Sustainable businesses can create 230 million jobs in Asia by 2030

Chinese workers checking solar photovoltaic modules on a hillside in a village in Chuzhou, China, on April 13, 2017.
Chinese workers checking solar photovoltaic modules on a hillside in a village in Chuzhou, China, on April 13, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Sustainable businesses can unlock new market opportunities worth US$5 trillion (S$6.91 trillion) and create 230 million jobs in Asia by 2030 through sustainable business models, according to a new report by the Business & Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC).

This represents about 12 per cent of the Asian labour force, noted the Better Business, Better World Asia report, which was presented at the Ecosperity conference organised by Temasek Holdings on Monday (June 5).

The energy and minerals sector accounts for a lion's share of the economic value at US$1.9 trillion, followed by city infrastructure development at US$1.5 trillion, food and agriculture at US$1 trillion, and health and well-being at US$670 billion.

Of the US$5 trillion worth of opportunities, about half of it could be found in China, US$ 1.1 trillion in each of India and emerging Asia, and the remaining US$0.7 trillion in developed Asia, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.

Speaking at the conference, themed "Tomorrow Starts Today", Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng noted the urgency of achieving sustainable development.

"If global consumption continues at the same rate and global population reach 9.6 billion by 2050, the UN estimates that we need three planets to sustain our lifestyle," Mr Lim said in his opening remarks.

Mr Lim also spoke of the "profound" impact of global warming which could cause sea levels to rise by up to 30cm by 2065, and cities' contribution to 75 per cent of global carbon emissions despite occupying only 3 per cent of Earth's land area.

"Preparing for tomorrow really needs to start today," Mr Lim added.

Sustainability will also help to drive businesses. Citing a recent Goldman Sachs study, Mr Lim said 93 per cent of millennials, and 73% of women, agree that environmental and social impact is important in their investment decisions.

Investors are also taking note of sustainability-themed investments.

From 2012 to 2016, such investments have grown 14.6 per cent on a compounded annualised basis, to US$2.3 trillion according to the Global Sustainable Investment Review.

"Many of these opportunities will be in Asia. Last year, China was the top issuer of climate bonds, amounting to US$246 billion or 36 per cent of the world's issuances. All these developments point to the fact that there is no better time to do well, and to do good," Mr Lim noted.