Speech by President Halimah Yacob at Global Compact Network Singapore Apex Corporate Sustainability Awards Gala Dinner

21 November 2022

Ms Goh Swee Chen

President of Global Compact Network Singapore


Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


Good evening. It is a pleasure to join you this evening at the Singapore Apex Sustainability Awards Ceremony 2022, organised by the local chapter of the United Nations Global Compact – Global Compact Network Singapore (GCNS).


Congratulations to all nominees for being leaders in corporate sustainability and demonstrating excellence in embodying the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact.


The past few years have been challenging for businesses and civil society. But we witnessed the enormous strength and resilience of Singaporeans through the pandemic, and we have emerged stronger. Today, we must build a more sustainable and just future with the same enduring spirit. One of the biggest crises we face is climate change.


We can no longer ignore the impacts of climate change. Singapore is already facing flash floods, rising temperatures and sea levels. The Centre for Climate Research Singapore has projected that by the end of the century, Singapore may experience an increase in daily mean temperatures by as high as 4.6C.


This could lead to even more occurrences of extreme weather events, and businesses would bear the brunt of these changes. A rise in temperature could also result in higher energy demand for cooling. We will see supply chain disruptions that will directly affect businesses’ bottom line. However, it is not all doom and gloom. Businesses are also the very catalysts that can bring about the change we need for the communities they operate in. They can lead by example to green their operations, and develop innovative solutions that enable us to move towards a more sustainable world.


Today’s event marks the seventh year of the Singapore Apex Corporate Sustainability Awards. Despite the rigorous judging process and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, I am heartened to learn that more companies have applied for the awards and that the quality of the applications is increasing every year.


The theme of this year’s Awards ceremony is “Enabling a just and inclusive transition, for a more sustainable world”. Indeed, Singapore is taking a-whole-of-nation approach to drive sustainable development under the Singapore Green Plan 2030. Achieving global net-zero objectives will require unprecedented economic, industrial, and technological transformation across the whole of society, and the collective efforts of all stakeholders.


At the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) that took place earlier this month, Singapore supported the Egypt COP27 Presidency’s efforts, which focused on turning climate pledges into actions and implementing innovative solutions through partnerships. We continued to support the multilateral framework of cooperation on climate change and push for a robust global response. To showcase and reinforce Singapore’s commitment to global climate action, we also launched our first-ever Singapore Pavilion. The Singapore Pavilion is a result of the close partnerships between Singapore businesses, NGOs, academics, civil society groups and the Government. It demonstrates how Singapore is actively planting the seeds of change in our economy, environment, and society to achieve a net zero future by 2050.


In the recent GCNS Summit 2022 held in October, we spoke about Taking Decisive Action. As we do so, let us not forget there are also businesses that may face greater challenges in their transition. This is also where the Government plays a facilitative role in supporting the greening of businesses and industries, while ensuring that we remain competitive and relevant as we transition into a low-carbon world.


The shift to a more sustainable economy will have significant impact on workers and communities - some positive, others negative.  There are clear and foreseeable risks for those who are least able to adapt to environmental and economic changes. Let us continue to advocate sustainability inclusiveness through upskilling of workers, knowledge, and capacity building.


There are many opportunities that we should seize as we embrace a greener, low-carbon world. Consumers are demanding more environmentally sustainable goods and services. Investors are channelling more finance towards businesses with clear sustainability strategies and climate goals.


The Singapore Government actively supports this transition and will continue to work with different stakeholders to prepare businesses and workers for a low-carbon economy. In doing so, we must ensure that our businesses and workers are equipped with the skills to take advantage of the green technologies and practices crucial to the future economy.


Tonight we recognise the efforts of businesses, early adopters and trailblazers who have made significant contributions to global climate action. They have heeded the call to pivot their businesses for a greener tomorrow.


One of the winners for Sustainable Solutions this year is N&E Innovations, whose business came about when Covid-19 started and supply chains got disrupted. They developed circularity solutions by using cashew nut waste and converting it into antimicrobial compounds that are non-toxic, all natural and have a longer term protection effect. This is definitely an inspiring case of transforming crisis into opportunity, and is a good example of the Singapore spirit.


The larger enterprises are no different. We have four multinational companies winning the Awards this year. For these companies, it is no longer about compliance and reporting, but going beyond with a strong emphasis from the management team on incorporating well thought sustainable practices to achieve the triple bottom line of profit, people and planet.


One such example is the APEX winner for this year, from Sodexo Singapore. Sodexo Singapore showed unwavering commitment in sustainable practices despite a challenging time of pandemic and supply chain disruptions. They worked closely with their clients, suppliers and employees to reduce and manage food waste, redeploy and retrain staff whose roles have been made redundant by the pandemic, and implement strict control to ensure supplies are coming from sustainable sources.


I would like to congratulate all the winners of the Singapore Apex Corporate Sustainability Award 2022. Your strive for sustainability excellence is exemplary. I encourage all businesses to take decisive action today and play a role in our collective mission to create a more sustainable future where no one is left behind.

Thank you and have an enjoyable evening.

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