TOPICS: Sustainability

Mr Ong Chao Choon, Deputy Chairman, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)

Mr Tony Gourlay, Chief Executive Officer, Global Initiatives

Distinguished guests

1. A very good evening to everyone.  It is my pleasure to be here to recognise the achievements of businesses that have made sustainability their priority.

The Singapore Sustainability Story

2. Last week, I was in New York City to present Singapore’s first Voluntary National Review at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. I shared how Singapore was already pursuing sustainability before it became fashionable. We have pursued sustainable development since our independence, and always tried to balance environmental considerations while we pursued economic development, and social inclusion. I also explained that we employ a long-term, integrated approach to policy planning and implementation, underpinned by collaborative multi-stakeholder partnerships.

3. Our development approach has helped us to move from one where we are a garden city to building a City in a Garden. We have diversified our water supply to ensure resilience.  More than 95 per cent of our electricity is generated from natural gas, the cleanest form of fossil fuel. But we are not there yet when it comes to green energy, because of our constraints. We have built a strong foundation as a sustainable city, but we need to accelerate our efforts in the face of climate change. To do that, we need collective action from individuals, households and businesses. The government cannot do this alone.

Milestones in the Climate Action Journey

4. Under our Climate Action Plan, we are investing in solar energy, developing more sustainable buildings, and expanding our public transport network so that by 2030, 8 out of 10 Singaporeans can walk to a train station in 10 minutes. From 2019, we will be implementing a carbon tax to enhance energy and carbon efficiency, and help transition our economy to a low-carbon future. To move Singapore towards being a Zero Waste nation, we have introduced a mandatory reporting framework for packaging data and waste reduction plans from 2020. We will also introduce the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach to manage electronic waste next year.

5. The EPR approach will make businesses responsible for the proper recycling and disposal of their products at the ‘end-of-life’.  We hope to incentivise businesses to design products that last longer and can be more easily recycled, and pursue business models based on the circular economy. We take this approach because we believe that climate change presents new opportunities for our companies, even as it poses challenges. The world is moving towards a low-carbon and circular economy. Consumers are increasingly holding businesses accountable, and demand for sustainably sourced products will continue to rise. We need to take these trends into account and move early, to stay ahead of the competition.

6. Singapore will be the first country in Southeast Asia to introduce a carbon tax. While a tax may not be a popular measure, we believe that it will ultimately benefit not just the environment but businesses as well.  In 2019, businesses which are affected will have to report their carbon emissions, and in 2020, large emitters will start to pay the tax at $5 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions. We expect to yield revenue of close to S$1 billion in the first five years. But we will not use this for fiscal purposes – we will put it back to the industry to co-fund energy efficiency measures by companies, including SMEs, so that they can transform into a low-carbon industry.

Recognising Best Practices

7. As the largest employer in Singapore, the Public Sector will lead by example. Last year, we launched the Public Sector Sustainability Plan – a continuation of the public sector’s longstanding environmental sustainability initiatives. The plan commits the Public Service to further targets to reduce our carbon footprint and become more sustainable. I am heartened that the organisers have developed a new award category to recognise public agencies that undertake outstanding sustainability initiatives.

8. Businesses have been important partners in our sustainable development journey.  You are uniquely placed to influence norms and practices through your value chain and stakeholders ranging from employees, to partners and suppliers. The diverse representation from the various industries this evening is a testament to the commitment of businesses to pursue environmental sustainability.

9. The Sustainable Business Awards, since its inception in 2012, has played an important role in encouraging and amplifying the positive impact organisations have made on the environment. Our winners this year have made significant progress in climate action. There are many best practices which businesses can learn from the award winners. I will highlight a few examples:

a. Singtel, one of the finalists this evening conducted a formal climate adaptation and resilience study, and a lifecycle analysis to identify vulnerabilities and risks across their entire operations. Using a science-based approach, they have set the target of reducing their carbon emissions intensity by 30 per cent by 2020 and 50 per cent by 2030 from the 2015 baseline. Singtel is also enhancing climate-related financial and risk information, guided by the climate risk reporting framework recommended by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.

b. Kimberly-Clark is on track to meet their target of zero waste to landfill by 2022. They are working with partners to further improve their waste disposal options.For example, they recently worked with Ngee Ann Polytechnic to use wet wipe trimming waste in place of the saw dust that is used in the disposal of medical and hazardous waste.

c. I am also heartened to see increasing adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Keppel Corporation has identified eight SDGs it can make the greatest impact in. Under SDG 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities, for instance, all completed commercial buildings under Keppel Land have achieved BCA Green Mark GoldPLUS standard, and Keppel Infrastructure's waste to energy technology is helping to divert as much as 90 per cent of waste from landfill.  Under SDG 13 on Climate Action, Keppel Corporation has set a target of achieving a 16 per cent improvement in carbon emissions from 2020 business-as-usual levels. As one of the largest Singaporean conglomerates, these measures will have an immense impact on the UN SDGs in Singapore.

d. The Bliss Group, a small social enterprise, works with disadvantaged members of society, including ex-convicts and people with disabilities, to train them to work in catering. The Bliss Group also operates in a sustainable manner by supporting local farmers and reducing food waste.


10. I would like to conclude by commending the organisers, Global Initiatives and PwC, and their partners, Control Union, Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD) and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). Thank you for highlighting role models in sustainable business.

11. The diversity of the companies who participated in the Sustainable Business Awards add vibrancy to our story of sustainable development.  To the winners, I hope your award will motivate you to play an even bigger role in the Sustainable Singapore Movement. I urge all of you to make a climate action pledge, via, to demonstrate your public commitment and leadership. As sustainability leaders in your respective industries, I urge you to share your best practices generously with others. Collectively, we can realise a low-carbon and circular economy for Singapore.

Thank you.

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