Trend stories that took the pulse of the moment, looking at what’s fresh and talked about in the sustainability sector, had Eco-Business readers abuzz in the year 2023. Feature stories and podcasts that focused on amplifying the voices of vulnerable communities, with their stories often untold or under-reported, also created an impact. Here are the 10 most read stories this year:
The arrival of ChatGPT launched a million think-pieces – from speculation that this new dawn of artificial intelligence (AI) would free the workforce of the most menial and tedious tasks to fear-mongering claims that the algorithm is out to get everyone’s jobs and shake up entire industries.
When it comes to ESG reporting, however, sustainability experts have rejected the notion that the chatbots can now replace professionals when it comes to analytical thought and nuanced judgment. Instead, they see tools like ChatGPT more as a handy ‘consultant’ that can sort through data.
With everyone from Elon Musk to Pope Francis calling on governments to lay down bylaws to regulate AI, it remains to be seen how the technology will develop and whether if it will continue to create buzz and make waves in the sustainability sector.
The times are a-changin! Platforms like Glassdoor are empowering workers to dish on their former employers and The Great Resignation brought on by the pandemic has seen young professionals hop from one company to another to leverage their job qualifications toward a higher tax bracket.
Pay transparency has also become the norm, with a 2023 survey plotting what salary grades fresh graduates and upstarts alike can expect as they enter and navigate the sustainability sector. Unsurprisingly, the chief sustainability officers of Singapore’s largest coffers raked in the most dough – their salaries are up to sevenfold of their junior executive counterparts in the civic society space.
Indigenous peoples – especially women – are rarely afforded the platform to share their narratives and talk about the struggles they face protecting their vulnerable lands and customs passed on from one generation to another.
In this award-winning bilingual podcast, Eco-Business spoke to Orang Asli women filmmakers native to Peninsular Malaysia about their journey toward documenting the tales of their communities and their organised movement for human rights and equality.
The first of its kind recorded in both English and Bahasa Melayu, this podcast has gone on to win gold at the Asian Digital Media Awards.
Despite aiming to finance the decarbonisation and renewable energy uptake of target countries like Indonesia and Vietnam, Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETP) the world over have come under scrutiny for red flags that have ranged from human rights concerns to contentious captive coal plants that see no immediate signs of being shelved or decommissioned.
In the fishing town of Kanci in Indonesia’s West Java, one of these coal projects has taken a human toll: the Cirebon 1 coal power project has allegedly wrought devastating impacts on the livelihoods and health of the communities that live along the Cipaluh and Kanci rivers adjacent to the facility, according to this report.
5. Singapore among the first in Asia to propose mandatory climate reporting for non-listed companies
Singapore regulators are poised to enforce mandatory climate-related disclosures on listed companies as soon as the financial year 2025, with the mandate seen to extend to large non-listed companies by 2027.
If implemented, Singapore could become the first Asian jurisdiction to require International Sustainability Standards Board-aligned climate reporting for non-listed entities.
6. Philippines luxury estate inspired by Banaue Rice Terraces poses risk to environment, say urban planners
Urban planners caution against potential environmental risks in a Cebu real estate project – “The Rise at Monterrazas,” a 200-hectare luxury condominium on a mountainside overlooking the metropolitan city in the Philippines’ Visayas region. Concerns about landslides and flooding during construction have also prompted calls for mitigation measures.
Despite zoning board approval, environmental clearance from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, however, is still pending. The terraced design, inspired by the Philippines’ Banaue Rice Terraces, is the vanity project of Filipino content creator and civil engineer Slater Young and his 8990 Housing Development Corporation.
Vietnam – despite being Southeast Asia’s renewables leader with 70 per cent of the region’s installed solar and wind power capacity – faces uncertainty due to governance limbo and a clampdown on corruption. Vietnam’s “Power Development Plan 8” has been delayed by two years, causing a lack of clarity on renewable energy targets.
Internal investigations into pricing deals for previous renewable projects further stall progress. As other Southeast Asian nations advance their green transitions, analysts warn that Vietnam’s policy void may deter investors, impacting future developments and making the market challenging for new entrants.
The alternative proteins industry is ripe with creative innovations that span from cell-based kangaroo meat to vegan filet mignon and even dairy from micro-organisms.
Despite a global economic slowdown and slowing sales, firms are investing hundreds of millions in research and development. In this podcast, Eco-Business interviews industry insiders, Mindy Leveille and Jennifer Morton from nutrition and taste firm Kerry and Good Food Institute APAC respectively, to explore upcoming trends, challenges and opportunities in the alternative protein food sector.
9. Singapore watchdog bans aircon ad claiming it can ‘save the Earth’ after greenwash complaint, in first ruling of its kind in Asia
In a landmark decision, an advertisement for Prism+ Zero Smart Aircon units in Singapore claiming consumers can “save Earth” by buying its energy-efficient airconditioners has been called out by the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore for outright greenwashing.
The video ad features an influencer setting her air conditioner to 23°C to “save Earth and electricity” – a seemingly ridiculous claim as airconditioners account for nearly a quarter of the energy consumption of a typical household in Singapore.
The ruling marks the first time that an advertising campaign in Singapore, or anywhere in Asia, has been banned for greenwashing.
10. Individual action makes little difference to the climate crisis – we need to go after Big Oil, says author
Individual actions like going vegan or flying less have minimal impact on climate change, says Assaad Razzouk, author of Saving the Planet Without the Bullshit. Razzouk argues that governments must take systemic actions, such as ending fossil fuel subsidies, to address the climate crisis effectively. He contends that blaming individuals for their carbon footprints deflects responsibility from fossil fuel firms, highlighting the need for a clearer focus on major climate culprits.
It is well-documented that even the concept of ‘carbon footprint’ was popularised by Ogilvy and fossil fuel company BP to shift the emissions burden onto the consumer. As Razzouk colourfully puts it: “We are scraping together mere pennies reducing, reusing and recycling, while oil companies burn hundred-dollar bills”.
Did you enjoy these stories? Let us know what we should be writing about in 2024 by sending your comments to email@example.com. This story is part of our Year in Review series.