May Yap: Leading a Company while Building A Sustainable Future for Our Planet

Most Empowering CEOs Leading Through The Change, 2021

Over the last few decades, the environment has been exposed to many challenges, most of them caused by garbage pollution. And with the rise of the world population, the problem of waste has only worsened.  R. Buckminster Fuller said, “Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value.” Most of us today, are entirely aware of the many solutions to the environmental issues but only a few gems like, May Yap, Chairwomen, CEO, and Managing Director of LHT Holdings Ltd. that truly prioritize environmental impact and harness the power of recycling and work towards a greener planet.

From Admin Clerk to CEO

May was a hardworking teenager; she joined Lian Hup Timber Pte Limited as soon as she graduated from GCE. As a teenage admin clerk, she had to multitask and ended up undertaking many responsibilities like being a receptionist, managing deliveries, stocking inventory, maintaining accounts, housekeeping, etc. LHT was a small firm then, with a strength of 20 employees and with office space in the Mandai area of Singapore, no more than 100 sqm. At the time, wood pallets were in high demand as various foreign MNCs needed them to export goods. These MNCs invested heavily in Singapore; the nation was also on its way towards development. Owing to these factors the company grew rapidly and had to seek bigger land and ended up moving factories a couple of times. In 1988, they expanded to a 63,568 sqm space and the company’s strength grew to 168 employees.  As the company grew, so did May, by 1988, she was the Sales Director, managing all the sales and marketing functions of the company. It was 1999 when the company restructured its listing on the mainboard, this marked as the biggest turning point in May’s life. She grabbed the opportunity to become one of the major shareholders of the company. She never stopped climbing the career ladder, in 2016 she was designated as the Acting Manager, and by 2017, Chairman, Managing Director, and CEO.

Life as a CEO

May wears many hats within and outside the organization. With over 20 years of experience, she plays a key role in exploring opportunities in new markets. Her responsibility is to monitor market developments and to ensure the Company’s product development efforts are aligned to market demands. One of the major responsibilities as a director of the Company is to set business strategies which are at least 3 to 5 years ahead of others the competitor. She is actively involved in the pallet rental business in Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Apart from this, she is also a member of the Singapore Institute of Director.

About LHT Holdings and its services

LHT Holdings is one of the largest manufacturing companies of high-quality wooden pallets, boxes, and crates in Singapore.  With an aim to reduce waste and maximize resource efficiency, LHT Holdings provides many green packaging solutions.
She states, ” Our green journey in recycling includes, converting wood waste to ‘Technical Wood’. Technical Wood is the raw material and bio-products that are used to make furniture components for Greenflo Doors (fire-rated) and flooring strips. Basically, a ‘new wood’ that substitutes natural wood that is made from wood waste material.”

The company takes its environmental efforts very seriously. They are determined to reduce waste by offering green products to consumers. She says, “ The Innovative Process Product Conversion (IPPC) Pallets series is gaining a strong foothold in the arena of green products that are designed and produced to reduce carbon footprints. The pest-free pallets provide innovative packing solutions that help customers reduce waste, thereby contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions.”

Wood Plastic Composite (WPC) is their new area in R&D that uses wood wastes and plastic wastes in combination to form or develop greener products.

The company has received several awards over the years. In the year 2021, they have received the Business Excellence gold award, World packaging award 2021–RFID ECR PALLET by World Packaging Organization, Global IPPC Pest Free Award for green packing from AI Intelligent, and International Business Award for Material series of Gpac Pallet by Charlton Media.

Digitalization of the Industry
The globe is digitalizing rapidly and it is revolutionizing the Timber Industry. This digital transformation has had a positive impact on the industry. With the introduction of e-commerce, new digital business likes digital supply chain and warehouses are able to cater to the transshipment and storage needs before arriving to the consumers. She says, “In my opinion, we need to adopt the smarter way by bringing high-tech machine and technology and reduce the manpower to increases our productivity in order to adapt to the changing landscape of the industry.”

As Robin Sharma says, “Change is hard at the beginning, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.” May accepts that change is always difficult at the beginning for us humans but she believes that we need to be more flexible and accept the change. She takes her inspiration from her mother when the going gets tough. She adds, “My mom is my role model, I have learnt from her that we need to possess a positive attitude. She self-built her farm for chicken and pigs and took care of eight siblings without any complaints. With my mother’s moral support, I became self-disciplined, determined, and sagacious.”

She also adds, “ We are fortunate that our government provided funds to cope with the digital transformation.”

On Gender Equality
Earlier, the Singaporean culture did not allow women to work and were homebound. The cultural and traditional factors hampered women’s rights. This is true even today, and is not only confined to traditional communities and societies but is found everywhere including the western cultures. However, we do see more women in high-ranking positions in various male-dominated industries. She says, “In Singapore, I do not see any gender discrimination. Today, I do see many housewives leaving their home to join the society in high ranking roles.” May herself is a great inspiration, she started as a female clerk and today is a part of the top management of the company. She believes if she can do it, anyone can.

Vision for the future of the Company
She aims to make the organization more sustainable and transform it into a 4.0 factory. Like every leader, she aims to achieve new heights but whilst prioritizing environmental impact. She adds, “Deforestation is one major cause of climate change. We are always conscious of our role in the conservation of natural resources. Recycling is one of the many efforts that reflect our commitment toward mitigating climate change and global warming.”