Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the ERA Q4’21 Career Advancement Day on 11 November 2021
Mr Jack Chua, Executive Chairman of APAC Realty,
Mr Marcus Chu, CEO of ERA Singapore,
Ms Doris Ong, Deputy CEO of ERA Singapore,
Mr Eugene Lim, Key Executive Officer of ERA Singapore,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you for the fourth ERA Career Advancement Day for 2021.
2 The theme of today’s Career Advancement Day is “ESG by ERA”. I am glad to note that ERA, while celebrating its business achievements and top performers, is making a commitment to sustainability. I thank ERA for your fundraising efforts and generous donation to the Hong Kah North Environmental Sustainability Fund. I am heartened that ERA has pledged, to raise a total of S$500,000 under the “ESG by ERA” Fund in support of the Singapore Green Plan 2030. I understand that the team has already made significant progress on this goal within a short span of time, with S$231,000 being donated by ERA senior management and property agents as at today. Your contributions will go a long way towards promoting and driving sustainable development in Singapore. My heartiest congratulations also to Ms Doris Ong upon your promotion to Deputy CEO of ERA Singapore.
Sustainability as the next frontier
3 The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted businesses across all industries and has fundamentally changed our lives – the way we live, work, study and play. However, this crisis also presents us with a timely opportunity to review and reset and emerge better, stronger, and more sustainable than before. In October alone, ERA signed three MOUs with partners in the public and private sector, including the Singapore Land Authority, to further develop digital capabilities and empower local communities. This is testament to ERA’s agility and innovation in adapting to the pressing challenges of our time, especially during the pandemic.
4 Climate change is another existential threat to the world and its impact is far reaching and irreversible. The latest IPCC report warns that every region in the world is projected to experience concurrent and multiple changes in climate events. This will result in more extreme droughts, more intense and frequent extreme rainfall events, flooding and sea level rise. Over the past two weeks, world leaders have convened at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow to advance global climate action, and to finalise the Paris Agreement implementation guidelines. The global climate crisis is not an issue that can be solved by a single party, and COP26 calls for the world to unite to tackle climate change now.
5 Businesses can play a role in mitigating climate change, by reducing carbon emissions, improving energy efficiency and adopting circular solutions. It is a civic imperative and makes good business sense since a sustainable business is a resilient one. Key stakeholders and investors are increasingly calling upon corporates to embed sustainability in their operations. Consumer preferences are trending towards greener products and services, and sustainability is becoming a key element for talent retention. A lot of young people are excited about joining companies that embrace sustainability. A 2019 survey conducted by the National Climate Change Secretariat found that more than nine in 10 Singaporeans support Singapore making a shift to a green economy. A more recent survey conducted by MSE in 2021 found that more than seven in 10 respondents have started taking climate-friendly actions on a regular basis after hearing/seeing about the Green Plan. An external survey by Schneider Electric which surveyed 500 consumers and organisations in Singapore cited 83 per cent of local business leaders saying their organisations’ sustainability plans are at least generally aligned to the Green Plan, while about a third are strongly aligned. We also have seen an exponential increase in the number of partners supporting Climate Action Week this year, with more than 100 activities lined up during the week by our partners. This is three times more than last year, when we had around 30 activities.
6 The Government is leading the nation’s effort in sustainability, but we need everyone - community, businesses and individuals - to join in this effort to succeed. We launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030 earlier this year to advance our national agenda on sustainable development. The Green Plan sets out ambitious and concrete sectoral targets under five key pillars — City in Nature, Sustainable Living, Energy Reset, Green Economy and Resilient Future. Let me share some features of the Green Plan where ERA and its property agents and staff as professionals in the real estate sector and as individuals can play a part too.
City in Nature
7 As a densely populated city-state, we will need to continue greening our living environment and find innovative ways to weave nature into our urban fabric. This not only gives us a more pleasant living environment but also helps preserve biodiversity and act as carbon sinks. The City in Nature Pillar aims to fulfill this need by creating a green, liveable and sustainable home for Singaporeans. We will provide more green spaces by adding 200 hectares of nature parks and 160 kilometres of park connectors across the island. By 2030, we aim to have every household within a 10-minute walk from a park.
8 I am pleased to note that part of ERA’s donations will go towards the setting up of community gardens, including growing edibles in the Bukit Batok West Extension and the upcoming Tengah Housing Estates. The first such garden will be built on top of a multi-storey carpark at Bukit Batok West Avenue 8. This will increase green cover, enhance liveability as well as contribute to our growing local goal.
9 The Sustainable Living Pillar is about keeping our environment clean, while preserving resources and energy. A key target is to reduce the amount of waste to landfill per capita per day by 30 per cent by 2030. By doing so, we will be able to extend the lifespan of our only landfill - Semakau Landfill. As individuals, we can do our part by engaging in sustainable consumption. Climate-friendly actions like recycling right and bringing our own reusable bags when shopping can make a positive difference to the environment.
10 ERA will support the setting up of Eco Hubs at void deck spaces in Tengah Town to widen environment education, and encourage sustainable practices such as Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (3R). This includes setting up green corners with recycling infrastructure, exhibits, games and organising Eco Workshops to promote, repair, reuse, upcycling and green living among residents.
11 To foster a spirit of inclusivity and collaboration, your donations will be used to organise eco-activities with community partners, such as schools and volunteer welfare organisations, and showcase eco-projects by residents. The funds will also assist low income and vulnerable residents to adopt sustainable living, as well as provide education grants and assistance to students and residents from vulnerable families. Through these programmes, we want to encourage residents to adopt green habits and nurture a community of green champions.
12 Under the Energy Reset Pillar, we will harness greater use of clean energy and increase energy efficiency to lower our carbon footprint. We are embarking on major infrastructural upgrades to electrify our vehicle fleet. For example, we will install 60,000 electric vehicle charging points island wide by 2030, and phase out all internal combustion engine vehicles by 2040.
13 Buildings are one of the key contributors to carbon emissions. Within our built environment, we will raise sustainability standards under the Singapore Green Building Masterplan. We will retrofit existing buildings to reduce energy and water usage, and ensure that the majority of new buildings achieve best-in-class energy performance.
14 Since moving your headquarters to ERA APAC Centre last year, ERA has installed energy-efficient appliances and lights and is working on attaining BCA’s Green Mark Scheme Certification. As the only real estate agency to own a building in Singapore, I hope that ERA will continue to maintain high green standards on your premises and beyond that, raise sustainability awareness among your clients and the rest of the industry.
I am happy to see ERA doing this in a major way through the “ESG by ERA” fund. ERA is not just encouraging its property agents and partners to make donations to this fund that promotes environmental sustainability in the community, but to also volunteer in these green projects and get your hands dirty. It is an innovative way to instill awareness and drive action to join the fight against climate change and embrace green practices so that we can continue to grow sustainably.
15 Let me conclude. In an increasingly resource constrained world, the ability to operate sustainably will be a key attribute of successful enterprises. Corporates must embrace the ESG imperatives of Environmental, Social and Governance within their business practices or risk falling short of stakeholder expectations. In the real estate sector for instance, clients are increasingly looking for properties with green attributes that can lead to improved resource efficiency and a more pleasant and sustainable living environment that at the same time also contributes to lower carbon emissions.
16 I would like to commend ERA for embracing sustainability and empowering your network of more than 8,300 property agents and staff in promoting and championing green practices and providing volunteerism avenues in support of the Green Plan.
17 Once again, congratulations to all top leaders and award winners on your outstanding achievements and my heartfelt appreciation to all esteemed patrons. We need creative and energetic pioneers like all of you to lead the charge in this critical sustainability movement. Our legacy for future generations will depend on how well we overcome the challenges of today.