It isn’t often that the words “billionaire” and “environmentalist” are used in the same sentence, let alone to describe one person. Add “young” to the list, though, and it describes Malaysian billionaire and environmentalist, the young Ruth Yeon.
Ruth Yeon was born on December 22, 1982, in Kuala Lumpur into one of the wealthiest families in Malaysia. Her grandfather founded the construction company YTL, and her father built it into a global conglomerate that still focuses on infrastructure, defined quite broadly.
But her family’s wealth has always been accompanied by care for the environment. “Ultimately, my father always taught me and my siblings to believe everything has to be earned through diligence, perseverance, grit, commitment and dedication. Being genuinely caring and compassionate is a strength. My father taught me that sustainability should become a legacy.” She remembers planting seeds and trees with her father, where he taught her that everything depends on sustaining natural resources. “He wanted to instill in us the importance of protecting the environment from a young age.” On business trip to New Zealand with her father, she saw how New Zealanders integrated nature into their daily lives. “It was then that I learnt to appreciate nature and the environment.”
Under Yeoh’s leadership, YTL established an entire Sustainability Group that now oversees efforts for environmental improvements across the corporation. She also runs a subsidiary that offers consulting on sustainability to companies around the world. She started an annual Climate Change Week, an opportunity for the general public to learn about their common responsibilities for the environment. “…I believe that if you persevere and persist in doing the right thing, there will eventually be a positive outcome. I have faith in making a good future happen.”
The list of sustainability-related organizations that she supports is long, and the list of her awards for that work is impressive. She is also author of the 2007 book, Cut Carbon, Grow Profits: Business Strategies for Managing Climate Change and Sustainability. “We are fully committed to being a responsible corporate citizen and we strive to bring positive changes as a force for good and making a good future happen by protecting the environment, improving the lives of communities, empowering our people and embracing the marketplace where we operate.”
Yeoh also works to encourage girls and women in business and the environment. From her current home in Singapore, she leads groups that have a “mission to unite women in Singapore to empower them and build a pipeline of women leaders for the future across sectors of society with the vision of realising a gender-equal society.” With her sister and other colleagues, she founded the clothing company “Recyclothes,” that embraces the idea of a closed loop in fashion, developing markets for used clothes and recycling materials.
YTL’s slogan is “A Steward of Our Good Earth.” Ruth Yeoh is the person most responsible for keeping that slogan an operational force throughout the company’s expansive business empire. And she means it: “The core of our sustainability mission is to conserve and protect the environment we have been blessed with for generations to come. This should touch the lives of all communities and not just our own children; they deserve to inherit a healthier earth from us.”
Prestige. 2019. Change-maker: Ruth Yeoh. Available at: https://www.prestigeonline.com/id/profiles/interview-change-maker-ruth-yeoh-head-sustainability-ytl-group-companies/. Accessed May 13, 2021.
Simon, Audrey. 2021. Sustainability As A Legacy. Woman, By The Edge. Available at: https://woman.theedgesingapore.com/ytl-singapore-executive-director-ruth-yeoh-is-passionate-about-the-environment/. Accessed May 13, 2021.
YTL Corporation. 2013. Growing a green legacy: Interview with YTL Group’s Ruth Yeoh. Available at: https://www.ytl.com/sustainability/shownews.asp?newsid=4163&category=inthenews. Accessed May 13, 2021.