The sustainability imperative
May 14, 2021
May 14, 2021
From the fringes of awareness, sustainability is stepping into centre stage. Governments, organisations and more people are now making sustainability a priority in their daily operations and future planning. Sustainability may turn out to be the theme that will present us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reimagine how we will be working, playing and living on this sunny island, and continue to be a leading global hub.
COVID-19 has brought to the forefront the risks of climate change as we experienced supply chain disruptions and the disproportionate impact the pandemic had on communities globally. Consumers are more concerned now about the impact of climate change on the environment than prior to the outbreak. Through our study on the “State of Sustainability in Singapore” with WWF, 80% of consumers in Singapore say they care about sustainability and a third of consumers indicated they would make most purchasing decisions based on product sustainability and environmental impact. This represents opportunities for businesses to better engage with consumers as they embed sustainability into their business strategy.
In Singapore, there is also a strong government push towards greater sustainability efforts and this has helped accelerate existing trends and create new shifts for urban ecosystems. In the recently announced Singapore Green Plan 2030, the government unveiled a national sustainability movement to advance the national agenda on sustainable development.
Under the Energy Reset pillar, the nation will quadruple its solar energy deployment by 2025, including covering the roof tops of HDB (public housing) blocks with solar panels, and powering its local waterworks by solar energy.
In land transport, the government has outlined the vision to phase out internal combustion engine vehicles and support the growth of electric vehicles (EVs). This is being backed up by policy – including revising vehicle tax structure to make it easier to buy and own EVs. And in tandem with this, the government plans to double the number of EV charging points to 60,000 by 2030.
This presents immense opportunities for vibrant cities to be reimagined as usage of spaces changed, as physical and digital divide blurs, and as new business models are formed, giving rise to whole new behaviour change. The possible scale of change before us suggests immense opportunities for the private sector to partner the government now to accumulate insights, experiment with new models – from urban planning to the way people commute and how energy is being consumed through the day – to allow us to redefine how work, play and living will take shape in the future.
The potential of technology to create thriving cities that respond to everyday needs is especially powerful when we focus on delivering on the promise of technology and human ingenuity by evolving from a technology-centric masterplan to a more holistic community and citizen-led concept.
In the post-COVID world, there is a new value that exists at the intersection of digital technologies and sustainability. Businesses that pursue the path of twin transformation, a combination of digital and sustainability transformation, are 2.5 times more likely to be among tomorrow’s strongest-performing business.
Companies are already accelerating their digital transformation because of the pandemic. The twin transformation approach will also enable companies to adopt Green IT, make data-driven decisions to optimise its supply chain, generate cost-effectiveness and lower carbon footprint, supporting more agile and stronger business growth as they tap on the regional or global ecosystem.
Industry convergence such as transport and platform services will become increasingly common as technology adoption changes consumption patterns. Ecosystem collaboration will also be key to unlocking new value.
With the government’s initiatives supporting the modernisation and revitalisation of the economy, industries have begun to respond in a more concerted manner.
For instance, in response to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) call to promote sustainable finance, banks in Singapore have announced their plans to increase the weightage of sustainable products, such as green loans, green bonds and Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) investments, in their portfolios.
Being the backbone of economies, such actions by the financial sector will encourage more companies to embrace sustainability to gain access to green loans or green bonds. Greater consistency within a green finance framework and a more harmonised approach to ESG ratings would improve transparency and trust, and create comparable metrics, which will boost market confidence and activity.
In the transport sector, other than EV taking the spotlight in Singapore with the Green Plan, there are new opportunities that will arise as consumer patterns on public transport, ride sharing and car ownership change. This will also create opportunities for other industries including energy as cities modernise their grid infrastructure.
Like how the financial sector plays an important role in the functioning of an economy, the energy industry powers the smart city. There’s an unstoppable momentum towards a low-cost, available, reliable, decarbonized energy system that drives growth and enhances living standards. As energy companies branch out into other areas such as storage, mobility or infrastructure, Singapore would provide them with a springboard to capture opportunities in the region as more countries embrace the notion of smart cities.
These industry changes have an implication on the future workforce and skill sets required. For instance, it will require new inter-disciplinary talent set such as a combination of data analytic skills or industry specific skills and environmental skills. Companies will need to anticipate the required skill sets and ensure that their workforce is not left behind.
At Accenture, we are committed to acting for impact. Apart from our own sustainability goals such as achieving zero net carbon emissions and moving to zero waste by 2025, we work with clients across industries and geographies to integrate sustainability approaches into their business strategies, operating models and critical processes. As such, our people are constantly upgrading their skill sets and gaining varied industry experience that enable them to help governments and organisations uncover new possibilities and facilitate sustainability by design.
We are on the cusp of a major transformation and there are endless possibilities to how our city state will look like in 2030.
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