KEYNOTE SPEECH BY DR AMY KHOR, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT THE LAUNCH OF THE SUSTAINABILITY IMPACT AWARDS ON 1 FEBRUARY 2023
Building an Impactful Sustainable Business
Ms Chen Huifen, Editor, The Business Times, SPH Media
Mr Eric Lim, Chief Sustainability Officer, UOB
Prof Lawrence Loh, Director, Centre for Governance and Sustainability
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1 Good morning and let me wish everyone a happy, healthy, and abundant Chinese New Year! And I must say abundant in terms of sustainable abundance in the spirit of today’s event. It is my pleasure to join you at the launch of the Sustainability Impact Awards, organised by The Business Times and UOB, in partnership with the Centre for Governance and Sustainability at NUS Business School. Allow me to share some thoughts on the importance of environmental sustainability initiatives and how we can build impactful sustainable businesses.
The Business Case for Impactful Sustainable Business
2 Impactful sustainability initiatives, such as those in product innovation, directly benefit business profit and the environment. Yesterday, I had a very good discussion where participants agreed that sustainability initiatives should not be viewed as cost. They are investments which can reap returns. For example, semiconductor chips have become smaller, lighter, and faster, while requiring fewer materials to produce and less energy to operate. Infineon, a company which I visited recently, reported that products enabled by its power management integrated circuits (“ICs”) chips have contributed to about 72 million tonnes of carbon emission savings by reducing energy consumption and improving the performance of electric devices. Through resource efficiency projects, companies can also reduce their utility bills and carbon footprint simultaneously. For instance, Siemens’ building technologies have helped Marina Bay Financial Centre to operate in a more energy-efficient manner, reducing its annual energy bill by over 20 per cent.
3 Today, there is rising concern over greenwashing. Businesses are coming under increasing scrutiny from stakeholders over their green claims. There are increasing calls from investors and customers for assurances of trusted climate-related data through verification and audit mechanisms, as well as improvements in data accessibility. With the rising demand for Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting and sustainable investment products globally, businesses that can demonstrate the impact of their initiatives can also find it easier to unlock green financing for their operations.
Roadmap to an Impactful Sustainable Business
4 Many companies genuinely want to drive sustainable development but may not be entirely sure how to make an impact. Let me suggest three steps to do so.
5 First, businesses should set a clear time-based goal to guide their sustainability journey. For example, a public pledge to achieve net zero by 2050 will spur business leaders and employees to outline a realistic roadmap to achieve their sustainability goals. Recognising that every business and individual are at different stages of their sustainability journey, my Ministry invites everyone to make a Green Nation Pledge either as a contributor, advocate, or champion. You can also encourage your colleagues and stakeholders to do so by publicising your pledge. We invite all businesses and leaders self-nominating for the Sustainability Impact Awards to show your commitment by pledging as a Green Nation champion.
6 Second, businesses must be able to demonstrate the impact of their sustainability initiatives by measuring them. To empower businesses to monitor and reduce their carbon emissions, the National Environment Agency and Enterprise Singapore supported the Global Compact Network Singapore under the Enterprise Sustainability Programme to organise carbon management workshops and provide access to the Carbon and Emissions Recording Tool. In addition to building measuring capabilities, businesses should adopt a commonly used sustainability reporting standard, so that the measured data can be more widely understood and accepted by their stakeholders. For example, businesses can consider using SGX’s 27 core ESG Metrics as a starting point for sustainability reporting.
7 Third, businesses should strive to put their sustainability efforts through rigorous evaluation processes by relevant certifications and awards. I am heartened that The Business Times, UOB, and Centre for Governance and Sustainability require self-nominating businesses to outline their progress in achieving the sustainability targets that they have set, and will be judging nominees according to the Centre for Governance and Sustainability’s Impact Assessment Framework. I encourage businesses to continue improving on your sustainability efforts regardless of the outcome, because the awards serve a greater purpose as a yardstick to reflect areas where improvement is needed.
8 Many awards like the Sustainability Impact Awards set stringent requirements in recognition of the growing concern over greenwashing and demand for applicants to demonstrate their environmental impact. Another example is the biennial President’s Award for the Environment (PAE). Organised by my Ministry, this award requires applicants to demonstrate the breadth and depth of their efforts, within and beyond their organisation. Environmental champions who can demonstrate outstanding contributions towards environment and sustainability are invited to apply for this Award, which coincidentally, is also open for nominations today.
Leadership as a Key Driver
9 My final point is on the importance of leadership. Committed leaders set a clear and realistic goal for their businesses, build sustainability capabilities in business operations and strategies, and lead their businesses to create a positive impact for the stakeholders and the broader community. Awards such as the President’s Award for the Environment and the Sustainability Impact Awards recognise individuals who demonstrate positive sustainability impact within and beyond their businesses. Winning these awards are not just a recognition of an individual’s achievements – it also inspires others to follow in your footsteps.
10 Inspirational leaders walk the talk on sustainability. By being role models in reducing our carbon footprint through actions such as setting the air-conditioning to 25 degrees Celsius like we have today, turning off the lights when we leave a room, choosing reusables instead of disposables, or choosing to walk, cycle, ride instead of driving alone, leaders can inspire employees to be the agents of change at home and in their wider community. These simple adjustments to our lifestyle can have a big impact when these changes become a societal norm. By providing more sustainable products and services to the public, leaders also make it easier for individuals to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle.
11 On this note, let me wish our business leaders here 生意兴隆, or booming businesses. The important role you play in driving impactful sustainability initiatives in your organisation and in the larger community will bring about more sustainable business opportunities and contribute towards a liveable and sustainable future for all of us. Thank you.