Stewardship Commons 2021, themed “Navigating a Resilient Commons”, highlighted how the Global Commons Stewardship (GCS) Index and the Stewardship Compass could support the public and private sectors’ efforts in mitigating and managing their environmental impact.
Stewardship Asia Centre (SAC)’s second iteration of Stewardship Commons was held in conjunction with Temasek’s Ecosperity Week 2021. The event gathered more than 50 business leaders and professionals for an insightful discussion on the potential solutions that could limit the impact of business activities on our global commons.
Professor Naoko Ishii, Director for the Center for Global Commons and Executive Vice President at the University of Tokyo, delivered the keynote address. She showcased the Global Commons Stewardship (GCS) Index as a way for countries to understand their impact on the global commons. Developed by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy and the Center for Global Commons at the University of Tokyo, the GCS Index is a tool to help countries and organisations track their domestic and transboundary or spillover environmental impact resulting from their social-economic activities.
A pilot of the index contains results for 50 countries, including the G-20, OECD, and countries with populations over 100 million. This pilot evaluation came ahead of November’s COP26, where world leaders will gather in the UK to find solutions to secure net-zero by 2050 and keep the environment’s temperature increase of 1.5 degrees within reach.
For developed countries, domestic scores are often lower than spillover scores, she explained in her address, referring to the environmental impact within the food system. While developed countries can manage their local impact, they export their environmental impact to developing countries through food importation, she said.
Ms Fay Fay Choo, Asia Cocoa Director of Mars Incorporated, and Mr Bey Soo Khiang, Vice-Chairman of RGE Group & Chairman of APRIL Group, joined a subsequent panel discussion moderated by Dr Richard Jeo, Senior Vice President of Asia-Pacific Field Division, Conservation International.
Together with Professor Ishii, the panel shared insights into their respective sustainability efforts and explored several themes relating to the protection of the global commons.
Dr Jeo raised the question of who should take the lead in mitigating the spillover impact of economic activities.
Professor Ishii said, “The global commons aren’t managed because we take it for granted. Nobody is leading because it is currently free.” She said that the world should put a price on the commons.
Ms Choo said that both producing and consuming countries should share the responsibility of limiting transboundary impact, adding that consumers are not at the stage universally to pay more for environmentally responsible products. However, increasingly consumers are demanding more transparency as to where their products come from and how they are made.
From a business perspective, the “priority for us is to focus on mitigating the domestic impact. I believe once we can do that we can negate the spillover impact,” said Mr Bey. He stressed that companies need to step up “to do the right thing”, understand their footprint and impact, take ownership and put in the necessary intervention measures.
“Purpose and performance have to go hand in hand. Purpose without performance is not sustainable. Performance without purpose is meaningless,” said Ms Choo, adding Mars Incorporated’s focus has been to work with farmers to build sustainable and applicable solutions.
Dr Jeo further said that biodiversity is much more difficult to measure, compared to elements such as carbon.
The latter session explored the role of stewardship in helping organisations reach their UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SAC’s CEO Mr Rajeev Peshawaria introduced the Stewardship Compass and the practice of Steward Leadership in activating an organisation’s purpose and values.
Mr Peshawaria said, “The leadership and innovation challenge of the 21st century is to create profitable growth by addressing the existential challenges,” adding that rules alone can’t solve these problems. He urged business leaders to step up their “genuine leadership intent.”
“Steward leaders lead themselves before they lead their organisation,” he said.
Ms Annisah Smith, SAC’s Research & Advocacy Manager, demonstrated how to adopt the compass framework and integrate stewardship values while incorporating the UN SDGs into business strategies and execution plans. She said, “To effectively safeguard our global commons, we need behavioural change to make a systems change for sustainability possible.”
Professor Arnoud de Meyer, Professor Emeritus at the Singapore Management University and Chairman of Stewardship Asia Centre, delivered the closing remarks for the event.
Referring to the global commons, Professor de Meyer said, “Commons is about taking responsibility together. We have a common responsibility. We forget that it’s the global commons that we have to take care of together.
For more information, please contact:
Communications and Digital Media
Stewardship Asia Centre
Tel: +65 8328 0641
Ang Bee Lin
Communications and Digital Media
Stewardship Asia Centre
Tel: +65 9238 8418
About Stewardship Asia Centre (SAC)
SAC is a non-profit organisation established by Temasek, dedicated to helping business and government leaders, investors and individuals activate stewardship practices through research, executive education and engagement. We define stewardship as the mindset and practice of creating value by integrating the needs of stakeholders, society, future generations and the environment.