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Boosting the triple bottom line

The Singapore Apex Corporate Sustainability Awards aim to promote sustainability efforts here.

The winners and knowledge partners of the Singapore Apex Corporate Sustainability Awards 2017 (from left to right): Tan Khai Boon, Partner, KPMG; Chris Ryan, Marine Training Manager, AkzoNobel Marine Coatings; Ravi Krishnaswamy, Vice-President and Global Leader Energy and Environment Practice, Frost & Sullivan; Michael Boardman, Group Chief Financial Officer, Sindicatum Renewable Energy Company; Mark Day, Vice-President and General Manager, Armor Asia Imaging Supplies; Goh Swee Chen, President, Global Compact Network Singapore; Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance; Andy Low, Director, Neutrinos Engineering; Kazuhisa Goto, Managing Director, Ricoh Asia Pacific; Maxime Pourrat, Managing Director, Winnow; Kelvin Lim, CEO, New Resources Technology; Verity Thoi, Manager, Centre for Governance, Institutions & Organisations; Chia Khong Shoong, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Corporate Officer, Frasers Centrepoint Limited; Wong Weng Sun, President and CEO, Sembcorp Marine; and Briony Mathieson, Head of Corporate Communications, Olam International.

In today's business world, more companies are embracing the fact that sustainability is not only good for the environment and the communities they operate in, but beneficial to the bottom line as well.

There is plenty of research to back this up. For instance, a report by the Business & Sustainable Development Commission showed that business leaders and entrepreneurs can unlock new market opportunities worth US$5 trillion and generate 230 million jobs in Asia by 2030 through sustainable business models.

Beyond sheer numbers, there are also many other commercial reasons to pursue sustainability. "Non-financial reasons for embracing sustainability include attracting and retaining talent, especially millennials who want to work for a meaningful and purpose-driven company," said Wilson Ang, executive director of Global Compact Network Singapore (GCNS). "Enlightened consumers and investors increasingly hold companies accountable for their impact on society and the environment at large. Businesses with good sustainability practices have reputational capital, and may be a competitive differentiator."

GCNS is the national lead agency promoting corporate sustainability, providing a one-stop service for businesses in their sustainability journey. As the local chapter of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), GCNS promotes UNGC's 10 universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, anti-corruption and the environment at country level. Since its inception in 2005, GCNS has raised the level of awareness and adoption of corporate sustainability in businesses through collaboration between relevant stakeholders and practitioners in businesses, government and civil society.

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Today, the sustainable movement is gaining traction worldwide among governments and businesses. Last year, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Accord came into force.

And in 2016, the Singapore Exchange introduced sustainability reporting on a "comply or explain" basis. This requires Singapore listed companies to publish a sustainability report at least once a year. The aim is to enhance the visibility and value of SGX-listed companies among investors seeking sustainable investments.

Raising awareness

The annual Singapore Apex Corporate Sustainability Awards is one of GCNS's key initiatives to champion corporate sustainability efforts among businesses in Singapore and the region. This year's awards were held on Nov 8. The awards are aligned to the principles of the United Nations Global Compact and recognise companies that attain the triple bottom line of social, environmental and financial benchmarks.

"GCNS's vision is to advance sustainability in Singapore for global good. The awards serve as a good reference point for companies who want to begin, broaden or deepen their sustainability journey, and learn from industry best practices," said Mr Ang. "Finalists and winners of the Apex Awards demonstrate how companies, small and large, can embrace sustainability, create innovative solutions, and differentiate themselves from their competitors." He noted that recognition at events such as the Singapore Apex Corporate Sustainability Awards will help increase the pace of sustainability adoption in Singapore.

Beyond the awards, GCNS also holds dialogues with its members, an annual summit to help businesses gain insights into the latest global corporate sustainability trends, networking sessions as well as training workshops. Mr Ang said that GCNS will build on the good work of previous presidents - including Claire Chiang, Olivia Lum and the late Kwek Leng Joo - who played a major role in establishing and shaping the corporate sustainability landscape in Singapore. "Going forward, GCNS will continue to be the lead agency for Corporate Sustainability in Singapore," he said.

To better achieve its goals, GCNS is looking to form strategic partnerships and collaborations with other like-minded organisations. This year it has already inked formal partnerships with the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre to develop a Trustmark to help companies in their sustainability journey, and the National Trades Union Congress to reaffirm commitment in the green jobs sector. And later this year, GCNS will enter into MOUs with other public and private sector organisations to promote sustainability in key industries.