The Future of Sustainability: Singapore’s Commitment to Green Plan 2030

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Innovation is at the core of Singapore’s ethos. The country has perfected the art of ‘structured innovation’ where pilots and proof of concepts are introduced and the successful ones scaled up by recalibrating technology, delivery systems, legislation, and business models. The country has adopted a similar approach to achieving its sustainability goals.  

The Singapore Green Plan 2030 outlines the strategies to become a sustainable nation. It is driven by five ministries: Education, National Development, Sustainability and the Environment, Trade and Industry, and Transport, and includes five key pillars: City in Nature, Sustainable Living, Energy Reset, Green Economy, and Resilient Future. We will see a slew of new programs and initiatives in green finance, sustainability, solar energy, electric vehicles (EVs), and innovation, in the next couple of years.

Singapore’s Intentions of Becoming a Green Finance Leader

Singapore is serious about becoming a world leader in green finance. The Green Bonds Programme Office was set up last year, to work with statutory boards to develop a framework along with industry and investor stakeholders. We have seen a number of sustainable finance initiatives last year, such as the National Environment Agency (NEA) collaborating with DBS to raise USD 1.23 billion from its first green bond issuance. The proceeds will fund new and ongoing sustainable waste management initiatives. Temasek collaborated with HSBC for a USD 110 million debt financing platform for sustainable projects and Sembcorp issued sustainability bonds worth USD 490 million.

Building an Ecosystm of Sustainable Organisations

Sustainability has to be a collective goal that will require governments to work with enterprises, investors and consumers. To ensure that enterprises are focusing on Sustainability, governments have to keep in mind what drives these initiatives and the challenges organisations face in achieving their goals.

There are several reasons driving organisations in Singapore to adopt sustainability goals and ESG responsibilities (Figure 1)

Key Drivers of Building a Sustainable Organisation in Singapore

It is equally important to address organisations’ challenges in building sustainability in their business processes. Last week, the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) set out 12 Sustainable Finance Technical Skills and Competencies (SF TSCs) required by people in various roles in sustainable finance. This addresses the growing demand for sustainable finance talent in Singapore; and covers knowledge areas such as climate change policy developments, natural capital, green taxonomies, carbon markets and decarbonisation strategies. There are Financial Services related competencies as well, such as sustainability risk management, sustainability reporting, sustainable investment management, and sustainable insurance and reinsurance solutions. The SF TSCs are part of the IBF Skills Framework for Financial Services.

Sustainable Resources Initiatives

Singapore is not only focused on Sustainable Finance. If we look at NEA’s Green Bonds, there are specific criteria that projects must satisfy in order to qualify, including a focus on sustainable waste management.

Last week the Government announced that the National Research Fund (NRF) will allocate around USD 160 million to drive new initiatives in water, reuse and recycling technologies, as part of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 plan (RIE2025). Part of the fund will be allocated to the Closing the Resource Loop (CTRL) initiative, administered by the NEA that will fund sustainable resource recovery solutions.  

Singapore faces severe resource constraints, and water security is not a new challenge for the country. The NRF funding will also be used partially for R&D in 3 water technology focus areas: desalination and water reuse; used water treatment; and waste reduction and resource recovery.

The Government is Leading the Way

The Government’s concerted efforts to make the Singapore Green Plan 2030 a success is seeing corporate participation in the vision. In February, Shell started supplying sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to customers such as SIA Engineering Company and the Singapore Air Force in Singapore. Shell has also upgraded their Singapore facility to blend SAF at multiple, key locations. Last week, Atlas announced their commitment to Web 3.0 technologies and “tech for good”. They aim to increase their green energy use to 75% by 2022; 90% by 2023; and 100% by 2024. ESG consciousness is percolating down from the Government.

The success of Singapore’s Sustainability strategies will depend on innovation, the Government’s ongoing commitment, and the support provided to enterprises, investors, and consumers. The Singapore Government is poised to lead from the front in building a Sustainable Ecosystem.

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The Future of Sustainability: Tech Providers and Corporates Strengthening the Cause

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COP26 has firmly put environmental consciousness as a leading global priority. While we have made progress in the last 30 odd years since climate change began to be considered as a reality, a lot needs to be done.

No longer is it enough for only governments to lead on green initiatives. Now is the time for non-profit organisations, investors, businesses – corporate and SMEs – and consumers to come together to ensure we leave a safer planet for our children. 

February saw examples of how technology providers and large corporates are delivering on their environmental consciousness and implementing meaningful change.

Here are some announcements that show how tech providers and corporates are strengthening the Sustainability cause:

Read on to find more.

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The Future of Telecom: Industry Outlook for 2022 and Beyond

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There have been some long-term shifts in market dynamics in the telecom industry. Network traffic growth rates have accelerated; new business models emerged; and cloud services matured and spread to new verticals, applications and customer sizes. Networks are more important than ever. Revenue growth rates and profitability in the three segments – telecom, webscale, and carrier-neutral – have been stronger in recent quarters than anticipated.

Looking ahead, networks will increasingly revolve around data centres, which will continue to proliferate both at the core and edge.

Data centre innovation will be rapid, as webscalers push the envelope on network design and function, and telecom operators seek cheaper ways of running their networks. The telecom operator’s need for cost efficiency will increase as overhyped 5G-based opportunities fail to materialise in any big way. Carrier-neutral operators (CNNOs) will benefit from an ongoing wave of new capital which will help them transform to more integrated providers of “digital infrastructure” assets.

Read on to find out about

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Squashing the Greenwashing with Emerging Technology

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Our financial system plays a central role in crystallising priorities and incentives for businesses and other stakeholders across the globe. So, many of us breathed a sigh of relief as the financial community got behind the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) movement in recent years, signalling a very visible acceleration in ESG as a hot button issue for investors and lenders.

Unfortunately, the growth of ESG as a priority for investors, lenders and consumers has driven many companies to oversell their green and/or social credentials in order to burnish their brands and attract investment. This is referred to as “greenwashing” and “social washing”.

As sustainability becomes a critical pillar for investors and consumers in their decision-making, data, analytics and technology play an increasingly critical role in enabling better decisions based on credible, accurate and more real-time information.

Read on to find out the three themes for technology enablement in sustainable finance, together with examples and potential use cases including companies such as IBM, Triodos Bank, Alipay, Floodmapp, and Data Gumbo.

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Consumers at the Core of the Digital Financial Ecosystem

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The disruption that we faced in 2020 has created a new appetite for adoption of technology and digital in a shorter period. Crises often present opportunities – and the FinTech and Financial Services industries benefitted from the high adoption of digital financial services and eCommerce. In 2021, there will be several drivers to the transformation of the Financial Services industry – the rise of the gig economy will give access to a larger talent pool; the challenges of government aid disbursement will be mitigated through tech adoption; compliance will come sharply back into focus after a year of ad-hoc technology deployments; and social and environmental awareness will create a greater appetite for green financing. However, the overarching driver will be the heightened focus on the individual consumer (Figure 1).

2021 will finally see consumers at the core of the digital financial ecosystem.

Ecosystm Advisors Dr. Alea Fairchild, Amit Gupta and Dheeraj Chowdhry present the top 5 Ecosystm predictions for FinTech in 2021 – written in collaboration with the Singapore FinTech Festival. This is a summary of the predictions; the full report (including the implications) is available to download for free on the Ecosystm platform.

The Top 5 FinTech Trends for 2021

 #1 The New Decade of the ‘Empowered’ Consumer Will Propel Green Finance and Sustainability Considerations Beyond Regulators and Corporates

We have seen multiple countries set regulations and implement Emissions Trading Systems (ETS) and 2021 will see Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations growing in importance in the investment decisions for asset managers and hedge funds. Efforts for ESG standards for risk measurement will benefit and support that effort.

The primary driver will not only be regulatory frameworks – rather it will be further propelled by consumer preferences. The increased interest in climate change, sustainable business investments and ESG metrics will be an integral part of the reaction of the society to assist in the global transition to a greener and more humane economy in the post-COVID era. Individuals and consumers will demand FinTech solutions that empower them to be more environmentally and socially responsible. The performance of companies on their ESG ratings will become a key consideration for consumers making investment decisions. We will see corporate focus on ESG become a mainstay as a result – driven by regulatory frameworks and the consumer’s desire to place significant important on ESG as an investment criterion.

#2 Consumers Will Truly Be ‘Front and Centre’ in Reshaping the Financial Services Digital Ecosystems  

Consumers will also shape the market because of the way they exercise their choices when it comes to transactional finance. They will opt for more discrete solutions – like microfinance, micro-insurances, multiple digital wallets and so on. Even long-standing customers will no longer be completely loyal to their main financial institutions. This will in effect take away traditional business from established financial institutions. Digital transformation will need to go beyond just a digital Customer Experience and will go hand-in-hand with digital offerings driven by consumer choice.

As a result, we will see the emergence of stronger digital ecosystems and partnerships between traditional financial institutions and like-minded FinTechs. As an example, platforms such as the API Exchange (APIX) will get a significant boost and play a crucial role in this emerging collaborative ecosystem. APIX was launched by AFIN, a non-profit organisation established in 2018 by the ASEAN Bankers Association (ABA), International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). Such platforms will create a level playing field across all tiers of the Financial Services innovation ecosystem by allowing industry participants to Discover, Design and rapidly Deploy innovative digital solutions and offerings.

#3 APIfication of Banking Will Become Mainstream

2020 was the year when banks accepted FinTechs into their product and services offerings – 2021 will see FinTech more established and their technology offerings becoming more sophisticated and consumer-led. These cutting-edge apps will have financial institutions seeking to establish partnerships with them, licensing their technologies and leveraging them to benefit and expand their customer base. This is already being called the “APIficiation” of banking. There will be more emphasis on the partnerships with regulated licensed banking entities in 2021, to gain access to the underlying financial products and services for a seamless customer experience.

This will see the growth of financial institutions’ dependence on third-party developers that have access to – and knowledge of – the financial institutions’ business models and data. But this also gives them an opportunity to leverage the existent Fintech innovations especially for enhanced customer engagement capabilities (Prediction #2).   

#4 AI & Automation Will Proliferate in Back-Office Operations

From quicker loan origination to heightened surveillance against fraud and money laundering, financial institutions will push their focus on back-office automation using machine learning, AI and RPA tools (Figure 3). This is not only to improve efficiency and lower risks, but to further enhance the customer experience. AI is already being rolled out in customer-facing operations, but banks will actively be consolidating and automating their mid and back-office procedures for efficiency and automation transition in the post COVID-19 environment. This includes using AI for automating credit operations, policy making and data audits and using RPA for reducing the introduction of errors in datasets and processes.

There is enormous economic pressure to deliver cost savings and reduce risks through the adoption of technology. Financial Services leaders believe that insights gathered from compliance should help other areas of the business, and this requires a completely different mindset. Given the manual and semi-automated nature of current AML compliance, human-only efforts slow down processing timelines and impact business productivity. KYC will leverage AI and real-time environmental data (current accounts, mortgage payment status) and integration of third-party data to make the knowledge richer and timelier in this adaptive economic environment. This will make lending risk assessment more relevant.

#5 Driven by Post Pandemic Recovery, Collaboration Will Shape FinTech Regulation

Travel corridors across border controls have started to push the boundaries. Just as countries develop new processes and policies based on shared learning from other countries, FinTech regulators will collaborate to harmonise regulations that are similar in nature. These collaborative regulators will accelerate FinTech proliferation and osmosis i.e. proliferation of FinTechs into geographies with lower digital adoption.

Data corridors between countries will be the other outcome of this collaboration of FinTech regulators. Sharing of data in a regulated environment will advance data science and machine learning to new heights assisting credit models, AI, and innovations in general. The resulting ‘borderless nature’ of FinTech and the acceleration of policy convergence across several previously siloed regulators will result in new digital innovations. These Trusted Data Corridors between economies will be further driven by the desire for progressive governments to boost the Digital Economy in order to help the post-pandemic recovery.


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Achieving Sustainability: The Tide is Turning

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In this blog, our guest author HE Jo Tyndall, delivers a message of hope for the future and talks about initiatives across all levels to combat climate change and biodiversity loss. “The pieces of the puzzle that will create a sustainable future are all there – it is time to start fitting them together.”

If, like me, you have watched Sir David Attenborough’s “witness statement” (A Life On Our Planet), it is easy to despair of the wanton, wilful destruction humanity has wreaked on the Earth, and to be horrified that so much of this has happened in one man’s (admittedly long) lifetime. The images he conjures – of distressed orangutans, starving polar bears, floods, fires and droughts, and of rampant deforestation – underscore how ubiquitous, urgent and overwhelming the climate change and biodiversity crises are.

But Sir David ends with a message of hope, and it is this I want to emphasise. Everywhere we look, there are green shoots of hope, many growing into sturdy saplings. They are coming thick and fast, and they are becoming mainstream – no longer relegated to the tick-box margins of policy or practice. The pieces of the puzzle that will create a sustainable future are all there – it is time to start fitting them together.

Political Signals Create a Ripple Effect

First, and foremost, in 2015 we got the Paris Agreement (and subsequently its rulebook). This was no mean feat. It set climate goals, gave us global rules for being transparent and accountable, and put governments on a path of continuous improvement to reach those collective goals. It is easy to dismiss global treaties as just words on paper, but this is to ignore the profound ripple effect those words have already had. (The Agreement held firm despite the US withdrawal – but the fillip when it re-joins will be welcome.)  

The political signals set the first ripples off as governments needed climate policies to meet their Paris undertakings. The European Green Deal aims for a sustainable EU economy, with no net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, decoupling economic growth from resource use. The UK will host next year’s UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) – and has doubled its climate finance for the period 2021-2025.

In September this year, China – the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases – announced it would achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Japan and Korea, too, have upped their mid-century targets to bring net emissions to zero.  

The New Zealand Government has set a legislated goal for the country to be carbon neutral by 2050; has amended our Emissions Trading System (ETS) to ensure price signals encourage a move to low carbon; set up a green investment fund; invested heavily in research into reducing emissions from livestock production; and, most recently, made carbon-related financial disclosures mandatory for specified companies, banks, insurers and investment managers. We have also made it our mission to encourage governments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies (some US$400bn each year) that promote excessive consumption.  

The Ripples Reach Cities and Businesses…

The political signals have flowed through to regional and local government. The C40 group (cities around the world working towards sustainability goals) now has 96 participating members – with many cities finding opportunities to collaborate with others in the network on joint projects.

It is becoming obvious that fossil fuel industries are at a disadvantage against increasingly cost-competitive renewable energy. Governments are working out how to manage a ‘just transition’ for the energy sector, while forward-leaning energy companies are re-shaping their business models in anticipation of a low carbon future.

Political signals encourage businesses to factor climate change into their planning and investment decisions. Businesses everywhere have read the political tea leaves and we see weekly announcements of pledges for carbon neutrality, ethical investing, green financing and so on. Whether it is Blackrock or NZ Super Fund making environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations integral to their investments, or Ikea’s IWAY (its ESG code of conduct for itself and its suppliers), business is showing a deeper commitment to sustainability than ever before. 

Some industries will have to be more invested than others in emissions reduction, but this opens a world of opportunity and innovation. Energy & Utilities companies are implementing waste-to-energy solutions – Singapore’s Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF) is set to be the world’s largest energy recovery facility – and adoption of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) facilities is at last gathering momentum across energy systems. Industries like aviation and maritime, too, have to play a key role in a circular economy.

… And Individuals (the Last – and First – Pieces of the Puzzle)

The ripples have spread to individuals – people like you and me. I know there are still plenty of climate deniers around. But mindsets are changing – and when that happens, the ripples become a tidal wave of real change. If we each start thinking we can do it and we will do it, the change will happen. If we make it clear, in our preferences as consumers, and in our expectations of the businesses we buy from or invest in, the change will happen.

The numbers who recognise we must live within our planetary boundaries are growing, values are changing (especially in light of the pandemic), and our low-carbon future is a high-tech one – not hemp shirts and home-made candles (unless of course these are your thing). Digital is a critical part of the story. Blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) is being used to cater to a new generation of consumers, conscious of buying what is good for the world in the face of climate change and biodiversity loss. Food products are being branded using track-and-trace capabilities of Blockchain for ‘farm to fork’ visibility. 

Who doesn’t want to breathe clean air, have lower energy bills, and eat safe and healthy food? Maybe we will see more initiatives like America’s Pledge, bringing together an entire ecosystem committed to fighting climate change, growing the economy, and protecting public health – an ecosystem of states, cities, businesses, universities, and citizens.

We now have the rules, the policy tools, the technologies, and – increasingly – we have the will to act. As we re-build our economies, our businesses, and our lives, let us re-build better. So, I would echo Sir David Attenborough’s optimism – it is just that we do not have his (95 years) lifetime left to put things right.


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For more insights, attend the Singapore FinTech Festival 2020: Impact Summit which will cover topics tied to climate change and sustainability to build a better future

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