Top Sustainability Trends

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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were launched by the United Nations (UN) as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. Meanwhile, the next five years promise an estimated US$2.1 trillion in climate-related sustainable business opportunities alone, according to a report last month from international climate change non-profit CDP. Here are some top sustainability trends in various sectors to keep an eye out for.

Sustainable investment

In October 2018, Standard Chartered launched the world’s first blue bond, raised by the Republic of Seychelles. These bonds are essentially debt instruments issued by governments, development banks or others to raise capital in order to finance marine and ocean-based projects that have positive environmental, economic and climate benefits.

This is in addition to the bank’s decision last September to stop funding new coal plants to contribute towards sustainable economic growth.

Considering how today’s consumers, particularly millennials, are socially conscious, it is unsurprising that sustainable investments will come into play. For retail investors interested in sustainable investing, Standard Chartered also offer a number of options such as Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) funds and stocks of companies which publicise what they are doing in the ESG space. Sustainable investing is uncorrelated with poor returns, according to a research in 2015, and investors need not sacrifice financial gains to make positive impacts.

Sustainability-linked loans

P2P lending, micro loans, and crowdfunding are just some of the common loan types available. The pool of loan types is expected to grow larger. In September 2019, City Developments Limited (CDL) obtained a $250 million sustainability-linked loan from DBS to promote the SDGs. It will not only allow CDL to trial fresh solutions to improve the way its properties are built, but also raise the overall performance and quality of its buildings.

In addition, CDL will be eligible for a discount on the loan’s interest rate when it achieves sustainability-related performance targets that were mutually agreed with DBS. By doing so, the loan actually complements global sustainability trends and align with the Singapore government’s vision for smart cities, green innovation, climate action, and sustainable development and financing. As part of its sustainability blueprint, CDL has committed to achieve an average of two innovations or new technology adoptions per year by 2030.

Beyond ‘No Straws’

In Singapore, about 2.2 million straws are used everyday. In light of that, over 270 F&B outlets has stopped giving out plastic straws as of July 2019. As part of a voluntary World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) initiative called Plastic Action (Pact), these outlets will only provide straws on request or for specific medical reasons. Some have even opted for paper straws, pasta straws, sugar cane straws and rice straws instead since biodegradable plastic alternatives may not necessarily be better for Singapore. This is because biodegradable plastic wastes make a difference to the environment if they are buried in landfills to be degraded. However, more often than not, it ends up in the incinerator.

Beyond just saying no to plastic straws, packaging and everyday materials will start to make responsible shifts to compostable, recyclable and biodegradable options. The move to lower plastic use is not without reason. One out of four fish and tap-water samples saw micro plastics in them. By 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight, which may implicate human health. 

Reward for environmentally friendly customer decisions

Being environmentally conscious is expected to become more and more rewarding as firms incorporate it into their marketing efforts. At The Clementi Mall, The Rail Mall and The Seletar Mall, customers who bring their own reusable containers can enjoy perks when they purchase drinks or meals. This campaign is in partnership with Zero Waste Singapore and in line with the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources’ Year Towards Zero Waste effort. Not only is this beneficial for the environment, it also this drives traffic to the malls and allow customers to learn more about what they can do to contribute to planet Earth.

Science and Technology aiding sustainability

Singapore firms are increasingly looking to science and technology for solutions that can curb climate change, pollution and the over-consumption of resources. For instance, high-tech systems can be in place to allow farmers to predict yield and the waste generated by their produce. In addition, novel paper packaging materials can also protect food from oxygen or moisture degradation to retain freshness.

To strengthen local climate science capabilities, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources will also set up a new climate science research programme office in 2020. The National Research Foundation (NRF) has also launched the Marine Science Research and Development Programme to spur research into how Singapore can better cope with emerging challenges such as climate change, heavy shipping and urbanisation. Science will undoubtedly play a larger role in the field of sustainability.

Increased social action

With social media, there is now more power to the people. Consumers are taking to social media to demand action from governments and businesses about the urgency to address climate change. Gen Z, in particularly, are starting to enter the workforce and will overtake millennials to become the largest generation of consumers by 2020. Vocal, they are able to engage stakeholders and demand for a change. Social action pertaining to sustainability is expected to increase.

Beyond just online engagement, real-life action may be increasingly common. In Australia, thousands of children from over 20 cities left their classrooms to protest the Australian government’s inaction on climate change after being inspired by a 15 year old Swedish girl.

2030 goals

The 2030 agenda for sustainable development is a plan of action in areas of critical importance to humanity and the planet. Namely, 5Ps will be addressed- People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership.

Eradicating poverty, including extreme poverty, is one of the biggest global challenge alongside human rights, hunder, and gender equality. All countries and stakeholders will need to collaborate to resolve this and ensure that no one will be left behind. For instance, one of the targets to end poverty is to ensure that extreme poverty, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day, will be eradicated for everyone everywhere.

Public and private partnerships and collaborations are expected to be aligned with these goals.


Sustainability is undeniably an important conversation to have, not just in Singapore and the region, but also the world. In fact, beyond just saving the environment, being green can also allow firms to save money. Find out how SMEs can be green while cutting costs.

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