Speech at the Business and Philanthropy Forum - Mr Desmond Tan
Opening Speech by Mr Desmond Tan, Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Business and Philanthropy Forum on 13 December 2021
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning, everyone. I am pleased to join you today for the Business and Philanthropy Forum and I thank the Alliance for Good for this invitation.
Global challenges and risks
2 We are facing two of the largest global challenges of the century today: COVID-19 and climate change.
3 COVID-19 has upheaved people from all walks of life, put healthcare systems under tremendous strain, disrupted businesses and supply chains globally and stretched the financial resources of many economies thin. Just as countries are beginning their recovery efforts, they are now facing the prospect of a new wave of infections caused by Omicron, the new COVID-19 variant.
4 Countries around the world are also experiencing the adverse impacts of climate change in the form of extreme weather conditions. We are witnessing ice sheets melting at an accelerated rate, massive floods in Germany, heatwaves scorching North America, Canada and Australia with record breaking temperatures, extreme droughts in Argentina, while coastal settlements in many parts of the world are threatened with sea level rise.
Mitigating the effects of COVID-19 and Climate Change
5 The combined threats of COVID-19 and climate change will cause widespread damage to countries, societies and communities. On a more positive note, these challenges have also injected fresh impetus in our efforts to pursue a green recovery, and build a resilient and sustainable nation into the future.
6 To advance our national agenda on sustainable development, the Government launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030 earlier this year. The Green Plan charts ambitious and concrete targets over the next 10 years, positioning us to achieve net-zero emissions as soon as viable. Under Green Economy, one of the five pillars of the Green Plan, we aim to make sustainability our new engine of jobs and growth. To do this, we will help companies embrace sustainability and develop new capabilities.
Partnership and Support
7 Government grants, such as the National Environment Agency's Energy Efficiency Fund and the 3R Fund, already provide companies support to be more resource efficient. The Enterprise Sustainability Programme, launched by Enterprise Singapore in October this year, will support Singapore companies, especially SMEs, in building capabilities and capturing new opportunities in a green economy. Enterprise Singapore will set aside up to S$180 million for the programme to support training workshops, capability and product development projects, and key enablers such as certifications and financing. This will benefit at least 6,000 enterprises over the next four years. Enterprise Singapore will also work with industry partners, including trade associations and chambers to develop initiatives and programmes for different sectors and strengthen the sustainability ecosystem.
8 The Government will also facilitate green financing development. The Monetary Authority of Singapore launched a Green and Sustainability-Linked Loan Grant Scheme (GSLS) last year to support companies and SMEs to obtain green financing. It also expanded the scope of the existing Sustainable Bond Grant Scheme (SBGS) to help companies defray the cost of issuing green, social, sustainability and sustainability-linked bonds that are aligned with international standards.
9 In this new normal, businesses will have to adapt to climate change. The climate transition will cause some industries to fade away and new ones to emerge in their place. Private enterprises must embrace the imperatives of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) within their business practices or risk falling short of their stakeholders' expectations.
10 Policies will shift to support the growth of more low-carbon businesses. For instance, DBS Bank launched the world's first Sustainable and Transition Finance Framework and Taxonomy last year to guide companies in adopting greener alternatives. Hewlett Packard also published a sustainable IT purchasing guide to help organisations advance sustainable impact through green procurement.
11 As agents of innovation, companies can bring new solutions that deal with the climate challenge, optimising between multiple objectives and constraints. These companies can lead the green transformation and define the next phase of global economic growth. One example is how German manufacturer Henkel drives a circular economy strategy working with customers and suppliers to use more recycled materials and experiment with plastic resin alternatives in their global supply chain hub in Singapore.
Giving back sustainably
12 Philanthropists can play a key role in enabling climate action, by funding decarbonisation efforts and nudging the adoption of a new paradigm of responsible and sustainable business. The philanthropic community has a broad range of funding mechanisms, including grants, to drive impact and missions. Foundations, charitable organisations and individual donors share a distinctive ability to deploy nimble, responsive and flexible capital in ways that support interventions directly and are in turn able to attract more funding from other sources. Businesses in the green sector can also come together to lend a helping hand to one another, and pool resources and expertise to create a more sustainable working and living environment together.
13 As we transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy, we will need to help our workforce to develop and deepen their skills to seize the opportunities offered. Last year, the Lee Kong Chian School of Business at the Singapore Management University, and Imperial College Business School launched the Singapore Green Finance Centre (SGFC), with the support of MAS and six founding partners. This is Singapore's first research institute dedicated to green finance research and talent development. Such efforts will lay the groundwork for the development of a deep talent pool in Singapore, with capabilities in climate science, financial economics, and sustainable investing.
14 To conclude, the global challenges facing us today demand that we embed sustainability into the centre of everything we do. I encourage more companies to transform their business models to be future-ready, and hope the philanthropic community will increase support for efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
15 The Government will continue to help our businesses and people to seize opportunities in the green economy. Together, we can build a more sustainable future.
16 Thank you, and I wish you a fruitful forum.