The effects of climate change are already being felt, from lethal heat waves to severe flooding, and Asia has been and will continue to be significantly impacted. With $4.7 trillion of GDP at risk, how can the business community reverse this trend and preserve the longevity of its businesses and human capital? LESA 2021 seeks to address this and more.


With the most to lose from climate change (up to $4.7 trillion in GDP according to recent McKinsey analysis), Asia is on the frontline of the climate crisis. The science is clear, and the financial sector has on its radar the increased risks of severe flooding, typhoons, and drought. Worldwide, Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) investing has experienced a wave of growth on the back of the pandemic and a fresh focus on sustainability, and ESG assets are set to account for over a third of assets under management by 2025 (Bloomberg).

In Southeast Asia, sustainability-first business models, climate risk assessments, and ESG investing are still nascent, yet the impacts of climate change are already being felt. Are Asia’s businesses equipped to face these challenges? How do we start to mitigate the impact? Is it too late? Prof. John Sterman, Director of the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative and keynote speaker at this year’s upcoming Leadership for Enterprise Sustainability Asia (LESA 2021) conference is adamant that there is hope.

Sterman will anchor this event, hosted by Asia School of Business located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which centers around the urgency for Southeast Asia and emerging world businesses to take critical steps to mitigate climate risk and chart a new way forward. Representatives from organizations such as MIT Sloan, McKinsey & Company, Esquel Group, BlackRock, United Overseas Bank (UOB) and many more will also be speaking during LESA 2021.

As business leaders in the region prepare for “the next normal” and as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore recently announced their pledges to move towards becoming carbon neutral in the next few decades, LESA 2021 invites all business leaders, policy makers, entrepreneurs, and individuals to join in the conversation – on both the challenges and the science-backed, economically viable solutions and technologies to adapt and face this climate-changed economy in an Asian context.

“Instead of leaving things on a ‘wait and see’ basis, where individuals are depending on businesses, smaller companies are depending on large conglomerates to take the lead, and governments point to other governments to implement policies, LESA 2021 aims to spread the message that every single person and entity has a role and responsibility to play in steering us in the right direction before the consequences become irreversible,” said Prof. Charles H. Fine, (Ph.D. Stanford) CEO, President, and Dean at Asia School of Business.

Breaking Change Down into Small, Actionable Steps

Having spent decades studying people’s reactions and efforts to mitigate climate change, Sterman asserts that people do care about the environment. “The primary issue is that people are overwhelmed by the complexity and long-time delays, especially when we are so used to instant feedback.”

When we are faced with consequences that seem catastrophic, overwhelming, and hopeless, he says, “Most tend to convince themselves that ‘the problem is not that bad’, ‘the market will solve it’, or ‘the government will address it’.”

To challenge these notions and call people to take individual and collective action, Sterman developed the En-ROADS and C-ROADS simulations, which uses the analogy of a bathtub (“The amount of CO2 in the air is just like the amount of water in a bathtub; if you continue to fill it faster than it drains out, by law of basic physics, it will rise until it overflows”) – and made the simulations available to the public at large. Just like preparing a pilot for a potential crash, simulations help teach and train pilots so that they can make necessary adjustments to prevent the crash.

“The conclusion of the simulations is always the same – we all play a part, and no part is too small. Participants always emerge empowered,” concludes Sterman, who has also run multiple such simulations for top government, corporate, and NGO levels in over 80 countries around the world, and for students including at Asia School of Business.

This simple, but powerful idea – that the cumulative effect of small actions can move mountains – is exactly the key message that the Asia School of Business is attempting to spread through this year’s LESA 2021 conference.

Action and Change Stems from Mindset

“Asia has a great opportunity – to chart a new course forward in managing social, economic, and climate risks. But charting new territory will take fresh ideas, approaches, courage, agility, and a strategic mindset,” said Prof. Fine.

LESA, currently in its 9th year, will be held virtually this year from 15-18 November 2021.

The conference consists of more than 16 hours of content spread over 4 days and features business leaders, industry experts, academics, and sustainability practitioners from all around the world who will focus on insights and learnings on how to embark upon sustainability for Asia.

The conference will also see the culmination of the Iclif Leadership Energy Awards (ILEA), which is sponsored by Maybank and pays tribute to the individuals who are using their “Leadership Energy in Action” to make a positive, sustainable impact in their organizations or communities. The conference is also supported by Associate Sponsor Sarawak Energy.

With sustainability as a key pillar for ASB and the urgent need for mass awareness amongst business leaders, LESA 2021 extends complimentary Discovery Passes to all interested individuals. The Discovery Pass provides access to a limited number of pre-selected sessions to make the insights shared at LESA accessible to a greater number.

For the full LESA experience, an All-Access Pass which includes access (live and on-demand) to all keynotes, masterclasses, and panel sessions is now available for purchase at


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