Ordinary Singaporeans least aware in Asia of sustainable investing: Survey

Only 26 per cent of the Republic's adult population on average have heard of environmental, social and governance investing.
Only 26 per cent of the Republic's adult population on average have heard of environmental, social and governance investing.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Singapore may have big plans to go green, but a majority of its people have no idea how to invest in that emerging economy, a study has found.

Only 26 per cent of the Republic's adult population on average have heard of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing, according to a survey released on Tuesday (June 22) by investment manager Fidelity International.

In terms of awareness, the survey - dubbed Asia Sustainable Investing - placed Singapore at the bottom of the region. 

Across Asia, 43 per cent of the respondents said they were aware of ESG investing, 57 per cent wanted their money to make a positive change in the world and 63 per cent agreed that it was important to act responsibly and sustainably as investors.

Fidelity said the survey, conducted from April 12 to 19, was aimed at analysing the sentiment of ordinary savers and investors across mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan towards sustainable investing.

Close to 10,000 respondents were surveyed across the region, including 1,327 in Singapore, Fidelity said. 

Most respondents across the region showed positive sentiment towards the idea of ESG investing - with 57 per cent saying they want their money to make a positive change in the world and 63 per cent on average agreeing that it is important people act responsibly and sustainably as investors.

In Singapore, 56 per cent felt that they lacked the tools and information to start saving and investing sustainably and 44 per cent did not know how to select ESG funds and investments.

Singapore, however, stood out in the region as having the highest proportion of respondents - three out of four - who agreed that individuals can make a positive change in the world.

Mr Jenn-Hui Tan, Fidelity's global head of stewardship and sustainable investing, said: "It's clear that there is a gap between people's desire to use their money for good and having enough knowledge and confidence to realise that desire through sustainable saving or investing."

Fidelity said that in Singapore, the appetite for sustainable investing is growing, with 49 per cent of the survey respondents who were not originally aware of ESG investment saying that they are now interested in it.

Combined with the 17 per cent who are aware of ESG investing and would consider it in the future, a total of 66 per cent of Singaporean investors are considering sustainable investing.

Earlier this year, the Government launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030, which aims to quadruple solar energy deployment by 2025, have at least 20 per cent of schools be carbon neutral by 2030 and all newly registered cars be cleaner-energy models from 2030.

The Government has also announced plans to issue green bonds to fund up to $19 billion in public sector green projects.

Singapore Exchange offers suites of ESG investments in different asset classes, including ESG-linked equity index derivatives, sustainable bonds, ESG-related commodity derivatives, ESG indexes and ESG stock ratings.

In 2019, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) launched its Green Finance Action Plan, followed by a US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) Green Investments Programme.

Last year, MAS launched the Green and Sustainability-Linked Loan Grant Scheme to support companies in green and sustainable finance, and this year it started Project Greenprint, a technology platform to promote a green financial ecosystem.

While Singapore regulators are prompting green finance, the lack of public interest may have constrained the ESG product pipeline, Fidelity said.

Mr Tan said: “The supply of ESG products is low because the interest from Singapore retail investors is currently limited.”

He said that there is also a role the financial industry needs to play in raising awareness and addressing any concerns around ESG products to help retail investors make informed decisions on investing their savings.