Address by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Singapore Business Awards on 8 September 2022
1 Thank you for inviting me to join you today at the Singapore Business Awards. I am heartened to see that this year’s theme brings sustainability to centre stage.
2 Climate change is rapidly transforming the business environment, and all industries will be affected by the green transition. Businesses must now embed sustainability in what they do, turn this challenge into opportunity, and galvanise their stakeholders to take concrete actions for sustainability.
Impact of Climate Change on Businesses
3 Climate-related events affect more than 1 in 4 organisations worldwide , and businesses are already feeling the brunt of physical climate risks. Extreme weather and climate events such as heavy rainfall, prolonged droughts, and wildfires disrupt supply chains by affecting the supply and transportation of goods. Such disruptions will only become more common.
4 Businesses are also affected by changes to their operating environment, brought about by new climate policies and regulations, and growing investor and consumer demands for greener goods and services. Governments around the world are ramping up their climate ambition. They are introducing new climate policies and regulations that affect businesses. For example, the World Bank reports that there are currently 68 carbon pricing initiatives implemented in 46 national jurisdictions around the world. Cross border adjustment mechanism to address asymmetrical climate policies has been proposed by the EU Commission.
5 Singapore had implemented a carbon tax since 2019. We will progressively raise our carbon tax from the current S$5 per tonne of emissions to S$50 to S$80 per tonne by 2030. This provides a strong price signal for businesses to internalise the cost of carbon and take meaningful actions to reduce their carbon footprint and invest in low-carbon solutions.
6 Businesses also face increasing demand from stakeholders for environmentally-friendly goods and services. Many countries and large companies – such as Salesforce, Microsoft, and CapitaLand – already include sustainability considerations in their procurement decisions. Consumers are also becoming more conscious about sustainability when making their purchasing decisions. Businesses that are unable to keep up with changing demands may find themselves less able to compete.
7 This evening, I want to talk about three changes that businesses should make to remain relevant and competitive in this green transition.
The Need to Adopt More Sustainable Models
8 First and foremost, businesses must proactively integrate sustainability into their business decisions.
9 The Public Sector is doing its part through the GreenGov.SG initiative, which drives carbon abatement and resource efficiency measures in the public sector. We have set ambitious targets to peak the public sector’s carbon emissions around 2025, ahead of the national target, and we have already taken steps to achieve our goal.
10 For example, PUB is investing in R&D to reduce the energy needs of water treatment. They will build a desalination Integrated Validation Plant to trial promising technologies to halve its energy consumption of desalination to less than 2 kilowatt hours per cubic metre of water. PUB is also scaling up the use of solar energy in its water operations. The 60 megawatt-peak Sembcorp floating solar farm at Tengeh Reservoir, which was opened last year, generates enough energy to power all of Singapore’s local raw water waterworks.
11 To see long-term success, businesses must similarly set concrete sustainability targets and decarbonise their operations and supply chains. I am happy to see that more businesses are embarking on their sustainability journey.
12 One example is SaladStop! Group, who has brought together multiple enterprises to launch their first Net Zero store at CapitaSpring Singapore. SaladStop! worked with Unravel Carbon, a local start-up that supports tracking and reduction of carbon emissions, to understand their carbon emissions and develop green solutions that are accurate and verifiable. Pomeroy Studio, a design studio focusing on sustainable built environment, helped to design and construct the store to meet net zero guidelines. MiniWiz and Roger & Sons provided upcycled tiles and furniture made from trees that were felled for urban redevelopment, to furnish the store. Lastly, to involve their customers in this net zero journey, SaladStop! partnered Deliveroo and Muuse to provide customers with carbon-neutral delivery services – only by bicycle or on foot – and zero-waste takeaways using reusables.
13 This initiative shows us two things. One, that it is possible to find more sustainable ways to operate; and two, that many companies are already starting to embrace green opportunities.
Embracing New Opportunities for Innovation
14 The second key move for businesses is to pursue innovative solutions for sustainability, and invest in greener products and services. We are positioning Singapore as a living lab for green services and solutions through various industry R&D platforms and enterprise innovation support schemes. Under Singapore’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 Plan (or RIE2025 Plan), the Urban Solutions and Sustainability Domain supports R&D and innovation needed to address challenges in areas such as climate change, decarbonisation, resource resilience, and the built environment.
15 How might businesses push the boundaries for sustainability and open up new business opportunities? Let me share two examples. Barramundi Group, a sustainable aquaculture company, has adopted a superior seabass fish fry with faster growth rate and disease resistance. This was selectively bred by SFA and Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory to increase food resilience. Republic Polytechnic, in collaboration with EnGro Corporation Limited, has successfully formulated an encapsulation technique to treat incineration bottom ash for use as construction material. This technology, which is currently being trialed, could divert waste from our landfills and open up new opportunities for more sustainable construction.
16 Such endeavours accelerate Singapore’s transition to a low-carbon economy while creating exciting new opportunities. Furthermore, businesses that lead the way by providing greener products and services earlier can gain a competitive advantage, given the growing global demand in this area. Businesses must therefore continue to invest in innovation and research partnerships to harness new growth opportunities in sustainability.
Co-leading the Green Transition
17 Third, businesses can leverage their sphere of influence to help their sector make the green transition quickly.
18 Large businesses have the ability to rally their industry partners and suppliers to adopt greener practices. Businesses that are ahead on the sustainability journey can also lead capability building efforts for SMEs in their respective fields.
19 PwC Singapore, Global Compact Network Singapore, and the Singapore Environmental Council currently support the Enterprise Sustainability Programme, which provides sustainability courses for local enterprises to build the capability of our SMEs. The LowCarbonSG programme, which is helmed by the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition Singapore, guides companies in measuring, monitoring, and reducing their carbon emissions with a Carbon and Emissions Recording Tool. More of such efforts will help to level up the pool of service providers in Singapore and generate a greater supply of green goods and services.
20 At the same time, businesses can introduce initiatives to engage their employees and customers on sustainability topics. For example, Raffles City has launched a sustainability initiative involving multiple stakeholders and customers. Their public Project Green showcase features sustainable products launched by retailers from industries such as fashion and F&B. It also features ground-up projects supported by the SG Eco Fund, which demonstrate sustainable packaging alternatives and a variety of upcycled products. Initiatives like this can generate awareness and spark important conversations among the public on living sustainably.
21 By closely engaging their broad range of stakeholders, businesses can play a pivotal role in steering Singapore’s transition to a greener economy.
22 Let me conclude. Climate change will drastically change the way we live and operate. Under Forward Singapore, we want to have a conversation across Singapore on our social compact, including how we can be stewards of the environment amidst this climate crisis. How can we focus our priorities to green our economy and thrive in a low-carbon future?
23 I urge businesses to transform their processes, embrace new opportunities, and step up to play a leading role in Singapore’s green transition. At the same time, the Government will partner businesses to foster a stronger sense of shared ownership and responsibility for our environment. As influential leaders of our industries, let us chart the way forward to a green and resilient home for future generations.