With the spotlight on the Singapore Green Plan 2030 at Budget 2021, we took the opportunity to chat with the leaders of SGTech's newest Committee - the Sustainability Committee. They are:
Andy: Sustainability is a topic closely discussed at the SGTech Council. E-waste took on greater relevance in the past two years, with the Resource Sustainability Act (RSA) passed into law and the tender by the National Environment Agency (NEA) for a Producer Responsibility Scheme (PRS) operator to collect, treat and recycle e-waste.
We started engaging with NEA in Q4 2020, rallying the industry and drawing consumer tech companies, such as Panasonic, Canon and Sony, to join us and speak with one voice. We want to play our part to provide feedback from the industry and work with NEA to make Singapore's e-waste management programme more successful.
Through this engagement, we have also found other supportive stakeholders, and the Council decided that it was time to focus our energies by forming a Sustainability Committee.
Gavin: E-waste is a huge problem to solve. NEA highlighted that about 60,000 tonnes of e-waste are generated every year in Singapore. Many of our members are also the Producers defined in the RSA. We are a community the government wants to engage.
Boon Pin: Our Committee comprises many SGTech members who have experience in Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programmes in other parts of the world. We can help by sharing our experience with other countries' systems and suggesting how we can adapt their successes to suit Singapore's unique conditions.
Andy: We need to look at the issue beyond collection. The e-waste puzzle is about education, creating incentives to change behaviours, modifying entrenched processes and having the proper infrastructure.
Tech companies can play a more prominent role in this effort. They can redirect part of their social responsibility budgets and channel resources and knowledge to support the cause.
Boon Pin: The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we are interconnected, both socially and economically. We have seen the slowdown in business activity leading to a reduction in pollution levels, which is positive for the environment. There is a worry that once economic activity ramps up, the pollution will return.
The new generation of consumers also prioritises sustainability when choosing suppliers of products and services. Being sustainable is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have for them.
Andy: Companies must embrace sustainability or risk being left behind. Many countries are requiring suppliers to demonstrate responsible manufacturing in tenders. MNCs also include such requirements to keep a closer account of their global supply chain and procurement. Companies must be prepared to account for their carbon footprint to do business.
Also, as we see with the millennials entering the workforce, companies that do not have a clear position on sustainability will fail to attract talent to join them.
Gavin: We can see this from two perspectives. One, like Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said, climate change is an existential threat to Singapore. Businesses and individuals will all be affected.
Two, Singapore is hosting many energy-intensive industries. These need to be sustainable; Singapore is creating green growth opportunities, such as being a hub for carbon trading, energy efficiency and clean energy.
Sustainability and sustainable business practices are relevant both for survival and to thrive on new opportunities.
Andy: On the business and people level, it is all about awareness and attitude and better civic consciousness.
Boon Pin: Many tech companies, especially large enterprises, are already doing their part. Their products are energy-efficient, and they use post-consumer materials in their packaging.
The government can provide incentives to get more SMEs to adopt green practices and develop environmentally-friendly products. In the Singapore Green Plan 2020, the government announced the Enterprise Sustainability Programme, which aims to help firms embrace sustainability and develop capabilities in this area. We look forward to hearing more.
Gavin: Sustainability also means following sustainable business standards that can guide your supply chain. SMEs must change their practices if they want to participate in tenders. They similarly must examine their supply chain practices and clean up their carbon footprint to stay in the game.
For sustainability to succeed, it cannot be driven top-down only by the government. It must involve everyone right from the consumer and up.
Boon Pin: I agree. Singapore is so efficient that many of us don’t know how our waste is treated. Few are aware that our Pulau Semakau landfill will run out of capacity by 2035. Individually, each of us must change our mindset and rethink our habits and how we do things. We need to let others know and be proactive to make a change.
Andy: We want to raise awareness of sustainability among tech companies in Singapore.
Also, we will engage with the government to expand the e-waste programme beyond waste collection. The programme should be about the circular economy, involves the three Ps – Public, Private, and People.
Gavin: I see the Committee's role as building the community partnership with the government.
SGTech can build on our pool of Producer members and begin to engage sustainability professionals across different verticals. Every corporation growing its sustainability efforts should be part of our Committee. We already have representatives joining us from the telcos and also e-waste experts from the universities.
These sustainability initiatives require us to build thought leadership and flesh out the circular economy for e-waste.
Boon Pin: We also want to explore how SGTech can drive collaboration with other industries, to “cross-pollinate” our ideas, to create a more meaningful impact. For example, engaging FMCGs to study their initiatives on product packaging and, in exchange, share what the tech industry has learnt.
Through SGTech, companies can aggregate our energies and efforts to engage and influence stakeholders – government, consumers and partners - to support our cause.
In the next few months, SGTech's Sustainability Committee intends to reach out to members to prioritise our focus areas, further engage with NEA on the PRS, and launch a new community e-waste pilot programme.
We welcome interested companies to join us. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.