Jovan Tan – Sustainability advocate, leveraging Technology and Innovation to advance Sustainability

Fellow, Shaping the Future of Advanced Manufacturing and Value Chains, World Economic Forum (WEF); Chief Evangelist, TRIA; Adjunct Lecturer, Singapore Polytechnic – Jovan Tan, AY14 Diploma in Engineering with Business SP graduate, wears many hats and it can be hard to pin him down to a specific title. There are, however, three common threads running through his portfolios and they are technology, sustainability and entrepreneurship.

Jovan is the founder of the RIGHT (Restorative Innovation to Grow Humanity with Technology) Foundation. Set up in 2018, it aimed to develop an innovation economic model that can demonstrate the possibility of designing commercially viable solutions that will benefit the environment and humanity. Jovan also founded an impact-driven outcome-based certification body called REAL IMPACT. Their flagship Zero Waste for F&B certification program worked closely with F&B clients to help them go zero waste.

Jovan TanPrior to these, Jovan started an event company and was making good bucks. Teaming up with MBS, he was making good inroads when the onslaught of Covid-19 in April 2020 put his company’s cash flow in the red as all orders secured earlier were either cancelled or postponed. At that crossroad of his life when he was uncertain about his next move, during a conversation with a professor who was the advisor for his company, the latter asked him about his future plans. Not intending to be serious, Jovan responded casually that he might want to consider academia as a career path. That dream, however, became a reality, when the professor encouraged him to pursue his PHD. Though now working towards his PHD, Jovan still characteristically makes room for his other pursuits.

As the Chief Evangelist of TRIA, a global sustainable food packaging company that helps food service brands close their waste loop to achieve zero waste, Jovan fervently champions its cause, supports its growth efforts and advises the senior leadership team on strategic issues. This is closely intertwined with his work as founder of the RIGHT Foundation, where he has been working closely with renowned researcher, Professor Virginia Cha. On the home front, Jovan is also appointed to the national working group to develop standards and technical references on sustainable packaging for the Singapore Standards Council and the Green Action for Communities committee for Bukit Batok East Constituency under the People’s Association.

Jovan is a firm believer that entrepreneurs should begin their businesses with the twin objectives of achieving ecological improvement and profitability. “Innovation has the agency to tackle both facets. It’s always more cost effective to start right from day one, rather than try to retrofit at a later stage.” he opined. That is why helping decision makers understand the importance of sustainability and nudging them towards incorporating it into their organisations’ DNA is imperative. When business leaders know that it can be done, they will be mindful of acting on it when the opportunity arises.
Entrepreneurship is a thrill for him and he has this piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs, “If you want to be an entrepreneur, do it. Don’t think too much. If you have something amazing up your sleeve, do it. If you don’t do it, you won’t know the results. Rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty is the fastest way to determine if entrepreneurship is for you.”
What is commendable is that despite his hectic schedule, Jovan carves out time to give back to the community. He is currently serving as Chairman of the SAFRA Entrepreneurs’ Club, where he introduced skill workshops and seminars to educate and equip club members with the necessary skillset before they should embark on their entrepreneurial journey. He also gives back to his alma mater SP by advising EEE on their technopreneurship course structure, curriculum and industry engagement, and being an adjunct lecturer at SP.
As he looked back on his past career trajectories, Jovan surmised that grades were not everything. He said with a laugh, “My students could not believe my grades when I told them they were far from perfect!” Student life in SP was carefree and his grades were average. Nonetheless, he embodies the importance of living by one’s passion – his passion for entrepreneurship and trying out new things led him to where he is today and he hopes to inspire his students through his own experiences. He also emphasised the importance of networking: “Talk to people, no matter who they are. Spread your contacts far and wide. You never know if it will bring you new opportunities. It sure did for me!”
Concluding, Jovan reiterated what he often advised his students – the value of time. “Time is the only asset we have that makes us all equal.” In the light of the current climate crisis and the need to race against time to mitigate its adverse impacts, and enhance sustainability, the limited time we have to use wisely is something all would do well to pay heed to.

SP Sustainability Matters