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Investing in the future leaders of sustainability

In 2021, we began collaborating with Singapore Management University to award a Sustainability Scholarship, aimed at motivating outstanding undergraduates who want to expand their learning across traditional academic disciplines by majoring in Sustainability. Shania Sukamto is one of two beneficiaries of the award of SGD60,000 over two years. As our Sustainability Scholar, Shania shared her thoughts and opinions on the importance of building a sustainable future.

Tell us about your time at SMU and what made you choose sustainability as your second major.

My time in SMU has been quite unconventional given the need to navigate multiple hybrid or online semesters due to the pandemic. Fortunately, despite the constraints, I was able to join student organisations such as the Impact Investing Club and the VERTS Environmental Club, where I met like-minded friends. With the flexibility of online classes, I also interned part-time for two semesters, which gave me hands-on experience. 

I chose Sustainability as my second major as I felt it complemented my finance major and would allow me to pursue a career in sustainable investments, which I am passionate about. To usher a transition towards climate adaption and mitigation, we will need capital to finance new structures and implement new systems, for example, carbon trading and ESG reporting within finance. This requires a firm understanding of the intersection and opportunities between finance and sustainability.

What inspired you to apply for the scholarship?

I was inspired to apply for the scholarship as the Equinix scholarship is prestigious. It also allowed me to be more financially independent with regards to my tuition—something I’m proud of. I’ve studied the technological innovations that allow data centres to be more resource-friendly and emit less CO2, so I’m familiar with the environmental impact Equinix can make, given its position as the one of the world's largest digital infrastructure companies.

How will the scholarship and degree programme drive your career goals?

The scholarship has reinforced my conviction that this is not only a career path where I can make a positive impact in the world with my capabilities, but also one that corporations are placing greater emphasis on and directing more resources to. It has motivated me to continue working hard to become an expert in this space as I establish strong foundations in finance while constantly priming my knowledge of the sustainability space by reading and talking to leaders in the field. 

What is one thing you wish people knew about sustainable innovations?

I wish people knew that sustainable innovation still needs more innovation! This sounds obvious, but despite the overwhelming number of technological inventions in recent years, many of these cannot yet be achieved at scale to replace the status quo in terms of economics, speed of production and other logistical issues. The hardest part is the implementation of these incredible science and technological discoveries, and that is where the next wave of innovation could take place. How do we make these new sustainable solutions attractive to companies and citizens? It requires faith and desire to move towards a sustainable future. Implementing new infrastructure that runs on a renewable energy source or a smart grid solution requires significant upfront investment and carries risks. However, the climate crisis threatens us all. We must be willing to invest in sustainable innovation, just as Bill Gates is supporting a variety of start-up technologies to help craft a sustainable future. 

What do you visualize in tomorrow’s world of sustainability? What’s your vision of a sustainable future?

My vision of a sustainable future is one with systemic reform across society, from governments to corporations. We must overhaul the status quo to truly live in a sustainable world — one as driven by morals and ethics as it is by profits. While technological innovations can seem enticing, it’s also dangerous to place too much hope in a moon-shot solution without reflecting on what got us in this situation in the first place. For example, even if we develop a commercially viable solution for Carbon Capture Utilisation & Storage, if we continue to emit massive amounts of CO2 due to our consumption habits, we will narrowly scrape by the two degrees centigrade temperature mark to avoid a climate catastrophe (assuming we can). It may sound naïve, but my vision for a sustainable future is one in which every individual is understands the reality of the climate crisis and is motivated to do all they can in their capacity to mitigate it—as a policy maker, a business owner or a consumer. While mandatory reporting or agency restrictions can be in place, it is up to every decision maker to not only adhere to these but to go beyond to solve the climate crisis. 

This also applies to social sustainability, which is unfortunately overlooked as emphasis is placed on the ‘E’ in ‘ESG’. The COVID pandemic has brought to light severe injustices, both in developing and developed countries, towards employees who must work overtime or suppliers whose margins are squeezed due to cancelled orders, etc. In a world where many industries are dominated by a few large players, it’s a challenge for consumers to avoid supportin a company embroiled in human rights violations with its workers or communities living near its production sites. I envision a world where corporations are more decentralised (and I think this could be possible through all the developments in the blockchain/crypto space) so that people can be direct stakeholders of corporations and would naturally would be more conscious of how their decisions impact their fellow co-stakeholders of the firm. I’m not certain what this would look like or if it will be possible, but given the prolific activism of my generation, I believe we can create a future that is more equitable to all.


If you're interested to build the world's digital future sustainably, find out more about our internship opportunities on our Students Page. 

Published on Dec 22, 2022

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