Keynote Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Sustainability Impact Awards Ceremony, on 3 August 2023
Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Chairman, SPH Media Trust,
Mr Wee Ee Cheong, Deputy Chairman and CEO, UOB,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1 Good morning. It is my pleasure to join you at the inaugural Sustainability Impact Awards Ceremony which recognises individuals and corporates in Singapore that demonstrate their leadership and advocacy in creating a positive impact on our environment and society.
Making Sustainability Mainstream
2 The existential threat of climate change is upon us. Its impact is already felt globally. The US was battling an unprecedented heatwave with record-high temperatures when I was there last month for a United Nations conference. Temperature of the waters off Florida has reached 38 degrees Celsius. Singapore experienced the highest recorded temperature of 37 degree Celsius in the last 40 years in May this year. And now, Beijing is battling record-breaking rain from successive typhoons, with tens of thousands being evacuated.
3 Progress on global sustainable development is also concerning. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Progress Report 2023 found that just 12 per cent of the SDGs are on track to meet our 2030 targets. Under current trends, 575 million people will still be living in extreme poverty in 2030, and only about one third of countries will meet the target to halve poverty levels.
4 Faced with pressing developmental challenges and increasing public expectations for climate action, sustainability is becoming mainstream in our society. More companies are now embracing environmental, social and governance (ESG) as part of their business goals. Faced with more extreme weather events, businesses are being re-valued by investors – from hospitality businesses being affected by heatwaves, to volatility in food commodity prices. We can also expect more regulatory risks as Governments around the world implement policies to decarbonise their economies. The Inflation Reduction Act of the US is one example, the EU Cross Border Adjustment Mechanism is another. Climatic change, and the risks that come with it, can no longer be ignored by businesses.
5 There is therefore a rising need for businesses to report their environmental strategies and impact. Global reporting standards are converging and being implemented to enable a more consistent picture of businesses’ impact on the environment. This will help to drive and coordinate global efforts to decarbonise, and more importantly, for investors to be discerning of companies that have embraced sustainability and started acting to mitigate their climate risk. Since 2016, all companies listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) must report their ESG practices. Last month, Singapore’s Sustainability Reporting Advisory Committee started public consultation on mandatory disclosure of climate-related financial information for listed and large non-listed companies.
6 Our low-carbon transition must be an inclusive one. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) form the backbone of Singapore’s economy, accounting for 99 per cent of the total number of enterprises here. It is essential that SMEs too embrace sustainability in their business strategies. As MNCs and large enterprises decarbonise their supply chains, they should bring along their SMEs suppliers and customers and help them make the change. Companies that green their operations can achieve energy and resource efficiencies, leading to cost savings and resilience. Consumers and investors are placing greater value on sustainable products and services and are more willing to support enterprises which offer them.
7 There are increasing avenues to empower SMEs and their leaders to do so. Last September, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) partnered the SGX to launch ESGenome, a digital disclosure portal for sustainability reporting. While this is currently being piloted with listed entities, MAS plans to scale it into a national utility to support SMEs and non-listed companies for ESG reporting. There are also many grant schemes for SME to achieve greater energy efficiency through co-payments from the Government. The Business Times, one of the co-organisers for the Sustainability Impact Awards, has also dedicated resources to ESG coverage to help business leaders make sense of changing policies and issues in this space.
Shaping the Future of Sustainability
8 We must take drastic actions to make the green transition. Corporates play a crucial role in advocating for sustainability efforts in their sector. Many individuals and organisations across a wide range of industries have applied for the Sustainability Impact Awards, from real estate companies to social enterprises focusing on food waste and mental health. Collectively, you become role models and benchmarks for your industry peers to adopt more sustainable practices and develop sustainability as a competitive advantage. The Green Nation pledge is another example of how organisations are advocating for sustainability. Role models such as UOB have pledged as a Champion. I encourage you to make your Green Nation pledge, if you haven’t done so.
9 We must collaborate and foster partnerships across sectors to develop holistic sustainability solutions. For example, the management of Scope 3 emissions requires enterprises to consider their entire value chain. We must tap on the expertise of every stakeholder across the entire ecosystem. For example, large companies can support SMEs by providing solutions and advice on emissions tracking. Some MNCs are conducting courses for their suppliers to raise the capability of the entire value chain. Companies can also tap on the expertise of research centres such as the Centre for Governance and Sustainability, the knowledge partner for the Sustainability Impact Awards, to learn about best practices and emerging sustainability trends.
10 On this long, arduous journey towards a better world, we will find path-finders that explore the frontiers, venture ahead and show the rest the way. Today, we celebrate these leaders amongst us who have made an impact and showing the pioneering way. The Award is not yet another accolade, not a trophy to be left on the shelf. If that is the case, the impact will not last more than a day of celebration. It has to represent a new way of doing business, an enlighten vision of the meaning of doing business ; where leaders think beyond the next quarter of earnings report; but sustaining its business for decades to come; and leaving an impact, a legacy that last far into the future. Congratulations to all our award recipients for your outstanding achievements in sustainability. I look forward to your continued contributions to grow Singapore’s sustainability ecosystem, and may your efforts inspire your stakeholders and more communities to do the same. Thank you.