Loh Wai Kiew, Isabella



Loh Wai Kiew, Isabella (b. 1961, Malaysia–), is the chairman of the Singapore Environment Council and former president and chief executive officer (CEO) of SembCorp Environmental Management (SembEnviro) Pte. Ltd. She is also a prominent female entrepreneur. Loh made headlines when she played a key role in the development of the government-linked company, SembCorp Environmental Management. She expanded the operations of the company by changing its focus from waste management to recycling. As an active advocate of recycling, she has proudly admitted to buying clothes from used clothing stores.1

Early life and education
Loh is the great-great-grand daughter of Kapitan Yap Kwan Seng, one of the founders of modern Kuala Lumpur. Born to an accountant father and secretary mother, Loh is the eldest child and has two sisters and a brother. She spent her childhood in Klang, Selangor.2 In Cantonese, her name means timid or naive, and she has made it her mission to prove otherwise. She had overcome asthma in her childhood, and she would do so for the other obstacles in her life.3


Loh’s father believed in the value of education. At 12, Loh picked a girls’ Catholic school in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, for her secondary education. She spent her weekends in her classmates’ homes, flying Beagle aeroplanes that belonged to their fathers. This nurtured her love for aeronautics, a love she subsequently pursued through a scholarship to study aeronautical engineering at London’s Imperial College of Science and Technology.4 Upon her graduation, she joined her family who had moved to Australia, working at menial jobs as the country was in an economic recession. In 1994, she pursued her Master of Science degree in Management Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, with a scholarship from Sembawang Corporation (now known as SembCorp Industries).5 She was later appointed a fellow of the Academy of Engineering of Singapore and of the Chartered Management Institute of UK.6

Career
Achieving global success in a male-dominated corporate world, Loh has broken the glass ceiling and defied stereotypes. She models her business strategies on visionaries such as Richard Branson and draws inspiration from Branson’s branding of the Virgin group of companies, as well as Coca Cola’s tactic of customising products to local tastes.

Loh was intent on transforming the waste collection industry into a high-end business.8 She forged alliances with overseas waste management companies, believing that acquisition was the way for a company to grow. In 2004, SembEnviro bought a 51-percent stake in India’s biggest biomedical waste management company, now known as SembRamky Environmental Management. In 2005, the company acquired a 60-percent stake in Shanghai XiangHong Waste Paper Recycling.9

Loh was previously chairman of Shell Marine Products Ltd, and CEO and vice president of its Global Marine Fuels and Lubricants unit from 2005 to 2010.10 She has sat on several boards, including those of the National Environment Agency and the Esplanade.11 She received the 2003 International Management Action Award from SPRING Singapore and the Chartered Management Institute. In 2011, while CEO of the Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Loh was embroiled in a controversial decision to cancel a popular event called Halloween Horrors.12

The major milestones in Loh’s career are:

1982:
Aircraft engineer in Singapore Technologies Aerospace (STA), the first woman in Singapore to hold this position.

1986: Seconded to the Economic Development Board by STA for nine years, becoming the first female director of its Boston office. Over four years, she brought in more than SGD$1 billion worth of US investments into Singapore.
Jun 2000: Head of SembEnviro. The unit’s staff strength expands from four to 1,600 in Singapore and Australia, and has 3,000 employees by 2005.
2001: Sets up SembVisy Recycling to provide recycling services.13 / Launches the “green-bag programme” to encourage the recycling of waste from households. This programme is accompanied by a S$3 million publicity campaign involving 400 kindergartens, primary and secondary schools using a mascot called Toria, a shortened version of the Latin word litoria which means tree frog, commonly found in Singapore.14
2002: Opens the Materials Recycling Facility in Tuas.15 / Joins the board of directors, National Environmental Agency. / Chairman, Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore. / As part of SembCorp’s rebranding exercise and to raise awareness of environmental degradation, Loh creates Pirelli-inspired calendars featuring artistic photographs of scantily-clad models posing with endangered animals, with herself as “Miss December”.16
2003: Member of the engineering services working group, Ministry of Trade and Industry.
2005: First Singaporean and Asian woman to be recruited by Royal Dutch Shell to head a global business unit as CEO and vice president.
2008: Chairman, Singapore Environment Council.
2011–2012: CEO, Wildlife Reserves Singapore.
2014: Chairman, advisory committee, School of Applied Science, and board of governors of Republic Polytechnic.17 / Adjunct professor at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and member of the advisory board of the College of Engineering, NTU.18



Author
Balbinder Kaur Dhaliwa




References 
1. Kaur, S. (2003, January 19). She is at the top of the heap. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Wong, K. H. (2005, September 4). ‘I do date, you know’. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Tan, J. (2003, June). Cleaning up the state. Singapore tatler society. Singapore: Edipresse Singapore Pte Ltd, pp. 82–83. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ST)
4. Kaur, S. (2003, January 19). She is at the top of the heap. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, J. (2003, June). Cleaning up the state. Singapore tatler society. Singapore: Edipresse Singapore Pte Ltd, pp. 82–83. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ST)
5. Kaur, S. (2003, January 19). She is at the top of the heap. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Nanyang Technological University. (2016). College of Engineering: Organisation: About us. Retrieved 2016, August 30 from Nanyang Technological University website: http://coe.ntu.edu.sg/aboutus/Organisation/Pages/IsabellaLoh.aspx
7. Tan, J. (2003, June). Cleaning up the state. Singapore tatler society. Singapore: Edipresse Singapore Pte Ltd, pp. 82–83. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ST)
8. Kaur, S. (2003, January 19). She is at the top of the heap. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Wong, K. H. (2005, September 4). ‘I do date, you know’. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Bloomberg.com. (2016). Isabella Loh: Executive profile & biography – Businessweek. Retrieved 2016, August 30 from Bloomberg.com website: http://www.bloomberg.com/Research/stocks/private/person.asp?personId=216876241&privcapId=117436628&previousCapId=117436628&previousTitle=AIG%20Asia%20Pacific%20Insurance%20Pte.%20Ltd.
11. SembCorp Industries. (2003). SembCorp Industries annual report 2003: Key executives. Retrieved 2016, August 30 from SembCorp Industries website: http://www.sembcorp.com/en/AR/ar2003/download/allpdfs/lead/SCI-Key%20Executives.pdf
12. AsiaOne. (2011, September 17). Wildlife Reserves Singapore apologises to the President. Retrieved 2016, August 30 from AsiaOne website: http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20110917-300008.html
13. Wong, K. H. (2005, September 4). ‘I do date, you know’. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Kaur, S. (2001, April 17). Getting aggressive about recycling. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Wong, K. H. (2005, September 4). ‘I do date, you know’. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Kaur, S. (2002, December 16). Beauty and the beast, as told by a GLC. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Nanyang Technological University. (2016). College of Engineering: Organisation: About us. Retrieved 2016, August 30 from Nanyang Technological University website: http://coe.ntu.edu.sg/aboutus/Organisation/Pages/IsabellaLoh.aspx
18. Bloomberg.com. (2016). Isabella Loh: Executive profile & biography – Businessweek. Retrieved 2016, August 30 from Bloomberg.com website: http://www.bloomberg.com/Research/stocks/private/person.asp?personId=216876241&privcapId=117436628&previousCapId=117436628&previousTitle=AIG%20Asia%20Pacific%20Insurance%20Pte.%20Ltd



Further resources
Cheam, J. (2009, February 11). Expert help for SMEs to go ‘green’. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Cheong, S. W. (2003, March 16). You go, GIRL! The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Community leaders
Entreprenuership--Singapore--Biography
Loh, Wai Kiew, 1961-
Personalities>>Biographies>>Community Leaders
Businesswomen--Singapore--Biography
Business, finance and industry>>Business organization>>Business enterprises