBS

BXAI Scholars’ remarks:

“I’m happy to learn from the guests how private companies deal with ESG. Sustainability has long been in existence before the ESG framework. So, ESG is more of an opportunity than a norm. I’m optimistic about the future of ESG research and investment. I hope that more companies will follow the ESG philosophy and criteria.”

—Akiko Yamada (Japan)

“For me, it’s great to see the co-existence of environmental protection and commercial prosperity. Thanks to the session, I have a new perspective on how environmental protection generates new business opportunities and profits. I believe that if China takes the lead in environmental protection, innovative environmental businesses will prosper in Asia and around the world.”

—Kohki Enomoto (Japan)

On April 15, several guest speakers discussed the circular economy as a systemic solution to global issues like climate change. As a comparison, they listed different kinds of pollution in a linear economy. They also shared their experiences in the field.

Guests’ remarks:

“We should consider waste and pollution control from the minute wastes are produced because recycling can’t truly help at present.”

—Fan Chuan (China), Project Manager, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

“We talk about sustainability, not for nature or the Earth, but ourselves. Embracing sustainability is the only way humans can survive.”

—Arthur Huang (Taiwan, China), Founder & CEO, MINIWIZ

BXAI Scholars’ remarks:

“After the session, I believe I’ll continue my green life. What’s more, when I use a new product, I’ll consider how it was manufactured and where it will go after use.”

—Maria Abe (Japan)

“The most important fact is that the circular economy concerns humankind. We must face it, understanding our imperative to take responsibility and action.”

—Daisuke Kawai (Japan)

The fourth session kicked off on April 29. Entrepreneurs were invited to the event, themed “Strength of Innovators”, to share their bold, groundbreaking efforts for SDGs and how innovation helps build a harmonious and prosperous life and future for all.

Guests’ remarks:

“I can’t say I’m a talent myself. But interestingly, talents will come to you when you present them a goal you’re willing to strive for.”

—Robin Lewis (Japan), Co-founder, Mymizu (Social Innovation Japan)

“I hired one of my employees at my dad’s funeral. I was so sad, but my startup company was the only thing I managed to discuss in my grieving state. I was passionate about my company. And this employee was persuaded to join me.”

—Stuart Oda (United States), Founder, Alesca Life

BXAI Scholars’ remarks:

“It’s inspiring. I wish I had known about the startup programs earlier! I’m impressed by the driving force the guest speakers felt for their startups in the environmental protection sector. I’ve been thinking about my life and dreams. I’ve been worried about my idea of starting my business rather than finding a job in the conventional sense. But in the session, I learned that career selection is just about priority and a sense of fulfillment. I’m now firmer on doing what I’m interested in going forward.”

—Karin Nishimura (Japan)

“I thought environmental protection was out of people’s sense of responsibility and conflicting with commercial profits. But I have entirely new ideas. All the guest speakers are passionate about what they do. More importantly, they are successful in business and reap the dividends of innovative solutions to real-life problems. I’ll focus on how to integrate companies’ international competence with environmental protection, for instance, in China’s EV industry.”

—Kohki Enomoto (Japan)

The May 13 workshop focused on leadership training. Lillygol Sedaghat talked about self-exploration through storytelling to effectively make one’s values known to others. The Scholars had in-depth talks and undertook an activity to help them tell their sustainability stories using the narrative skills they learned from Lillygol. Four other BXAI Scholars from BXAI-partner universities were also in attendance during the session.

Guests’ remarks:

“You need to know how to tell your stories. You start by discussing who you are and why your ideas matter.”

—Lillygol Sedaghat (United States), Global Ambassador of National Geographic’s “Planet or Plastic?” Campaign; Co-founder, Suan Tian Stories

BXAI Scholars’ remarks:

“I appreciate Lillygol’s brilliant talk. I’ve been busy practicing to improve my job interview skills. It’s important to have good talks and communicate effectively. But I’m not good at it. I see today that storytelling is a way of communication. I’ll use what I learned in my life.”

—Akiko Yamada (Japan)

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