From our friends at Young NTUC and Eco Singapore. They held an outdoor 350 board meeting in the middle of a busy business district to raise awareness about 10/10/10. People were stopping in their tracks to learn about what 350 Singapore is up to!

sites/all/files/singapore_board_room.jpg

From JD Ang at Young NTUC:
I’m pleased to inform you that we’ve (Young NTUC, supported by ECO Singapore) recently got together a group of NGOs and companies to have a 350 Singapore Public Boardroom meeting right in the midst of the bustling central business district during lunch hour, getting about 16000 transient eyeballs, with 1200 of them stopped in their tracks to listen/participate. And of course we’ve put up info about 350, 101010, and what’s up in Singapore for 10/10/10.

The rationale of having this discussion is, more often than not, meetings of such nature are often held indoors and without the participation of the members of the public, who are the stakeholders of the environment as well. Bringing this discussion out enables them to have their inputs are heard, for the formulation of 350 strategies moving on.

sites/all/files/singapore_crowd.jpg

Septermber 22, 2010

Jessica Cheam, money reporter, comments on Young NTUC's public boardroom discussion.


LUNCH hour at Raffles Place is usually a busy affair – but at Chevron House last Friday, there was an added buzz to the usual peak-hour chatter.

Onlookers were greeted by a curious sight – a boardroom table in the middle of the open walkway, with 12 people seated around it having what looks like a boardroom meeting.

The interesting bit? Members of the public could take a seat and join this boardroom meeting, ask questions, and engage with the boardroom members even if they were just passing by for a few minutes.

This unusual idea for a public discussion was hatched by ECO Singapore and Young NTUC, the youth wing of the National Trades Union Congress, as part of its 350 Singapore campaign.

This is Singapore's version of the global '350' campaign that seeks to raise awareness amongst individuals about what they can do to help the world mitigate climate change. The '350' refers to 350 parts per million (ppm) – what scientists regard to be the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide equivalent in our atmosphere to prevent irreversible climate change.

Because the measurement in the atmosphere today reads 390 ppm, there is even more impetus to engage people and businesses to be aware of the issues and adopt actions where they can, said Young NTUC's executive secretary Steve Tan.

This is why Young NTUC decided to strike at the heart of Singapore – deep in the Central Business District – to involve young professionals in the conversations that business decision-makers often have in boardroom meetings, he added.

I was invited to be the moderator of this boardroom discussion, which involved a wide-range of experts and business leaders from private sector to civic societies.

The discussion was a lively affair that lasted almost two hours which focused on what businesses could do to reduce its impact on the environment and how businesses, individuals and the government in Singapore can enable change.

One interesting issue that surfaced was whether businesses should act first, or should consumers push for businesses to be more sustainable?

Mr Wilson Ang of ECO Singapore said consumers should be voting with their green dollar, and buying green products to send the message to businesses that the new consumer landscape has changed. This new era of business involves a more discerning customer – and businesses that do not address their concerns or do not behave in a socially responsible manner would be the failed enterprises of tomorrow.

But Mr Thian Zhiwen, director of biodegradable clothes hanger firm Bloomerang, argued that businesses shouldn't wait for its customers – they have to adopt sustainable practices and 'push' the message out to their clients that they take the environment and sustainability seriously.

A quick poll of the large crowd at Chevron House revealed only four people actively chose to buy greener products from sustainable businesses.

Convenience, cost and culture came up as the major obstacles as to why people were slow to adopt to greener products.

Mr Derek Ong, managing director of Olive Ventures, a green retail store, said cost was unsurprisingly a big issue to pragmatic Singaporeans. But it was a 'chicken and egg' situation – on one hand, consumers are waiting for costs to come down before becoming adopters of greener products. But on the other, costs only come down when companies mass produce to achieve economies of scale – and this requires a certain level of demand.

Culture also stood in the way – the current generation of Singapore residents only know a city that operates to maximum efficiency – streets are swept, and food bowls are cleared for them by systems put in place by the Government. This is a population that rarely thinks about where its trash goes to, or where its energy comes from in this highly-efficient, highly-automated society.

Mr Tay Lai Hock, president of Ground-Up Initiative, joked that if all Singaporeans were made to pick litter up for just one day, and to clean up after themselves, they would be more thoughtful stewards of their environment.

Other board members felt that the Government had a role to play to encourage consumers to be early adopters of greener products and technologies, and hence influencing businesses to provide such products and solutions.

Mr Tay said that although Singapore had managed to grow rapidly in the last four decades while maintaining a liveable environment for its citizens, the Government could do more to push residents in the right direction.

This could range from the outright banning of the use of plastic bags, styrofoam boxes and other offending 'un-eco-friendly' products to using legislation to phase out energy inefficient appliances.

The Government could also provide grants for low-income families to adopt greener technologies that may be more expensive upfront but result in savings in power bills in the future, for instance.

Board members from NGOs such as Mr Landy Eng, Conservation International Singapore managing director, and Ms Carine Seror, WWF director of corporate responsibility, felt that instead of waiting for Government to 'handhold' its population into adopting greener practices, organisations like businesses, schools, town councils and grassroots communities could move ahead of the Government to enact change at the ground level through education and campaigns.
 
On that note, Young NTUC advisor and Member of Parliament Josephine Teo wrapped up the discussion by emphasising that 'every little step counts' and that she hopes Singapore's environmental movement will gain momentum yet.

Judging by the interest this public boardroom discussion has generated, I am positive that it will. Young NTUC has indicated they will repeat this format of discussion and perhaps, also take it into Singapore's heartlands in the near future.

I think it's a great idea.

For more information on Young NTUC's 350 Singapore campaign, go to www.350singapore.com

For more climate movement news, follow 350 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

FacebookTwitter