Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the SG Sustainable Procurement Forum on 10 November 2020
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning. I thank the National Sustainable Procurement Roundtable (or NSPR) for inviting me to today’s forum.
2 The NSPR has been championing sustainable procurement in Singapore, through developing strategies and corporate publications to embed best practices in sustainable procurement. The growing membership of the Roundtable is encouraging. I hope more businesses and organisations will come onboard to advance sustainable procurement in Singapore.
Building a Sustainable Singapore
3 2020 has been a year of upheaval and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, the Government has been pressing on in our efforts to address the existential threat of climate change and its long-term impact on our environment and economy. We are committed to put sustainability at the core of everything we do, to ensure Singapore emerges stronger from this crisis.
4 The general definition of sustainability is meeting current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. But what exactly does being sustainable mean for Singapore?
5 To me, being sustainable is about building a Singapore that is leaner, stronger and kinder. A leaner Singapore means becoming more efficient in our use of resources. A stronger Singapore means strengthening our food and water security and building a climate-resilient green economy. Last but not least, a kinder Singapore means being considerate to our environment and those around us, and exercising personal responsibility in taking climate action to mitigate the risks faced by future generations.
6 Today, businesses are defining sustainability, or risk having sustainability defined for them. Firstly, businesses are realising the benefits of implementing sustainable practices. There is increasing understanding that environmental sustainability can be complementary to business growth. We have seen how efforts to improve resource and operational efficiency can reduce wastage, resulting in lower spending on transportation, materials and waste disposal. Over time, these translate to significant cost savings.
7 Secondly, consumers’ demands and shareholders’ expectations are shaping the sustainability agenda profoundly. Large institutional investors are gaining climate awareness and allocating more funds to companies with sustainable practices. Consumers are equally awakening to the environmental impact of their products. According to a 2019 study by the IBM Institute for Business Value, nearly eight in 10 respondents indicated that sustainability was important for them. And for those who ranked it high in importance, over 70 per cent were willing to pay a premium for brands that are sustainable and environmentally responsible. The drive for sustainability will cause companies to impose sustainability goals through the supply and logistic chains, impacting the way they procure their downstream supplies and services.
Importance of sustainable procurement
8 Sustainable procurement is thus a key strategy to support this transition. Today, we see more companies in the private sector procuring sustainably. For example, DBS purchases laptops in bulk packaging, where seven laptops are shipped in one single large box. Packaging materials were also changed from styrofoam to recyclable cushioning. In doing so, DBS has reduced the amount of packaging materials, cost and carbon emissions during transportation.
9 Another example is Wildlife Reserves Singapore. Their green procurement policy ensures that 40 per cent of the vegetables purchased for Singapore’s zoos are sourced from suppliers of ‘ugly food’. Quality whole fruit and vegetables that do not make it to supermarket shelves for aesthetic reasons are used as animal feed at the parks’ Wildlife Nutrition Centre. This helps to reduce unnecessary food wastage, and brings Singapore a step closer to becoming a Zero Waste Nation.
10 By including more sustainable requirements into tenders and actively sourcing for and developing more sustainable alternatives, buyers of goods and services can send a strong and clear message that sustainable procurement is the way forward. When more businesses buy sustainably, others within the supply chain would be encouraged to do so. Collectively, we can all play our part to drive sustainable demand in Singapore.
Government’s efforts in sustainable procurement
11 The public sector takes a whole-of-Government approach to sustainable procurement. For example, the Economic Development Board and the Housing and Development Board have been leading the SolarNova programme since 2014 – this is a whole-of-Government effort to accelerate the deployment of solar photovoltaic (or PV) systems in Singapore. The programme aggregates demand for solar PV across Government agencies to achieve economies of scale, and provides funding to agencies to conduct feasibility studies and determine their solar PV requirements.
12 Some of you may have heard of the Public Sector Taking the Lead in Environmental Sustainability (or PSTLES) initiative. This was introduced in 2006 and updated in 2014. Under this initiative, the Government has set green procurement requirements for Information and Communications Technology (or ICT) equipment, electrical appliances and paper products. Official events and functions must also be held in venues with at least a Green Mark certified rating. We are reviewing PSTLES with the intention of raising the standards on sustainability, so that the public service can continue to lead in sustainability and climate action.
13 Let me conclude. The Government will continue with our efforts towards sustainability. We need every individual, business and organisation in Singapore to join us on this national agenda and make sustainability a part of our everyday lives.
14 It is heartening to know that many of you here today are making strides to push the sustainable procurement agenda. By working together, we can build a Sustainable Singapore for our current and future generations.
Thank you, and I wish you an enjoyable and fruitful forum.