Shaping the future of sustainable business

The Sustainable Energy Solutions 2022 Forum convened thought leaders to discuss the future of mobility, district and residential cooling, energy services and more.

Panelists at SP Group's Sustainable Energy Solutions 2022 Forum
Industry leaders shared their experience in driving sustainable changes within their sectors. (From left) Dr Hee Limin, director, Centre for Liveable Cities; Esther An, chief sustainability officer, City Developments Limited; Jasper Wong, head of construction & infrastructure (sector solutions group) United Overseas Bank; Gerald Ng, vice president of environment and sustainability, Changi Airport Group; Masaru Kusutani, head of digital strategy, Tokio Marine Holdings Inc; and Estella Kueh Sing Ming, senior director (development services group), Urban Redevelopment Authority. Image: SP Group 

Over the past two years when air travel ground to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Changi Airport Group (CAG) in Singapore took the opportunity to trial some sustainability measures in its mostly empty terminals.

It raised the temperature for some air-conditioning systems by about 1.5 degrees Celsius, reducing its electricity use by at least 10 to 15 per cent. It also started to dim the lighting in some areas when there were fewer passengers.

“With air travel picking back up, we’ve kept the temperature set point a little elevated for some areas, and done a lot of surveys to find out how people feel about these changes,” said Gerald Ng, CAG’s vice president of environment and sustainability. “There are no issues so far.”

Ng was speaking on the panel of the main plenary discussion at the inaugural Sustainable Energy Solutions 2022 Forum. The one-day event, held on August 30 at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore, was organised by the SP Group, an energy supplier which also offers a suite of sustainable products and services to Singapore and the region.

More than 230 business leaders and industry experts gathered to discuss how the future of energy can power sustainable development through decentralisation, decarbonisation, digitalisation and electrification.

“We’ve got so many people who are so keen to understand a lot more about how the world is being impacted today and what they can do to mitigate climate change,” said S Harsha, managing director of the Sustainability Energy Solutions (Singapore) in SP Group.

The forum’s sessions covered the future of mobility, district and residential cooling, energy services and more. Ng and four other panelists from industry and government took part in its Executive Dialogue, which focused on the transformative landscape of sustainable business in Singapore.

Esther An, property and hotel conglomerate City Developments Limited’s chief sustainability officer, noted that when the company began publishing its sustainability reports in 2008, few businesses understood the importance of compiling environmental, social and governance (ESG) data.

 “Today, stock exchanges are pushing for ESG disclosure, investors ask for firms’ sustainability performance data, and ESG matters even for insurance purposes,” said An.

Many roads to sustainability

The panelists urged businesses to introduce sustainability reporting, and adopt more energy efficient and other green technologies.

An explained that, with sustainability reporting, firms can identify green gaps and create plans to address them. The reports can also unite employees behind sustainability goals. She added: “The financial incentive is very strong. Investors are increasingly looking at firms’ ESG data to make investment decisions, and you can also use the data to apply for green loans.”

Companies can incorporate green materials and technologies in various ways, said Ng. When CAG upgraded Changi Airport’s Terminal 2, it reused materials from the existing building to minimise waste and the need for virgin materials.

In July, it also started a one-year trial to use blended sustainable aviation fuel on all Singapore Airlines and Scoot flights departing from Changi Airport. The fuel is a mix of refined jet fuel and sustainable aviation fuel made from used cooking oil and waste animal fats. The trial is expected to decrease the flights’ carbon dioxide emissions by 2,500 tonnes.

Jasper Wong, head of construction and infrastructure in the sector solutions group at United Overseas Bank (UOB), said that the company cut its energy use by about 30 per cent after it retrofitted its buildings and branches with energy-efficient technologies. 

UOB has debuted five sustainable finance frameworks to aid clients in their own sustainability journeys. The Green Building Developers and Owners framework offers loans to those aiming to construct new green buildings or retrofit existing ones to be more eco-friendly.

The Transition Finance framework supports companies in energy-intensive, fossil fuel, brown and hard-to-abate sectors in their decarbonisation efforts. These include firms in the oil, gas and chemicals, metals and mining, and fossil fuel power generation sectors.

Wong noted that people, businesses and governments are increasingly concerned about the risks of failing to curb climate change. “We knew that if we want our firm to be successful, we must help customers transition and adapt to a low-carbon economy,” he said.

Setting the stage for sustainability

Firms can collaborate with governments on sustainability projects, the panelists added. UOB is working with the Monetary Authority of Singapore on the new ESGpedia, which aggregates, records and maintains businesses’ ESG data and certifications on a single registry for financial institutions’ easy access. This facilitates green finance, among other benefits.

Estella Kueh, senior director of the Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority’s development services group, highlighted the public-private partnership that led to the country’s pioneering district cooling system in the Marina Bay financial district.

SP Group designed and operates the system, which is the world’s largest underground district cooling network. It currently serves over 20 buildings in the area, enabling the district to avert about 20,000 tonnes of carbon emissions every year.

Kueh emphasised that governments play crucial roles in fostering and steering public-private partnerships. “We need to have a strategic vision of what we want to see from industry, and implement policies to support those industries,” she explained.

Japan’s parliament has passed a bill to create “super cities” across the nation, said Masaru Kusutani, head of digital strategy in Tokio Marine Holdings, a multinational insurance holding company based in Tokyo. These cities are expected to out-perform smart cities in using big data and other technologies to tackle issues such as aging populations and sustainability.

The bill removes regulatory obstacles that could impede the development of such cities. If a municipality comes up with super city plans, wins its residents’ approval and applies to the central government, the prime minister can direct government agencies to grant exceptions to the relevant regulations as needed.

Kusutani pointed out the importance of tailored sustainability plans. “Each township has its own set of challenges. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to sustainability.”

Dr Hee Limin, director of research at Singapore’s Centre for Liveable Cities, who moderated the Executive Dialogue, called attention to its wide-ranging discussion during her summary of the session.

She noted: “We considered green financing, explored the state of governance and planning regulations, and gained insights on how to promote a sustainable culture. This shows the many different aspects of the sustainability agenda.”

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