Spotlight on Yui Ku, Shangri-La’s New Director of CSR & Sustainability

Recently, Yui Ku joined Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts as the new Director of Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability. Yui comes from a long background of working in CSR, and she specializes in environmental, social and governance reporting; stakeholder engagement; environmental and social compliance; supply chain sustainability and climate change risk assessment.

As she begins her new role at Shangri-La, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Yui to talk about about her experience working in CSR and her plans for the group’s corporate social responsibility.

Sustainability: What inspired you to pursue a career in relation to CSR and sustainability?

Ku: When I was an undergraduate student, my internship with an emissions trading company demonstrated how a business can potentially contribute to the common good while making a profit. This experience motivated me to find the intersection between doing good and generating revenue for different businesses, and to start my career in corporate sustainability.

Sustainability: What is your role in Shangri-La’s CSR efforts?

Ku: I see my role as twofold. Internally, I am looking at how Shangri-La can amplify its positive impact on communities and on the natural environment without compromising service standards through initiatives such as resource efficiency and waste reduction. Externally, I would like to ensure that the group’s CSR efforts are communicated to our stakeholders in an effective manner. The ultimate aim is for our stakeholders, including guests and NGOs, to recognize, support and cooperate with us on CSR.

Sustainability: In the last decade, companies have been increasingly committed to operating responsibly and in a sustainable manner, but do you think the efforts are impactful enough? How do you see CSR 10 years from now?

Ku: In terms of corporate sustainability, the last decade saw a gradual shift from a pure philanthropic approach of volunteering and donating to charity, to looking internally for opportunities to enhance the sustainability of business operations. A trend of evaluating and communicating sustainable performance through impact measurement has also emerged in recent years. Typical examples include measuring cost savings achieved through energy efficiency projects and appraising positive changes to beneficiaries of charitable projects, funded by corporate donations.

In the next ten years, I believe the term CSR will be less commonly used. Business practices currently thought of as part of the CSR program - such as sourcing products from sustainable materials or factoring in a social return on investment - will become an integral of doing business. What we now term as “CSR programs” will become inherent in business to fully implement the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit.

Sustainability: Outside of work, what have you done to live a more sustainable life?

Ku: Taking public transportation whenever possible instead of a taxi, separating recyclable and non-recyclable waste, using LED light bulbs at home and donating all unwanted clothes to charity/ recycling companies are some of the sustainable practices I have adopted. From a mental perspective, a sustainable life for me is about maintaining balance between a peaceful mind and the desire of wanting to achieve more in life.

To maintain balance, I attend events about Social Innovation, participate in volunteering activities and go to dance classes. Recently, I started practicing yoga breathing, which helps restore a sense of peacefulness within a short time.

Sustainability: While we understand some unsustainable practices are unavoidable, what do you do to alleviate such activities?

Ku: I was born and raised in the northern city of Tianjin and as my family resides there, I fly home on occasions to see them. To reduce my environmental footprint, and when time allows, I will choose to take an overnight train home. Additionally, I try to offset additional carbon emissions by supporting projects that reduce carbon emissions.

Thanks for sitting down with us Yui, and we can’t wait for the wonderful things you’re going to accomplish here at Shangri-La!