Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources at the opening of 2015 International CSR Summit by Global Compact Network Singapore on 26th August 2015
SPEECH BY MS GRACE FU, SECOND MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES AT THE OPENING OF 2015 INTERNATIONAL CSR SUMMIT BY GLOBAL COMPACT NETWORK SINGAPORE ON 26TH AUGUST 2015
Mr Kwek Leng Joo, President of Global Compact Network Singapore,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. I am happy to be here with you as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Global Compact Network Singapore.
To some of the guests who have come from afar, we welcome you. We celebrated our National Day two weeks ago and it is an appropriate juncture, as we celebrate Singapore’s 50th anniversary, to also recall the achievements of Singapore in sustainable development. I would just like to point out two examples.
The first would be the way that we have developed our clean and green environment. As you can see when you walk around the city, you will find that we are truly a very green country. We started being clean and green before this phrase became fashionable and before CSR became fashionable. As a small island with high-density living, it was necessary to create a quality living environment for the people, and also, to distinguish ourselves as an investment destination. We have moved from garden city, to city in a garden, to what we have today – vertical greening and green buildings. It was a pursuit of a sustainable future, having industrialisation and development co-existing with people, factories and commercial buildings situated harmoniously with houses and residential areas, parks and recreational spaces.
Another example would be how we have developed catchment areas in Singapore. From a country with very little water resources, where water was part of the Separation Agreement from Malaysia as we declared independence, we have created the Marina Barrage. We built this to increase Singapore’s capacity to catch water and store water. It was also a flood mitigation initiative. As you know, the Singapore River and the basin around it is sometimes subjected to torrential rain. With the Barrage, we are able to adjust the water level, such that we are able to mitigate tides on the water level within the city, and it has allowed us to reduce the occurrence of floods.
These initiatives required very long term planning, and are also a reflection of the development of Singapore. As we became an independent country, we did not have substantive economic activities, so it was very much the public sector taking the lead in the development process. If you recall some of the bigger companies in Singapore, they would be government-related, for example, Keppel Corp, SembCorp, SingTel, and PSA. They were all part of the government before. But, as we developed, we are seeing new, big, stable, strong Singapore companies evolving in the last few decades. And I think it is very timely for Global Compact Network Singapore to now take a greater role in galvanising the resources and engagement of Singapore corporates in the sustainable development of Singapore. So, on this tenth anniversary, I think it is very timely for us to take note of the evolution of corporate sector, and the role that the corporate sector should play in the development of Singapore going forward.
Mr Kwek has rightly pointed out that in September, the international community will adopt a new set of Sustainable Development Goals for the next 15 years. And in December, all countries will be meeting in Paris to work towards achieving a universal and meaningful agreement on climate change at COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.
Although Singapore is a small country contributing only 0.11 per cent of the global emission of greenhouse gases, we are part of the global community and we must not neglect our responsibility. The impact of climate change and extreme weather conditions cuts across borders and regions. Hence, Singapore has committed to state our targeted carbon emission cuts to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Just last month, we submitted our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the UNFCC Secretariat. Our commitment is that, Singapore will reduce our Emissions Intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030.
In order to meet these targets, a large part of our efforts will have to come from the industries and businesses, especially those with energy intensive operations. Our business community must collaborate and work hand in hand with the Government to reduce our emissions. Besides the need to strengthen our existing regulations, we need to harness new and best-in-class technologies, and tap on our limited options for alternative energy sources like solar power, to become more energy and carbon-efficient. This is in line with the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015, which sets out our national vision and plans for sustainable development in Singapore.
As we celebrate SG50 this year, we should certainly evaluate these issues, which will shape the lives of current and future generations of Singaporeans. Thus, it is apt and timely that the theme of this year’s Summit is “Evaluating and Evolving CSR: Creating Value for a Sustainable Future”.
There has been a growing awareness of corporate responsibility and sustainability over the past decade in Singapore. This can be seen in the Global Compact Network Singapore’s membership, which has grown by over 200 per cent since 2005. As Mr Kwek mentioned in his opening address earlier, the number of Singapore companies that are signatories to the United Nations Global Compact stands at 66 today. I am also heartened to note that 15 years after the inception of the United Nations Global Compact, 25 per cent of the world’s largest companies are now signatories to this voluntary set of responsible business principles. It gives me hope that we are on the right track to resolve some of the biggest sustainability challenges that the world is facing today.
However, believers of corporate sustainability are still in the minority. For sustainability to become part of the business DNA, it requires corporate leaders who have the courage and will to incorporate sustainability issues into the company’s agenda, to develop a corporate vision geared towards sustainable growth. We need more business leaders to step up to effect much-needed change, working hand in hand with governments, regulators and civil society to achieve a more sustainable future.
So, why is corporate responsibility and sustainability necessary? For businesses, CSR helps to build up goodwill with their stakeholders, and reach out to a generation which is increasingly concerned with values. Consumers are increasingly willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact, and according to the 2014 Nielson Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility, 64 per cent of consumers in Asia Pacific had a propensity to buy from socially responsible brands. This is also true in the workplace, where millennials, or Generation Y, prefer to work for a business with a heart, and expect businesses to have a positive impact on wider society. It is therefore imperative and makes good business sense for companies to incorporate CSR into their business identities to stay relevant and to ensure sustainable growth into the future.
I appreciate the efforts put in by the Compact and its partners in organising the inaugural Singapore Apex CSR Awards this year, as a means to showcase CSR excellence in Singapore. Indeed, companies with exemplary CSR and sustainability practices should be acknowledged as role models for other companies. The winners will be announced later, and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the award winners in advance.
Let me conclude by congratulating our winners for the Young CSR Leaders Award. I hope that you will continue to contribute responsibly to the environment and the community, even as you become change leaders of the future. I would also like to express my appreciation to the team in Global Compact Network Singapore for your efforts in promoting CSR in Singapore, and for organising this summit. I encourage all our corporate leaders and representatives to give back to our community and to adopt sustainable business practices as we bring Singapore beyond SG50.
Thank you very much and have a fruitful and meaningful summit ahead.