Driving Meaningful Change for a Sustainable Future

CLP Director - Group Sustainability Hendrik Rosenthal is determined to play a part in managing the challenges of climate change and safeguarding the planet’s precious resources. 

Driving Meaningful Change for a Sustainable Future

“Making a positive difference for the environment is something that has always been close to my heart,” says Hendrik Rosenthal, who was appointed CLP Director - Group Sustainability in 2018.


“Growing up, I was fascinated by the then-new concept of reusing and recycling. Talks within my community about the safety of nuclear power also exposed me to the energy industry and its social and environmental responsibilities.” 


Born into a family of academics in Germany, Rosenthal seemed destined for a career in engineering or medicine. However, his interest was clearly drawn toward the environment. “Not a lot of people looked into environmental studies at that time,” he recalls.


“I initially went into environmental engineering, but later shifted my focus to the social and environmental side of things. I discovered that when it comes to sustainability, technical problems weren’t the main roadblock. Rather, it was the mentality of people and companies that we had to work on.”


Steering businesses towards change

Driven by his passion for change, Rosenthal began his career in environmental policy with government agencies in Canada, to where he moved in his teenage years. This was followed by a shift to leading sustainability research and advocacy projects for non-governmental organisations and the private sector in Asia Pacific. 


“Rolling out environmental policies can be a lengthy process from a governmental perspective. When I switched over to the corporate side, I felt more empowered as it offered more leeway for me to help companies make better choices and direct them towards greater sustainability,” says Rosenthal.


Before joining CLP, Rosenthal worked in the nutrition and health sector at chemical company BASF. Based in Hong Kong and Singapore, his job was to provide specialised sustainability advisory services to corporate customers and develop corporate sustainability strategies for businesses in Asia Pacific. 


“Like electricity, good nutrition and health are also essential components to life,” he says. “Take animal nutrition for instance. BASF supplies nutrient supplements for chicken feed to reduce health risks and eliminate the need for antibiotics and other negative additives.”


What fascinated him was that, even at a micronutrient level, there were opportunities to make a difference. “The products helped change the way customers raise livestock, driving them towards more ethical practices, and leading to better poultry product quality and lower costs,” he explains. “It’s essentially the holy grail for sustainability.” 

Visit to BASF vitamin manufacturing site
Hendrik Rosenthal (right) at a BASF customer vitamin manufacturing site in South Korea. 

Pragmatism on the road to a greener future

Rosenthal continued to promote sustainability and change after joining CLP from BASF. Reflecting on his move into the power industry, he reminisces about his graduate years where he led an extensive research project assessing the sustainability of the electricity system in Dalian in northern China.  


“I’ve always been interested in the power industry. Joining CLP was, in a sense, reconnecting with an industry I was very familiar with,” he says.


While there is still a long way to go for the energy sector to be truly sustainable, Rosenthal is hopeful that change is on the horizon. 


"It is very encouraging to see that CLP has invested a lot over the years to move away from thermal,” he says. “Our Climate Vision 2050 will be the driving force for CLP sustainability going forward, guiding us to set more stringent targets and make better choices in transitioning to a low-carbon future."


As a sustainability professional, Rosenthal emphasises that in a world of dynamic changes, the ability to identify risks and trends is crucial. To succeed, Rosenthal says understanding current performance in its proper context is imperative.


“We need to constantly benchmark our performance against higher standards and strive to fill in the gaps,” he argues. “Achieving sustainability is a long-term process, but the rising cases of extreme weather events over the past years are sounding the alarm and warning us that the clock is ticking. The climate is changing rapidly, and so should we.”