The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has placed sustainability higher up its agenda, as it mobilises the financial services industry towards the same direction.
Singapore’s central bank cum financial industry regulator has launched a series of programmes to lift the financial industry’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.
In addition, MAS has also announced the appointment of Gillian Tan as its new chief sustainability officer (CSO). This is on top of her existing role as assistant managing director (development and international).
Tan takes over from Darian McBain, who joined the financial industry regulator last October. McBain will serve in an advisory role until December when she leaves “to pursue other interests”.
She joined MAS last October after six years at Thai Union Group, the world’s largest seafood producer, where she was global director of corporate affairs and sustainability.
Tan joined MAS in January 2015 from the Attorney-General’s Chambers in Singapore, where she had served as director of the financial and technology crime division. She was also a district judge during her time with Singapore’s legal service.
In Tan’s current role, she oversees strategies to develop Singapore as an international financial centre, including sustainable finance capabilities and solutions. She also chairs the Asean Taxonomy Board work group developing the Asean Taxonomy Plus Standards and serves on the Advisory Board of the Singapore Green Finance Centre.
As CSO, she will also lead an expanded Sustainability Group (SG) that will enable more coherent strategy development and tighter coordination across MAS’s sustainability initiatives.
The SG will work closely with the Development and International Group to build a vibrant sustainable finance ecosystem and catalyse the region’s net-zero transition, says MAS. The SG will also work with the Financial Supervision Group to strengthen the climate resilience of Singapore’s financial services sector.
The SG will coordinate MAS’s growing involvement in global and regional sustainable finance forums and work with the Singapore government to achieve the nation’s climate change and sustainability ambitions, says MAS.
“Promoting sustainable finance and climate resilience have grown significantly in the last two years as areas of priority for MAS,” says MAS managing director Ravi Menon.
“MAS is grateful to Darian for leading our SG, fronting our engagements with external stakeholders, and contributing to the growth of Singapore’s sustainable finance ecosystem. Darian was instrumental in the setting up of the ESG Impact Hub. I wish Darian every success in her future endeavours, and look forward to Gillian taking MAS’s sustainability work to the next level,” he adds.
ESG Impact Hub
Separately, MAS launched the ESG Impact Hub on Oct 5, a physical space within premium workspace The Great Room, the anchor tenant of the Afro-Asia building along Robinson Road.
The Hub will anchor sustainability initiatives like the Point Carbon Zero Programme, a collaboration between MAS and Google Cloud launched in July and targeted at supporting climate fintech.
McBain says the ESG Impact Hub is a critical milestone in Project Greenprint’s journey to build a vibrant and robust ESG ecosystem in Singapore, underpinned by technology and data.
MAS’s Project Greenprint is a joint effort with the Singapore Exchange (SGX) to simplify, standardise and improve corporate disclosures. “This physical hub will augment MAS’s plans to launch a digital Greenprint Marketplace next year to catalyse the growth of the region’s online ESG community; and will serve as the launchpad for public-private partnerships that support Asia’s just and sustainable transition to a low-carbon economy.”
As of Oct 4, the ESG Impact Hub members include specialist recruitment firm Acre Resources, international not-for-profit sustainability disclosure database CDP, Singapore-headquartered environmental credit marketplace Climate Impact X, plastic waste-focused investment management firm Circulate Capital, and food supply chain data company Eachmile Technologies.
The list also includes ESG reporting software developer Equilibrium AI, seafood sustainability platform Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability, smallholder farm-focused not-for-profit Grow Asia, global audit and advisory firm KPMG, and Japanese bank MUFG.
Rounding out the members are blockchain-based ESG fintech Stacs, global consultancy Stonehaven, carbon management platform venture Terrascope, global environmental non-profit The Nature Conservancy, and sustainability assurance fintech World Wide Generation (WWG).
Along with the Hub launch, the MAS also announced a Sustainable Finance Advisory Panel (SFAP) to help guide its strategies and initiatives. Among its 10 members are Celine Herweijer, chief sustainability officer of HSBC; Jane Ambachtsheer, global head of sustainability at BNP Paribas Asset Management; Paul Bodnar, global head of sustainable investing at BlackRock; and Stephen Howard, chief sustainability officer at Temasek.
Menon says: “We had a rich and insightful discussion with the SFAP. We discussed the various issues pertinent to the net-zero transition — climate science, sectoral pathways, the nuts and bolts of transition financing, and the importance of adaptation finance in a world that has already begun to experience climate change. The discussion will help to further sharpen MAS’s sustainable finance strategies and initiatives.”
The SFAP will meet again next year.
The UK-based WWG is also the operator of ESGenome, a digital disclosure portal that helps companies here generate sustainability reports. Launched on Sept 12 by MAS and SGX, ESGenome is one of the four digital platforms within MAS’s Project Greenprint.
Companies can use the free ESGenome portal for baseline sustainability reporting based on a set of 27 “core ESG metrics”. This comes as SGX expects climate-related disclosures in FY2022 from listed companies on a “comply or explain” basis.
While SGX does not expect every company to use ESGenome for their sustainability reports, regulators are considering making the portal mandatory for listed companies.
Once ESGenome achieves a “critical mass of data”, investors will be able to access comparable sustainability reports across listed companies, says Chan Kum Kong, managing director and head of research, SGX Group. “In an ideal world, these metrics should be readily available, much like financial statements currently, because there will be consistency and comparability.”
Chan says developing the platform took more than a year. This included a four-month pilot of the platform with more than 40 participating liscos, such as Singapore Telecommunications, CapitaLand Investment, Lendlease Global Commercial REIT, First REIT and OUE Lippo Healthcare.
MAS will draw on the learnings from ESGenome to address the reporting needs of the broader universe of corporates, notably small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and supply chain partners and suppliers.
With comparable data, for example, SMEs would be able to submit green loan applications with ESGenome’s reports, says Chan.
SGX and MAS are footing the bill for developing and maintaining the platform. While Chan declined to reveal the cost of the project, he notes that “at some point, it needs to have a self-sustaining angle”. “We will look towards some of the analytics downstream to see how we can have a revenue line to this,” he adds.
On Oct 14, the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) launched the ABS Sustainable Private Banking and Wealth Management Guidelines, comprising principles for private banks to integrate sustainability considerations with their business models and practices.
The guidelines, developed with technical input from World Wide Fund for Nature (Singapore), establish a baseline for sustainability practices to be integrated into private banks’ business models, and will cover private banking activities from wealth planning and investments to financing.
At the same time, the Private Banking Industry Group (PBIG) Sustainability Taskforce, in consultation with the Institute of Banking and Finance Singapore (IBF) and MAS, has developed a common industry training benchmark to upskill private banking relationship managers in the area of sustainability.
Ong-Ang Ai Boon, director at ABS, says: “This set of guidelines will help private banks and their clients in the transition towards a low-carbon economy. The association will continue to support our members by facilitating capacity building and sharing of best practices in sustainable private banking and wealth management.”
MAS’s Tan, who is also co-chair of PBIG, says: “We are seeing growing demand for sustainable investments among high-net-worth individuals and family offices. The launch of a sustainable-finance training benchmark for private banking professionals will further enhance their ability to advise their clients on sustainable investments and facilitate the channelling of wealth towards purposeful causes. I encourage all private banks to refer to this benchmark as they identify or develop suitable training to deepen their sustainability talent pool.”
Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore