2020 year in review: Southeast Asia and Middle East

The history books for 2020 will have many chapters. Chapters where the story is about optimism and hope for the year ahead. Chapters about fear and the unknown. Chapters about precious lives lost and the heroes and heroines of all occupations working at the front lines. Chapters about adaptability and resiliency. And chapters about hope for the future and lessons learned.

Ups & downs:

I never thought I would be reminded of the gravitational theory when we were reveling in the huge success of Greenbuild India during early February of 2020. Over 500 attendees and 20 knowledge sessions – all happening inside a truly stunning LEED Platinum Hotel at Bengaluru. This is as perfect a start as you need for the year.

Then came the series of news which the world has rarely seen since WWII.

The “Mount Everest to Mariana Trench” moment was here for all: the global health pandemic of COVID-19. It did not spare anybody – the rich or the poor, all races, all ages and all places. And as we all know, it was those with the least amount of privilege that suffered the most. The world around me was falling apart. Friends and families bore the brunt and the toll started within my closest friends and family members.

Empathy & leadership

The most powerful tool that determines a leader’s success is his or her ability to empathize. It is the tool and emotion that inspires and motivates people to believe and follow someone, to pledge their loyalty and their trust. I want to profoundly thank the leadership of USGBC and GBCI who led from the front and intuitively made us shepherd our teams. Our president & CEO Mahesh Ramanujan’s directions were clear: prioritize the safety of your team and have them focus on the people around them who are vulnerable and in need.

The initial eight weeks were all about checking how our staff and their families were facing up to this invisible entity. Every day, team calls revolved around this theme and we also added our stakeholders in our list of reach outs to check on their wellbeing.


In all this chaos, we realized the tremendous responsibility in our unique mission. The new direction of “Healthy people in healthy places equals a healthy economy” perfectly fit into our dual roles of taking care of our families and our ecosystem. It was no longer a business goal - it became a lifetime goal for individuals and organizations. At our core at USGBC and GBCI, this is who we are. This is our greatest calling.

Back to basics

There was no time to waste. This was the perfect time to add value and knowledge to our stakeholders. We quickly offered webinars across the region. In 2020, India held 20 webinars with over 2,800 attendees, Middle East had 10 webinars with over 800 attendees and South East Asia had 7 webinars and over 450 attendees. The result: the market got a knowledge boost to prepare itself for the post pandemic world and allowed us to stay connected with our stakeholders. These webinars covered varied topics including LEED Safety First pilot credits, Arc Re-Entry and LEED Zero.

We also held virtual town halls which were our catalyst and platform to keep our stakeholder relationships even stronger. Our two India Town halls were attended by over 500 stakeholders and the two Town Halls in the Middle East were attended by over 360 stakeholders.

We also evolved in reponse to the changing market with a few new innovative directions. For example, we mentored and nurtured a new breed of consultants called “Consultant 2.0” who will help us to enter new markets, new segments and deliver new solutions like LEED Zero, TRUE etc. The long-standing tradition of LEED project celebrations became even more an effective methodology to energize clients and consultants and allowed us to share our larger vision.

The USGBC education platform found new avenues for growth as the student community and the working professionals kept up with and even sometimes surpass their continuing knowledge requirements.

2021: Connecting building data to build trust and compassion

We know that as a global organization, leadership is about innovation and offering a future vision for our collective future. The Arc platform has aided spaces by using a data-based approach for safe re-entry and operational excellence. This key strategy served us well in our markets to build back the trust between building occupants and the places and spaces around them. The LEED Safety First Pilot Credits also offered support to our design and construction community. LEED Zero and LEED Positive showed how our stakeholders can continuously scale up sustainability in their organizations to improve performance of their assets and people. Thanks to this vision, we have a healthy pipeline to kick start 2021 in South East Asia and the Middle East.

2020 has offered an unforeseen pause to many in the world to allow for a deeper introspection about the importance of the places, space, and the people around us. Our stakeholders, including national and state governments, cities and communities large and small, corporate real estate portfolio owners, public and private building operators and sustainability professionals across the spectrum of the building sector have learned valuable lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic that when applied toward LEED and all of our GBCI ratings systems will ensure a more prosperous and healthy and equitable future for all.

On behalf of our entire team, I want to thank all our leaders, partners and stakeholders while sharing a profound sense of optimism for the year ahead.

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