CEO, Yayasan Sime Darby, Malaysia


HajjahYatela Zainal Abidin holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth in the United Kingdom. She completed the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants (ACCA)professional degree at the Emile Woolf College of Accountancy, London, and went on to attain her ACCA fellowship in 2005.


Appointed in January 2010, she is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Sime Darby Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Sime Darby Group,also known asYayasan Sime Darby (YSD). In her twenty years with Sime Darby, shehas held major roles in the Group’sGroup Corporate Assurance department as well as the Values & Culture department, which saw her managecorporate governance strategies and their implementation.


Her experience in corporate social responsibility is wide and deep,withthe projects undertaken by the foundation in its five pillars which are Education; Community & Health; Environment; Sports; and Arts & Culture.  Being passionate in upholding her values, she is constantlyin search of initiatives that address the critical needs of today’s ever-changing society and environment.


Through YSD’s Environment pillar, she is actively engaged invarious environmental conservation initiatives towards a sustainable ecosystem, including conservation of endangered species such as the proboscis monkey, Bornean banteng, and the clouded leopard, through the development of state action plans for the state of Sabah,rehabilitation of orangutan habitats in Northern Ulu Segama in Sabahand riparian reserves along the Kinabatangan river. YSD also supports capacity building through environmental research by providing scholarships for local talents, including research on managing human-elephant conflict through the development of standard guidelines for Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) in oil palm estates, the effects of a rehabilitated area on orangutan habitats as well as a collaboration with the UniversitiKebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) for both theUKM-YSD Chair for Sustainable Development: Towards Zero Waste and UKM – YSD Chair for Climate Change.

Since its inception in 1982, the foundation has awarded scholarships worth RM268 million to 3,786 students both in and outside Malaysia, which focuses more on the underprivileged. The foundation also supports intervention and inclusiveprogrammes for the development of the disabled; promoting and improving the lives of the disadvantaged and marginalized such as people living with HIV,women at riskand research to increase understanding to combat cancer.


The foundation focusses on sports development programmes to hone talents from the grassroots to become world-class holistic athletes.YSD also supports initiativesfor the arts and culture to promote and preserve Malaysia’s cultural heritage. Other arts initiatives include the bi-annual Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival and preservation of The Royal Press, the oldest living letterpress museum in South East Asia.


She is currently pursuing a doctorate degree, studying potential initiatives that may build resilience and other soft skills among underprivileged children in Malaysia for them to thrive in life.