The year was 1995 and property developer City Developments (CDL) had just established a new ethos: Conserving as we construct. With this, the company was looking to create greater value for its business and various stakeholders through a strategic integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing, CDL’s chief sustainability officer Esther An tells The Edge Singapore.

At that time, the concept of “sustainability” and “climate change” were not as pressing as they have since become. However, the company felt a strong push in this direction as it “was clear that the industry practices in our part of the world were not the most environmentally friendly,” elaborates An. With studies showing the importance and appreciation people have for real estate — especially since the average person spends around 90% of their time either in office, at home or at entertainment spaces — this seemed like the right path to pursue.

Even though the importance of ESG was not as well known then, getting CDL’s stakeholders on board this move was relatively seamless. “We have always believed in collective action,” she says, adding that ideas, action and impact tend to be amplified through collaborations and partnerships.

Two decades on, the collective action between CDL and its stakeholders has translated into several public-private-people initiatives. One example of this is its Green Lease Partnership Programme rolled out in 2014 with the support of the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and some key tenants. To encourage participation, CDL’s green lease ambassadors guide occupants on how to “green” their offices by conserving energy and water and including greenery indoors.

In another initiative, the company has been organising an annual national campaign called EcoBank alongside Eco-Business, a sustainability-focused publication, since 2016. As part of this, households can drop off pre-loved items such as toys, clothes, books, electronics and household appliances that are in good condition at eight drop-off points located across Singapore. These items are subsequently sold at a bazaar, with proceeds going to a charity of CDL’s choice. Through this, the developer is looking to reduce waste while raising funds for marginalised groups. An estimates that 75 tonnes of pre-loved items have been collected in the four years since the inception of the EcoBank. This, in turn, has prevented close to
19,000 tonnes of carbon emissions that would have occurred had the items gone into landfills.

The way An sees it, having environmentally-friendly initiatives like the Green Lease Partnership and EcoBank have “strengthened CDL’s reputation and trust among stakeholders and the community at large”. The company’s efforts have culminated in it being named a “Champion of Good” in every edition since the inception of the initiative. Launched by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre’s (NVPC) Company of Good in 2017, Champions of Good is a national initiative that recognises organisations that have been exemplary in doing good within their company as well as together with their partners and stakeholders. 

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CDL’s An is humbled by this recognition. “Being recognised as a Champion of Good reinforces CDL’s consistent efforts of turning commitment into action for over two decades, as we continue to strengthen our reputation and trust among the community at large and create enhanced value for our business, communities and the environment,” she says.

Another prominent Champion of Good recognised for the third time is, Keppel Corporation which has business in energy and environment, urban development, connectivity and asset management. By having sustainability at the heart of its strategy, the conglomerate embodies the Company of Good’s maxim of doing good strategically, sustainably and impactfully. “For us, [sustainability] goes beyond reducing carbon emissions or the environmental impact of our operations- we believe in making sustainability our business, by developing solutions that can contribute to combating climate change and building a cleaner and greener world,” CEO Loh Chin Hua tells The Edge Singapore.


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This ideal has driven Keppel’s efforts in providing sustainable urbanisation solutions, as evidenced in its development of an eco-friendly township in the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City and more recently, operations of the Keppel Marina East Desalination Plant. The plant, which is Singapore’s fourth desalination plant, commenced operations in June 2020. It can produce about 30 million gallons of fresh drinking water in a day. This amount of water can meet the demands of about 200,000 households and accounts for about 7% of Singapore’s daily water demand, according to data from the Public Utilities Board (PUB).

Aside from this, Keppel’s Offshore & Marine (O&M) segment has in the past few years, pivoted from its traditional role as a rig builder, towards renewables and cleaner fossil fuels such as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), says Loh. He estimates that some 65% of the $1 billion in new orders received by Keppel O&M in 2020 were provided for with renewables and LNG solutions. This number is set to increase going forward as the company’s transition to cleaner solutions gains momentum, Loh remarks.

Meanwhile, Keppel Corp is also exploring how its expertise in engineering can facilitate the setting up of floating data centres that are said to be more energy efficient than land based ones. The company is collaborating with partners to study carbon capture development, utilisation and sequestration systems as well as the usage of hydrogen infrastructure for power generation and cooling. 

Keppel Corp’s moves are in line with its Vision 2030 to guide the group’s strategy and transformation as one integrated business that provides solutions for sustainable urbanisation, says Loh. To this end, the recognition of being a Champion of Good is affirmation that the company is making headway towards this goal.

Champions of Good
Keppel Corp and CDL are among 74 organisations that were recognised as Champions of Good last year. Champions of Good are organisations that are exemplary in doing good, while being multipliers by engaging their partners and stakeholders on a collaborative journey. While the Champions make their contributions to society in different ways, they each exemplify the values of Company of Good’s four “I” framework: investment, integration, institutionalisation and impact.

Market watchers expect to see more companies doing good, by considering ESG in their decision-making process, especially in the current decade leading up to 2030. This comes as the Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the interlinkage between the health of the planet and the health of its occupants as well as the economy, says CDL’s An. “As the world is focusing on recovering better, greener and healthier from the pandemic, our strong track record in ESG performance will position us well for recovery and allow us to capture even more opportunities in the new value-based economy.” 

Interestingly, such acts of good are said to bring about cost savings to companies. A November 2019 article by professional services firm McKinsey, titled “Five ways that ESG can create value”, shows that the adoption of ESG initiatives can help reduce costs by combating operating expenses such as the cost of water, carbon and raw materials. This can affect operating profits by as much as 60%, the article reveals.

To this end, An is rallying other businesses to embark on their own sustainability journey. Her advice is for them to reduce their carbon footprint, actively accelerate climate action and adopt their own sustainability mindset where people are at the heart of operations and products. “In the decade of urgent action towards 2030, there is no time to waste in delivering the transition to a net-zero, circular and socially-just economy,” she stresses.

Champions of Good recognises organisations that are exemplary in doing good. Check out the full-featured highlights of our Champions of Good 2020 at: companyofgood.sg/champions