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Sustainability as a business driver

Organisations committed to sustainable practices can enhance growth, boost efficiency and create long-term value for stakeholders

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Mr An says China Everbright Water is committed to sustainable business growth in harmony with social and environmental development.

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Mr Tan says CMT is well-placed to support community sustainability initiatives with a network of 15 strategically located shopping malls.

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Mr Kwek says CDL has aligned its corporate and sustainability strategies with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

ROUNDTABLE PARTICIPANTS

  • An Xuesong, CEO, China Everbright Water Limited
  • Tony Tan, CEO, CapitaLand Mall Trust Management Limited
  • Sherman Kwek, Group CEO, City Developments Limited

Moderator: Vivien Shiao, correspondent, The Business Times

Q. As the economic environment gets increasingly volatile, what edge does sustainability goals give to businesses?

Mr An: The key to sustainable development lies in the integration and coordination of economic development, social harmony and environmental protection. By incorporating these three major factors into the business strategy, decision-making and operation when developing strategic goals for sustainable development, enterprises will be able to navigate in an uncertain macro environment, without sacrificing its long-term interests or growth due to the current situations.

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China Everbright Water Limited adheres to its corporate mission of "Creating Better Investment Value and Undertaking More Social Responsibilities". The company pursues development that is driven by innovation, and is devoted to identifying a sustainable development roadmap that places equal emphasis on economic, social and environmental efficiencies.

Mr Tan: As the largest retail Reit in Singapore, we are cognisant of the impact that our properties have on the environment and community. For instance, we are committed to minimising environmental impact in areas such as resource depletion, carbon emissions and waste generation by setting environmental targets and implementing measures to achieve them.

CMT's sustainability objectives and strategies are aligned with CapitaLand's credo, 'Building People, Building Communities.' And we uphold this approach across human capital strategies, asset and portfolio strategies, operations management, stakeholders' engagements and community development.

Mr Kwek: Organisations that have clear sustainability goals to address environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues which are material to their business will be better positioned to address risk, enhance business growth and reap long-term competitiveness. Many corporations today, including CDL, have aligned their corporate and sustainability strategies with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

With this integration, not only are businesses addressing the community's growing concerns of global issues, but they are also focused on creating shared value. Stakeholders have turned to these sustainability goals as a proxy to identify resilient companies that are well-placed for the future.In the long run, only businesses with a strong commitment to sustainability will be able to adapt to growing regulatory pressures and stakeholder expectations.

Q. How has your business benefited from emphasising sustainability?

Mr An: Everbright Water is committed to sustainable business growth in harmony with social and environmental development, as the company develops its environmental protection business. As a leading water environment management enterprise, Everbright Water has treated approximately 9 billion cubic metres of waste water over the years, transforming waste water into clean water and operating in harmony with the local communities. Many projects of the company have opened up for public scrutiny, which enhances their operational transparency, and helps enhance mutual trust with the local communities.

The company has implemented the Environmental, Safety, Health and Social Responsibility (ESHS) Management System and Risk Management System. As a result, the standards of project investment, construction, operation and management have been continuously improved, boosting the company's overall efficiency and proficiency for the long term.

Mr Tan: CMT has identified a list of ESG issues based on the likelihood and potential impact on our business and society. By leveraging three technologies and analytics to optimise energy and water use, as well as waste management across our properties, we are equipped to manage our business more efficiently and create long-term value for all stakeholders.

Q. What are some of your latest sustainability initiatives undertaken in the past year?

Mr An: Everbright Water has opened up its operating projects for public visits, welcoming public scrutiny and striving to improve the transparency of the project operations.

In addition, with the enhanced implementation of the ESHS Management System and Risk Management System, a number of the company's projects received a number of important recognitions for their excellent performance in construction and operations management.

For example, Everbright Water's Xinyi Economic Development Zone Waste Water Treatment Project was selected as one of the "2017 Case Studies on Third-Party Service Providers for Industrial Park Environmental Pollution Treatment" by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of the People's Republic of China.

Mr Tan: With a network of 15 strategically located shopping malls in the suburban areas and downtown core of Singapore, CMT is well-placed to support community sustainability initiatives.

For instance, CapitaLand partnered StarHub to introduce e-waste recycling bins at several location, encouraging shoppers and tenants to recycle e-waste. In 2018, the total e-waste collected at our shopping malls weighed 18.5 tonnes, equivalent to almost 95,360 iPhones.

With CMT's latest redevelopment of Funan, we took the opportunity to introduce green features. More than just reimagining the retail experience, Funan is home to Singapore's first urban farm in a mall open to the public.

It is designed to support a car-lite lifestyle, reducing carbon footprint through the provision of green lots for electric cars and end-of-trip amenities for working professionals in and around Funan who cycle to work.

Mr Kwek: Accounting for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, the built environment has a critical role in shaping a low carbon economy.

CDL has proactively implemented initiatives for low-carbon operations. To accelerate our climate action, we have adopted the science-based emissions reduction targets and climate change scenario analysis.

These efforts help to future-proof our business by identifying solutions that facilitate risk mitigation and continuous adaptation. CDL will continue to explore low-carbon technologies and materials, renewable energy and emissions reduction initiatives to enhance climate resilience. We have also extended our sustainability commitment to financing.

CDL's green bond and green loans have enabled us to tap like-minded banks and partners that are supportive of our sustainability best practices while establishing a closer alignment of our ESG commitments with socially responsible investors. Our SDG Innovation Loan will enable us to test bed fresh innovations that will exponentially enhance the way we build as well as raise the quality and performance of our buildings.

Q. What are the biggest obstacles when it comes to implementing sustainable practices and how do you overcome them?

Mr An: Given that the environmental protection industry is closely tied to livelihoods, updates of any environmental protection project would attract the attention of the local communities. As a result, Everbright Water has been following relevant laws and regulations. It also proactively promotes community engagement.

The company takes into account social concerns at the beginning stage of every project life cycle, thus ensuring that any arrangement associated with the project development will be properly managed in accordance with applicable laws. Following the commencement of operation, the project will take various measures, such as opening-up of the project for public visits to enhance its transparency, in order to strengthen the recognition and support to the project from the local communities and residents.

Mr Tan: In the retail sector, the support of shoppers, tenants and authorities is needed to bring about change. Stakeholders may require time to be convinced of its merits and the cost of implementation as well as installation may also be prohibitive. Space limitations may also affect feasibility.

For instance, large areas are required for solar panels. To mitigate these challenges, we first pilot initiatives in select malls before optimising and introducing them across the portfolio. We also take the opportunity to introduce sustainable practices during asset enhancement or redevelopment. The rejuvenation of properties such as Raffles City Singapore and The Atrium@Orchard also earned the malls higher Building and Construction Authority Green Mark accolades.

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