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Singapore’s first carbon neutral event convenes global sustainability leaders

Government, business and civic society leaders meet at the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development to chart new directions for businesses and governments for a greener economy.

Singapore’s first carbon neutral event - the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development (RBF) - gathered some 500 government, business and civic society leaders in the city-state today for a series of high-level discussions based on the theme “Transformation, Growth and the Green Economy”.

Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, officially opened the forum at Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands.

The forum, in its second year, is the first of its kind for a large-scale event in Singapore. Significant efforts were made to reduce resource consumption at the event, and all carbon emissions related to the event will be offset in line with its sustainability focus, making it carbon neutral. 

Most sustainable event in Singapore

In collaboration with leading carbon reduction projects developer South Pole Carbon, the total direct carbon emissions generated by the event relating to delegate travel, electricity and food consumption, waste generation and paper usage at the event venue will be calculated. Based on the final figure, South Pole Carbon will invest in the equivalent carbon credits into two projects - geothermal power and run-of-river hydro - in Indonesia.

George Tanasijevich, President and Chief Executive Officer of Marina Bay Sands, who gave the opening address at the forum, said: “Marina Bay Sands is committed to being a responsible corporate citizen and protecting the environment in line with our Sands ECO360 programme. These values are built into the core values of our business as well as the services we offer to our guests. The meeting industry is an important and influential industry that can inspire others and lead the way in responsible environment and social practices. We hope the sustainable event planning solutions that we offer will drive the industry in that direction in the long run.”  

As the first event and conference venue outside the United States to achieve Level One Certification to the ASTM Sustainable Event Planning Standard in July 2013, Marina Bay Sands is also the first MICE facility in Singapore to adopt Singapore Tourism Board’s new sustainability guidelines announced recently.

Mr Chew Tiong Heng, executive director, business tourism development at the Singapore Tourism Board said: “We are pleased to note that the first event to adopt these Guidelines - Responsible Business Forum on Sustainability Development is held at Marina Bay Sands, a recipient of the APEX/ASTM certification for demonstrating best practices in sustainability. We strongly encourage our MICE partners to integrate sustainability practices into their MICE operations which will enhance the overall experience of our business visitors.”

MBS has further enhanced its sustainable meeting offerings by using advanced in-room movement sensors for the forum that help integrate with the building management system to control lighting when no one is in the room.

Together with venue host Marina Bay Sands, event organisers designed a set of sustainability targets for the event when planning started. In addition, practical steps were taken to reduce demand on water, food and energy resources. These include using lanyards made from recycled PET bottles, donating left over bread to the integrated resort’s charity partner “Food from the Heart” and composting food waste.   

Tony Gourlay, Chief Executive Officer of Global Initiatives, one of the event organisers, said: “The Responsible Business Forum focuses on bringing business leaders together to accelerate business solutions and policy frameworks for a more sustainable future. Our events are not separate from this philosophy and are designed to demonstrate how responsible event planning can lead to a positive legacy by reducing the environmental impact of the event’s operations.” 

Business leaders attending the forum underscored the importance of practical solutions for a more sustainable world.

Haider Rashid, Head of South East Asia and Oceania at technology giant ABB, said: “Sustainability is a journey and not a destination. As business leaders, we shouldn’t be stepping outside normal business activities to think about being sustainable and responsible, but ensuring that it is embedded in our mainstream activities, so we have to set milestones to ensure we are on the right path. In a way, it’s a business imperative. We shouldn’t see responsibility as a reason for the things we can’t do, rather as an ethos that guides us on all the things that we can do for a better world.”         

Peter Holmgren, Director-General of Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) added, “To make efficient use of the planet’s resources, we need convergence of agendas, institutions and sectors: convergence of agriculture and forestry, convergence of public and private sectors, and convergence of political processes.”

With rapidly rising demand for food, energy and water, climate change and resource scarcity increasingly visible around us, businesses are realising that it is critical to adopt a more sustainable approach to business.

“Today’s market reality requires supply chains to be fully connected and integrated, traceable from end to end. It is time for the industry, governments and civil society organisations to work collaboratively to build capacity and trust and to resolve issues through dialogue and transparency,” said Jeremy Goon, Group Head – CSR at Singapore-listed agribusiness firm Wilmar.

Natural Capital Protocol

Earlier at a media roundtable, the TEEB for Business Coalition and the IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, launched a landmark project - the Natural Capital Protocol - to develop a framework for valuing natural capital in business decision-making.  

With the launch, TEEB for Business Coalition are inviting businesses and investors to participate in this new project to develop and pilot test a harmonised framework for why and how to value natural capital in business and investor decision making e.g. supply chain management, financial accounting and corporate reporting.  

Dorothy Maxwell, Executive Director, TEEB for Business Coalition said: “It’s very relevant that we are launching the Natural Capital Protocol project at the Responsible Business Forum as we are inviting business in sectors such as agricultural commodities, forestry, mining, energy, consumer goods and finance to participate. These have the greatest natural capital risks and opportunities and are key to the ASEAN region.”

Over the next one-and-a-half days, delegates will engage in high-level discussions and action-oriented policy and business commitments across six sectors - agriculture & forestry, palm oil, consumer goods, financial services, building & urban infrastructure and energy. The recommendations will then be presented to decision and policy-makers at a series of regional meetings in 2013 and 2014.

The themes discussed at the forum are timely. By 2050, the global population will hit 9 billion people and the increased demand for water, food and energy will exceed our current capacity to provide. This will be the defining challenge of the 21st century, but also its greatest economic opportunity. To face this global challenge, it is clear that governments and businesses must embark on a different approach and transform their operations to embrace the green economy.

For more information on RBF or live streaming of the event, please visit www.responsiblebusiness.com. Or download the RB Forum app from Apple App Store and Google Play. 

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