New hub for social enterprises aims to spur ideas on sustainability

Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng officiating the opening of Temasek Shophouse yesterday, with Temasek Trust chairman S. Dhanabalan (left) looking on. The new 25,000 sq ft space is a co-working hub for social e
Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng officiating the opening of Temasek Shophouse on Monday, with Temasek Trust chairman S. Dhanabalan (left) looking on. The new 25,000 sq ft space is a co-working hub for social enterprises.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Foreword Coffee is a cafe with a social mission: to empower people with disabilities and special needs by providing them with skills training and employment in the food and beverage sector.

They are also placed in a front-line role serving customers. The company believes that interactions with the public will promote greater understanding all round.

The cafe is an example of a social enterprise that innovates and finds market-based solutions to social issues, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Monday (June 3).

He was speaking at the official launch of the new Temasek Shophouse, a 25,000 sq ft co-working hub in Orchard Road for social enterprises such as Foreword Coffee.

"It is important that we make sure that those who have special needs have employment for a good part of their adult lives, and are able to contribute meaningfully to society," said Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, at the launch.

Organisations that want to create social impact can use Temasek Shophouse to brainstorm ideas, hold project meetings and network with like-minded collaborators.

The space serves as the new office for Temasek Trust, Temasek Foundation and the Stewardship Asia Centre. It also houses the new ABC World Asia Fund, a private equity fund set up by Temasek Trust to invest in companies committed to making social or environmental impact in South Asia, South-east Asia and China.

Mr Tharman said innovation that can make a meaningful impact on sustainability will be critical in changing habits and behaviour.

But these innovations must also make behavioural change appealing to businesses and individuals, or more drastic policy and regulatory actions like "very high" carbon taxes will be needed, he said.

"Developing countries, in particular, which make up the bulk of the world's population, critically need innovations that cut the cost of clean energy and create more sustainable products and services to reduce the trade-off between sustainability and growth.

"Without these innovations, it will be a very high trade-off, and developing countries will choose growth," he added.

Another aim of Temasek Shophouse is to champion "new models" of philanthropy, he said. "We don't just want to grow charitable dollars. We want to achieve lasting impact with the use of the charitable dollars."

He added that Temasek Shophouse will help to build up a social culture of wanting to do good by raising awareness, building networks and promoting active social citizenship.

The first event held at the new space on Monday was the final of fashion show competition Trash to Fash. Organised by Temasek, it saw young designers creating outfits with fabric made from recycled plastic and unwanted materials.

The finalists' designs will be on display at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre from Wednesday to Friday as part of Temasek's Ecosperity 2019 showcase.

  • Additional reporting by Salome Ong

​Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2019, with the headline 'New hub for social enterprises aims to spur ideas on sustainability'. Print Edition | Subscribe