SPEECH BY DR AMY KHOR, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT THE GLOBAL WOMEN’S TRADE SUMMIT ON 13 SEPTEMBER 2022
Ms Diana Abruzzi, Founder and International Chair, International Women’s Federation of Commerce and Industry (IWFCI)
Ms Ann Phua, Founder, IWFCI Singapore
Ms Annie Chan, President, IWFCI Singapore
IWFCI Chapter Presidents
1 Thank you for inviting me to join you today. This event brings together two areas I feel strongly about – women’s development and sustainability. Let me touch on each of them.
Continued Push for Women’s’ Development
2 There has been much progress in women’s development over the years. Just 70 years ago, in the 1950s, very few women around the world were educated and held jobs. Here in Singapore, only about a third of women were literate, and it was rare for women to be employed, let alone helm a leadership role. Today, men and women in Singapore have similar educational outcomes and achievements . For example, Singapore women are now just as likely as men to pursue tertiary education in the form of a first degree .
3 More women have entered the workforce and are increasingly holding leadership positions across all sectors. According to the Council for Board Diversity in Singapore, women make up one third of senior leadership roles in Singapore. While this is encouraging, there is room to do much more in our journey towards gender equality.
4 In 2021, we launched a year-long, nation-wide series of conversations on Singapore women’s development. 160 conversations brought together nearly 6,000 participants from various walks of life to take stock of our efforts to uplift women and hear the aspirations of Singapore women. Women continue to face glass ceilings and obstacles at the workplace. They also tend to take on a higher load at home due to gender stereotypes. It was not surprising, therefore, that the key themes that came up from the conversations included hopes for more equal opportunities at the workplace, better support for caregivers, and enhanced protection for women.
5 With the insights and views gathered from the conversations, the Singapore Government worked with partners to put together a White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development, which reflects the shared vision of Singaporeans and actions that we, as a society, are prepared to take to build a fairer and more inclusive Singapore. The 25 action plans range from introducing new laws to ensure fair employment practices, enhancing support for caregivers, and addressing gender stereotypes through education. These actions listed in the White Paper will be implemented over the next 10 years in close partnership with the community to bring Singapore to the next bound of progress in uplifting our women.
6 I am glad that IWFCI has organised this summit to keep the momentum going. Let us share our experiences and continue to support one another in our respective communities and industries as we strive ahead.
Net-Zero: A Major Transition
7 Let me now share my views on the summit’s theme, “Resilience, for Business Sustainability”. Sustainability is a broad word, and it can mean environment, social or governance sustainability. Allow me to tackle this with an environmental lens.
8 Climate change is the existential threat of our times. Just over the past year, there have been several weather extremities. For example, in July, the UK saw record temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius for the first time in its history. Not only was the heat unbearable, it resulted in a surge of fires, evacuations, and even affected rail services. No country is sparred from the impact of climate change. It can affect our livelihoods, exacerbate diseases, and even affect our access to essential resources.
9 International resolve to address climate change has been growing. At the United Nations Climate Change Conference last year, all parties pledged to limit warming to 1.5 degrees and reach net-zero. The number of countries committing to net-zero has also grown considerably – from 18 in 2020 to 84 as of end-2021. This year, Singapore also raised our ambition to reach net-zero by or around mid-century.
10 Achieving net-zero will require a major shift in everything we do. Just like digital and industrial revolutions, this will be no easy feat, and all aspects of society, including businesses, will need to change or adapt. At the same time, we need to build up our resilience towards climate change – not only its physical impact, but its economic and social impact too. Allow me to share how we can do so.
11 First, how might businesses stay resilient in the transition towards a low-carbon future? Increasingly, companies are tapping on growing opportunities to provide new technology, solutions and products for the green economy and to support de-carbonisation. These first movers stand to reap major benefits, as areas such as sustainable energy, carbon services and green finance are expected to witness tremendous growth in the near future.
12 At the same time, businesses which do not keep up with sustainable development will lose out. There is a growing preference among consumers for greener, more sustainable products and services. Investors and banks have also been paying serious attention to environmental sustainability. For example, lenders are shunning business models which involve fossil fuels.
13 In Singapore, the Government is harnessing sustainability as a new engine of jobs and growth, and supporting businesses in their transition towards more sustainable models. Likewise, by exploring business models which serve the green economy, you can help your company ride the waves of the transition and emerge at its forefront.
14 Next, how might we stay resilient against the impact of climate change? Climate change can disrupt supply chains and access to critical resources like food and water. Singapore is considered one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. We are heavily dependent on rainfall and have limited land for water storage facilities.
15 To mitigate this risk, Singapore has worked to close the water loop. We developed an ultra-clean, high-grade treatment process to reclaim water. We call this NEWater, and it allows every drop of water to be used more than once. More importantly, this water source is climate resilient. It cushions us against adverse weather events and supply disruptions, and in so doing, strengthens our water security.
16 Similarly, businesses can build resilience to supply chain disruptions by adopting circular economy practices. We can minimise the wastage of resources through design, and keep resources in use for as long as possible. Doing so will not only put your business in a better position in the midst of disruptions, but can benefit the environment too.
17 Another key enabler for long term sustainability and resilience is collaboration and partnership. In the face of the mammoth challenge that is climate change, we need to work with like-minded stakeholders and partners to develop novel and innovative solutions.
18 In Singapore, we have been opening more space for private, public and people sector partnerships to co-create sustainability solutions. These allow us to mobilise resources and energies across Singapore to arrive at innovative and practical ways to address sustainability issues. Since 2019, we have held three Citizens’ Workgroups to look at how we can improve household recycling, reduce the excessive consumption of disposables, and increase demand for local produce.
19 Similarly, you can look to rally your teams and stakeholders in your sustainability journey. Employees have the ability to inspire change from within, and collaboration with partners can allow you to reach a wider audience and achieve greater objectives.
20 Let me conclude. I hope my views have given you some insights on how we can build resilience and drive business sustainability. According to an OECD report, women are more likely to recycle, minimise wastage, and practise sustainable consumption habits. I would like to believe that it is in our nature as women to promote sustainability. So let us uplift one another and be the agents of change in building a greener and inclusive world for our future generations.
21 Thank you and I wish you a good summit ahead.