Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the SUSS-RSM MOU Signing and Seminar on 25 July 2023
Professor Tan Tai Yong, President of SUSS,
Professor Ang Hak Seng, Director of the Centre of Excellence for Social Good at SUSS,
Mr Derek How, Partner & Head of CPA Practice at RSM,
Mr Dennis Lee, Partner & Head of Business Consulting and Deputy Leader for ESG Practice at RSM,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
2 It is my pleasure to be here at the SUSS-RSM MOU signing and seminar.
Existential Challenge of Climate Change
3 Climate change is the existential challenge of our time.
• I was in the US last week for a United Nations conference. The US has been battling an unprecedented heatwave with record-high temperatures across the country.
• Closer to home, our region has seen unprecedented heatwaves too, with temperatures soaring beyond 40 degrees Celsius in India and Bangladesh to Thailand and Vietnam. Singapore experienced the hottest recorded temperature of 37 degree Celsius in the last 40 years in May this year.
• A Dartmouth study calculated that extreme heat could cost countries between 1.5 to 6.7 per cent of their GDP per year. Not to mention the cost of global warming on human health and well-being, and knock-on effects on water resources and food production.
• I was pleased to launch the Heat Stress Advisory yesterday, aimed at helping members of the public make informed decisions on prolonged outdoor activities, so that they can mitigate the risk of heat stress and heat-related illnesses.
4 It is clear that to avert further climate impacts, we need to curb global emissions, and fast. This requires ambitious and collective action, from all sectors of the economy and society, and at all levels.
• Climate action needs to be, as the movie title suggests, “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once” – it needs to be ubiquitous, from the water we drink and the food we eat, to the buildings we use for work, the things we make and use, and the waste we collect and manage.
• It is also highly connected – every step of the way presents opportunity for the 3 ‘R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; or in some cases – Replace, Refuse, Remove.
Business case for sustainability
5 SMEs have always been the bedrock of our economy and play significant roles in supply chains.
• In Southeast Asia, SMEs make up almost 60 per cent of the region’s GDP.
• It is no surprise then that the green transition will be very much driven by SMEs.
6 Rather than viewing sustainability as a burden to the bottom-line, companies must realise that it is not only imperative, but a good business case, in an increasingly carbon- and resource-constrained future.
• For instance, companies that integrate sustainability into their operations will enhance their energy and resource efficiencies, leading to cost savings and resilience.
• Consumers and investors are also much more discerning and place greater value on sustainable products and services – so it’s a whole new market out there.
• And as MNCs and larger companies look to decarbonise their supply chains, SMEs will need to build up their green credentials to stay on the supplier list, or risk being dropped.
• Under the GreenGov.SG initiative, the public sector will play a catalytic role in encouraging the industry to develop greener products and adopt greener practices.
Earlier this year, the Government announced that we will enhance our green procurement policies to further incorporate environmental sustainability considerations.
We will start with large construction and ICT tenders, setting aside up to 5 per cent of the tender evaluation points for environmental sustainability considerations; and we will progressively introduce sustainability considerations into our procurement in more sectors.
We hope that this will encourage suppliers to grow their sustainability capabilities as they bid for Government contracts, and enhance their competitiveness in a global green economy.
All statutory boards are committed to publish annual environmental sustainability disclosures from FY2024.
Support for companies
7 The Government recognises that there are companies that want to embrace sustainability but might lack the know-how or capacity to do so.
8 A very first step is for companies to start measuring and reporting their sustainability activities – you cannot manage or reduce or control what you do not measure.
• Last September, MAS partnered the SGX to launch ESGenome, a digital disclosure portal for sustainability reporting. This is currently being piloted with listed entities, with plans to scale it into a national utility to support SMEs and non-listed companies for ESG reporting.
9 Next, SMEs will require more support to build up their capabilities to implement sustainability efforts.
• Earlier this year, EnterpriseSG expanded its Enterprise Sustainability Programme with new digital courses, workshops, playbooks, and a one-stop website to give SMEs easy access to tools and resources.
• EnterpriseSG has also enhanced its Enterprise Development Grant to provide further support for companies to embark on product development projects, with up to 70 per cent of the cost covered until 2026.
10 Lastly, upfront capital investment can be challenging for companies, particularly SMEs. The Government will help them defray the cost of capital investments.
• Earlier this year, my Ministry announced that we will enhance the Energy Efficiency Fund, or E2F, for manufacturing companies, including SMEs, to help them improve energy efficiency. The enhanced E2F will provide companies with certainty of the grant amount upfront when they invest in energy-efficient equipment. We will also simplify the grant application process by streamlining the measurement and verification requirements.
• For companies developing green technologies and solutions, the Enterprise Financing Scheme-Green (EFS-Green) provides enterprises with better access to green financing from financial institutions.
11 I encourage all SMEs to adopt sustainability reporting and management; and tap on the available grants and support schemes to build the capabilities to implement sustainability efforts.
12 Given the scale of change needed, we will need an ecosystem to support our SMEs.
• So, I am very pleased to support the SUSS-RSM MOU as a great example of academia and corporate partners coming together to help SMEs on their sustainability journey.
• I look forward to hearing about the good work coming out of this, and look forward to more of such partnerships!
13 To conclude, all businesses, big and small, will need to build up sustainability capabilities to remain relevant and competitive in the new green economy. The Government will do our part to guide and provide support to companies, especially SMEs, to embark on their sustainability journey. At the same time, we look to industry collaborations and partnerships such as the SUSS-RSM MOU, to help build up a robust ecosystem. Together, we can help build a vibrant, prosperous, and more sustainable Singapore.
14 Thank you, and congratulations!