Sustainable recovery from the pandemic is crucial for Asia to increase competitiveness

Sustainable recovery from the pandemic is crucial for Asia to increase competitiveness
The opening plenary at Unlocking Capital for Sustainability 2021. From left to right: Jessica Cheam, Founder and Managing Director, Eco-Business; Deborah Ho, Managing Director, Head of Southeast Asia, BlackRock; Eric Lim, Chief Sustainability Officer, UOB; Herry Cho, Managing Director, Head of Sustainability and Sustainable Finance, SGX; and Mike Ng, Managing Director, Head of Structured Finance and Sustainable Finance at OCBC Bank. Image: Eco-Business

Singapore, 16 September 2021  A sustainable recovery is critical for Asia Pacific to reduce the risk of future pandemics, transition to a low carbon economy, create jobs and increase competitiveness. 

This was the consensus of more than 600 leaders from across government, finance, business and civic society convening for Unlocking capital for sustainability 2021, who agreed that both governments and the private sector urgently need to do more to put the region on a path to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Organised by Eco-Business in partnership with United Nations Environment Programme, the annual forum in its fourth year delved into wide ranging issues from how to scale sustainable finance, the role of digital transformation, fintech, greenwashing, to the future of ESG investing. 

According to a recent report by the Asian Development Bank, while several countries have implemented some policies to support a green recovery, it is currently insufficient. 

As major economies such as the United States, European Union and China deploy their green recovery plans post Covid-19, ESG investments have emerged as a powerful vehicle that can support a sustainable economy, said leaders from multilateral agencies and the finance sector at the event. 

Pursuing green opportunities in agriculture, oceans, urban and transport systems, circular economy practices, and clean energy has the potential to create 30 million jobs in the region, said the ADB report; and implementing a green recovery will require mainstreaming social and environmental resilience in policymaking, and identifying sources of finance for green growth. 

Ms Iwona Piórko, European Union Ambassador to Singapore, who spoke at the event, said: “Climate change does not stop at national borders. It is our collective responsibility. It calls for a multilateral response and requires action of all parts of our societies, including the financial sector. This is why the EU is closely cooperating with like-minded Asian partners, including Singapore, to help the financial sector play its part. Jointly we will develop standards and regulations that are compatible. We will strive for a taxonomy that will help us to transition together to a truly sustainable and greener world.” 

Launch of The SDG Co 

At the forum, Eco-Business and its partners including Go4SDGs also launched a new initiative – The SDG Co — the world’s global sustainability innovation platform which connects start-ups, corporates, governments and investors working on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

While sustainability efforts are growing across the world, there is a need to consolidate efforts and strengthen the global sustainability innovation ecosystem. 

The SDG Co will provide a much-needed community space where people and businesses across the globe can network, exchange ideas, and build professional and personal skills and capabilities. This will enable more efficient allocation of capital to worthy sustainability projects. 

“This year’s forum is a timely one as the region is at a critical juncture of the pandemic recovery. We urgently need governments to tie stimulus measures to positive environmental and social impact and for the financial industry to channel much needed capital to finance the trillion-dollar sustainable development opportunity in the region,” said Jessica Cheam, founder and managing director of Eco-Business. 

“To this end, we are excited to be launching The SDG Co with our partners, which will serve as a tech-driven platform that will match the world’s capital looking for viable sustainability solutions and to help them scale,” she added.  

Adriana Zacarias Farah, head of Global Opportunities for Sustainable Development Goals (GO4SDGs), said: “GO4SDGs is pleased to be part of The SDG Co, which will serve as a dynamic market place for innovation and opportunities for funding for SMEs, and is aligned to the GO4SDGs objective of accelerating circularity and climate funding for SMEs and start-ups in all regions.” 

The SDG Co has also adopted the six principles of the Innovation and Sustainability Alliance (IxSA), which is a global group of practitioners who have created a new manifesto for sustainability innovation. 

“IxSA is delighted to partner with The SDG Co to transform innovation for sustainability. The SDG Co’s mission to connect the vast universe of sustainability organisations together will be a significant enabler of the mindset and frameworks that IxSA stands for. We look forward to supporting and growing together with The SDG Co,” said Sang Shin, founder and co-creator of IxSA. 

Views from ESG and sustainable finance experts on the sustainable recovery 

The 2021 forum featured more than 30 speakers from across the globe and three additional partner events with the Singapore Institute of DirectorsRS Group and Fair Finance Asia 

Vernice Moh, Managing Director, ASEAN, London Stock Exchange Group, noted: “Sustainable finance is a critical area of focus across our business. Our customers across the finance and investment community can drive the solutions to secure a sustainable and net zero emission future but they need robust data, analytics and innovation to do so.  

“To highlight our commitment in this area, we recently launched a dedicated sustainable finance innovation unit in Singapore. Part of our new LSEG Labs network, the unit will be focused on creating sustainable finance capabilities to accelerate innovation and advanced technology across the country’s fintech ecosystem, supported by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS),” she said. 

Mike Ng, Head of Structured Finance and Sustainable Finance at OCBC Bank, said: “The ‘build back better’ agenda has been the guiding principle for many economies as they seek to make their way back from the Covid-19 pandemic. This forum served as a timely platform for industry players to take stock of their progress, from the successes and challenges of mobilising capital for a more sustainable world, to sharing ideas on how to accelerate the transition.  

“As a leading Asian bank, we play a key role as a catalyst for positive change – through financing renewable energy and other green infrastructure projects and promoting sustainable investments, among others. Together with our customers and other like-minded organisations, including those who participated in this forum, we will continue to make a unified push for sustainability,” he added. 

Eric Lim, Chief Sustainability Officer, UOB, added, “As a leading financial institution in ASEAN, UOB plays a vital role in directing resources towards businesses and investments that create positive and meaningful economic, social and environmental impact. For instance, through our sustainable financing frameworks, we help businesses advance responsibly by capturing the growing opportunities related to sustainable development.  

“We also steer investors channel their funds that go towards the inclusiveness and sustainability of the wider economy. The ability to partner our stakeholders to catalyse change is both a privilege and a responsibility as we forge a sustainable future for all,” he said. 

Perpetua George, General Manager for Group Sustainability, Wilmar International commented at the event: “Sustainability has been the core of our operations in Wilmar for years. However, it still seen as largely technical and niche. The recent focus on ESG disclosure and targets from financial institutions, investors, and stock exchanges is highly encouraging as it is finally pushing the agenda for the mainstreaming of sustainability commitments and recognizing that sustainability does add value to companies” 

The hybrid Unlocking capital for sustainability 2021 was held at St Regis Hotel in Singapore for 50 in-person guests and streamed virtually in the Eastern and European time zones to more than 700 government, financial leaders and civic society to discuss the role of finance in the green recovery in Asia Pacific.   

The event’s strategic partners include Amazon Web Services, OCBC Bank, Refinitiv, UOB and Wilmar International, and its supporting partners are Equilibrium, Fair Finance Asia, Lombard Odier, and S&P Market Intelligence. Its outreach partners included AVPN, CDP, Client Earth, Climate Governance Malaysia, Global Compact Network Singapore, RS Group, Sindicatum Renewable Energy and Singapore Institute of Directors.  

For enquiries and/or arrange media interviews, please contact:  

Monique Armstrong   
Partnerships and Operations Manager 
+65 93390672  


Sonia Sambhi 
Correspondent, Editorial and Special Projects 
+65 90068644 


About Eco-Business  

Established in 2009, Eco-Business is an independent media and business intelligence company dedicated to sustainable development and ESG performance. It publishes high quality, trusted news and views in multimedia formats on business and policy developments around the world with a sustainability and ESG-focused lens.   

Eco-Business provides research and consulting on a wide range of issues which create strategic value for our partners and clients. It owns and creates thought-leadership platforms which inform policymaking, improve business practices and foster collaboration among different sectors. Eco-Business is headquartered in Singapore, with a presence in Manila, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Zurich, New York, and correspondents in major cities across the world. Visit us at  

About UN Environment  

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, the civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.  

In Asia and the Pacific, UN Environment is helping countries address some of the region’s biggest challenges. From fighting pollution to pursuing sustainable growth, we work with national and local authorities, civil society, other UN entities, financial institutions, regional bodies and networks, research institutions and the private sector to realize positive impact for planet and people.  

More details about UN Environment can be found at 

About Unlocking capital for sustainability  

Unlocking capital for sustainability is an annual premiere event organised by Eco-Business in partnership with UN Environment that brings together high-level decision makers in finance, business, government and civic society to discuss and commit to actionable initiatives that mobilise the capital markets for sustainable development projects.  The event’s strategic partners include Amazon Web Services, OCBC Bank, Refinitiv, UOB and Wilmar International, and its supporting partners are Equilibrium, Fair Finance Asia, Lombard Odier, and S&P Market Intelligence. 

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