Firms have huge part to play in Singapore's transition to climate-resilient economy: Grace Fu

Climate action will cause some industries to fade away and new ones to emerge in their place. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Private enterprises have a huge part to play in Singapore's transition towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy, said Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu on Monday (Oct 11).

She highlighted the challenges of climate change which businesses will have to adapt to, such as disruptions to supplies of natural resources, and noted how sectors such as the car industry may be affected in this transition.

"Climate action will cause some industries to fade away and new ones to emerge in their place," said Ms Fu, who was speaking at the opening of the Corporate Governance Week, held virtually by the Securities Investors Association (Singapore), or Sias.

She urged companies to start planning and executing their transition, and to seize opportunities in the green economy brought about by green technologies and consumer demand for sustainable products and inclusive corporate cultures.

Sias chief executive and president David Gerald called on firms to adopt sustainability in their corporate governance framework and place greater focus on long-term development.

Doing so not only has a positive impact on the environment, but also builds resilience within the company, he said.

Given companies' outsize contributions to the economy, there is an "urgent call" for them to take action on the sustainability front rather than solely focusing on short-term financial performance, Mr Gerald added.

But he acknowledged that the pivot towards sustainability is not without its challenges - including addressing the differences in investment horizon as well as how sustainability efforts are measured.

In her address, Ms Fu recounted how at Sias' fourth Corporate Governance Week in 2013, she had called for more female representation on the boards of companies. She reiterated that appeal on Monday.

"Having more qualified women in leadership helps to accommodate the needs of women at workplaces, and is a marker of an inclusive and future-oriented organisation. This is crucial as our workforce growth slows, and when every member of our population, man or woman, is important," she said, adding that the rise of feminist movements and increasing societal disdain for misogynistic work environments further reinforce the need for women to be represented on company boards.

More than 600 individuals from over 100 companies signed up for this year's Corporate Governance Week.

Webinars and panels - on topics including sustainability as well as governance issues such as corruption and shareholder rights - will be held during the week-long event, which runs till next Monday.

Speakers and panellists for this year's event include Ms Mathilde Mesnard, acting director of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs; Professor Erik Vermeulen from Tilburg University, who specialises in business and financial law; and Professor Lawrence Loh, director of the Centre for Governance and Sustainability at the National University of Singapore Business School.

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