Manulife's young leaders tackle rising pollution from single-use face masks

  • Manulife LEAD Asia talent development program prepares associates for leadership roles
  • Teams develop innovative strategies to help keep single-use face masks out of the world's oceans

HONG KONG, Sept. 17, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Manulife is calling on its next generation leaders to help create solutions that mitigate the environmental challenges posed by the increasing reliance on single-use face masks.

An estimated 129 billion single-use face masks are currently being thrown away every month, according to BBC News.[1] Used masks cannot be safely recycled, and most are being disposed of as general rubbish. According to research conducted by Hong Kong-based OceansAsia and other marine conservation experts around the word, many masks are already ending up in the world's seas, where they pose an immediate and critical danger to marine life and create environmental pollution that will persist for hundreds of years.

While mask-wearing is being encouraged to help curb the spread of COVID-19, communities are also grappling with how to reduce the pollution that has come with it. How to balance these imperatives was the complex challenge presented to young executives in Manulife's LEAD Asia graduate development program.

Working with OceansAsia, the LEAD management associates have proposed a range of innovative solutions to raise greater awareness and potentially tackle what is fast becoming a global issue. The solutions ranged from creating a digital platform to engage customers and raise awareness, with gamification elements, to organising direct action for beach clean-ups.

Manulife introduced the Asia LEAD graduate development program in 2018 with the aim to train high-potential millennial talents as the company's future leaders. Emphasising Leadership, Experience, Advocacy and Development, LEAD offers business rotations, social learning and advocacy experience over an intense 18-month period that takes candidates on local and overseas assignments and through classroom-based curricula and experiential programs. Over the past few months, the LEAD program has moved into the virtual world to promote social distancing.

"Manulife empowers our young leaders to contribute to global issues in ways we can all be proud of. Our LEAD program provides new graduates in Asia with real world training and experiences so they can contribute not only at work, but in the community. We are veryproud of how they have responded to this challenge, which is a very practical way for them to make people's lives every day better," said Anil Wadhwani, President and Chief Executive Officer, Manulife Asia.

"Seeing Manulife's next generation leaders tackling ocean pollution is very encouraging. Healthy marine ecosystems are critical to all life on this planet, not just as a food resource for billions of people but to providing us the very air we need to breathe. Their fresh and novel ideas are helping us work towards not only addressing the issue of properly disposing face masks, but importantly eliminating single-use plastics in our environment," said Gary Stokes, Founder, OceansAsia.

The first cohort of LEAD management associates will take up positions across various functions and offices in Asia where Manulife operates. For more information on the Manulife LEAD program, visit:

About Manulife

Manulife Financial Corporation is a leading international financial services group that helps people make their decisions easier and lives better. With our global headquarters in Toronto, Canada, we operate as Manulife across our offices in Canada, Asia, and Europe, and primarily as John Hancock in the United States. We provide financial advice, insurance, and wealth and asset management solutions for individuals, groups and institutions. At the end of 2019, we had more than 35,000 employees, over 98,000 agents, and thousands of distribution partners, serving almost 30 million customers. As of June 30, 2020, we had $1.2 trillion (US$0.9 trillion) in assets under management and administration, and in the previous 12 months we made $30.6 billion in payments to our customers. Our principal operations are in Asia, Canada and the United States where we have served customers for more than 155 years. We trade as 'MFC' on the Toronto, New York, and the Philippine stock exchanges and under '945' in Hong Kong.

[1] BBC News:

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