How is the ‘Garden City’ doing amidst the pandemic

In a National Geographic article (National Geographic, 2017), Singapore was spotlighted as a city which aims to be the world’s greenest. So, three years down the road, how has we fared as a nation?

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore (attraction) Cr: kkday

We have also been pride as a Garden City, with the lush and numerous landscape around our public spaces and urban planning. More recently, we have added several green attractions including PARKROYAL on Pickering hotel and Gardens by the Bay, which have since landed themselves international accolades to undergird this ‘greenery in the city’ further.

PARKROYAL on Pickering, Singapore (hotel) Cr: hotels.com

No doubt we have performed reasonably well in urban greenery, but there’s more than meets the eye in sustainability.

In terms of waste, Singapore is the top producer of solid waste amongst key countries (Bloomberg, 2020), and the ‘leading gap’ is astonishing.

Singapore has been in a Circuit Breaker mode for the past two months which makes the reduction of plastic waste (and all other waste, in fact) difficult. Matter of fact, in just a short span of less than 8 weeks, Singaporean households have already generated an additional 1,334 tonnes of plastic wastes (TODAY Online, 2020), as we are encouraged to purchase take-outs which consumes disposables. Eateries which used to accept reusables have stopped accepting them for fear of contamination due to the pandemic.

For business and economic sustainability, we have reopened most retail businesses this week. In April alone, which was the first month of Circuit Breaker, over 8,500 business entities had reported permanent closure (SME SG, 2020). How dreadful. How can we rebuild this economy? Would it have been better mitigated had our businesses put sustainability on a higher priority before?

Singapore media’s report on Hyflux’s CG lapses

In another perspective, corporates would have placed sustainability as one of their priorities. ESG a key lingo all around, all so familiar. Yet, we still have cases of bad corporate governance emerging every now and then. Latest being that of Hyflux, a water treatment company in Singapore, whose board is now under criminal investigation for corporate governance breaches. Had all the CG commitments been nothing more than a lip service its stakeholders? For as far as I can remember, Hyflux has been in compliance with the Singapore Exchange’s CG, and was definitely not one who was lax in such. It had always displayed above average CG commitment, and now I wonder how many other companies fail to recognise the weakness in their culture and practices.

Closer to heart, the company that I’m employed in currently, is undergoing a privatisation exercise. There may be some changes to my scope (reducing the listing requirements and reporting parts!), but I am definitely not ready to scale back on our standards, being a company that is on top of the CG disclosure ‘game’ in Singapore. We have been consistently placed within the top 15 positions of the Singapore Governance and Transparency Index, an annual exercise which ranks the over 600 listed companies in Singapore.

Sustainability is not a check box exercise that we do, just because it’s being prescribed by the stock exchange or regulators.

Regardless from a corporate, public or personal perspective, we have to recognise that it is highly interconnected and perhaps the word that we should have in our mind is responsibility. Being responsible person, responsible business, responsible governance. Only then can we see the light of sustainability.