Singapore firms slow in green practices may be ‘too little, too late’: Teo Chee Hean

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Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean speaking at Ecosperity Week 2022.
Businesses that fail to incorporate green practices are at risk of being written off as "too little, too late", according to Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean. (PHOTO: Temasek)

SINGAPORE — Businesses that do not incorporate sustainable practices are at risk of being written off, warned Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean on Tuesday (7 June).

Teo, who was speaking at the start of Ecosperity Week 2022, a sustainability conference presented by Temasek, said, “As demand for sustainable practices increase, first movers will capture upsides while laggards may be written off as doing too little, too late."

Teo noted in his speech that businesses will be affected not just by the primary effects of climate change, but also by second- and third-order effects which could disrupt their supply chains and operating models.

Growing awareness about the climate crisis has also changed how people define value in business, and what values a company upholds, he added.

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Factors such as climate policies, technological advancements and stakeholder preferences will fundamentally impact the sustainable value of a company, as well as its valuation in the long term.

Firms can no longer focus on short term returns from current assets and business lines, as shareholders, creditors, customers and even employees will demand more sustainable practices and plans.

Teo said that to remain competitive on the long run, firms will need to incorporate decarbonisation and climate risks into their strategies.

“Questions will be asked about your companies’ strategies to avoid stranded assets or legacy lines of production that may be rendered obsolete,” he said.

He cited the oil and gas industry, which has been under the spotlight in the conversation for climate change. The big five oil giants - Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and ConocoPhillips - had responded by pledging to reduce emissions.

The first three companies, which have major operations in Singapore, have committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

Teo noted that the private sector and private finance also play an important role towards a greener economy. The industry could provide investments to plug a financing gap or lead by adopting greener business models.

“Sustainable private financing and corporate net-zero targets have a powerful mutually reinforcing effect, by drawing capital preferentially towards sustainable projects and new opportunities in the global green economy,” said Teo.

This would make it more difficult and expensive for firms to obtain financing if their projects are not green.

To this end, he referred to GenZero, an investment company focused on carbon markets and accelerating decarbonisation solutions which was launched by Temasek on Monday.

Temasek committed S$5 billion to the platform, which will invest in companies across tech-based solutions, nature-based solutions, and carbon ecosystem enablers.

Singapore also needed to invest in research and develop innovative ways to to tackle the climate crisis.

To do this effectively, the government needed to create a conducive environment that promotes green opportunities, spurring the private sector to invest in emerging technologies and the scientific and research community to focus on developing innovate solutions.

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