With Climate Change As First Priority, Temasek’s Initiatives Are In Line With Singapore’s Sustainability Plans

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Singapore-based investment company Temasek recently announced that Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, currently the CEO of their commercial arm Temasek International, will succeed Ho Ching in her roles as Temasek CEO and executive director from October of this year, with Pillay emphasizing that climate change will be the main focus for the firm going forward. This is in line with Singapore’s several sustainability intiatives taken both, by governments as well as corporates.

Pillay, who is Indian, holds a Master of Law from the University of Cambridge and a Bachelor of Laws from the National University of Singapore. He was the former managing partner of law firm WongPartnership, bringing 20 years of legal experience to the new role along with being on the boards of the National Research Foundation and Enterprise Singapore, as well as an esteemed member of the National Jobs Council.

Joining Temasek back in 2010, Pillay was appointed CEO of Temasek International in 2019, where he presently manages its investment and portfolio activities.

Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng mentioned that in his new position, Pillay will oversee Temasek’s ‘stewardship role’, specifically in its constitutional responsibilities to safeguard its own past reserves as a Fifth Schedule entity.

During his briefing held at Temasek’s Dhoby Ghaut office, Pillay said that Temasek’s focus and biggest consideration is climate change. “In continuing our mission to generate long-term sustainable returns beyond our current generation, core to our success will be our commitment to build a better, more sustainable world. Leveraging our Temasek ecosystem and our global network of relationships, I am confident that we are in a good position to embrace the opportunities, and face the challenges, of today and the future. Our collective focus will be on doing right and doing good, even as we strive to do well, with conviction and purpose, as we continue to do things today with tomorrow clearly on our minds.”

This priority for climate change is in sync with Singapore’s focus as a whole given that in the past few years, Singapore has been making massive strides when it comes to food technology, setting up funds for food security and promoting a sustainable way of living through various pledges and initiatives.

Singapore – A Food Tech Hub

For instance, in December of last year, Eat Just, the pioneering food tech behind the plant-based JUST Egg, received approval from regulatory authorities in Singapore to use cultured chicken as an ingredient in chicken bites making this approval the world’s first-ever acceptance of cell-based meat for safe human consumption giving the alternative protein sector a huge push.

Adding to this, the San Francisco startup’s co-founder and CEO Josh Tetrick said that Singapore will ‘at minimum’ serve as its Asian headquarters and will continue to play an even bigger role in the future, revealing that the company is ‘considering’ housing its global manufacturing hub for its new cell-based meat line dubbed Good Meat in the city-state. 

“Singapore for us will be at a minimum the base for Asia. And we’re considering Singapore as the hub for global manufacturing of what we call our brand’s Good Meat, [with] a facility or two in Western Europe and a facility or two in North America,” said Tetrick.

Apart from this, the Singapore government in its own capacity is launching funds and policies that will strengthen the country’s food security system.

For instance, in a recent announcement, the Singapore government will dedicate S$60 million (US$45.2 million) for a new agritech fund that will focus on supporting farmers through the use of technology that ultimately boosts domestic food production.

While explaining the country’s annual budget, Singapore’s finance minister Heng Swee Keat said: “The Agri-Food Cluster Transformation Fund is intended to ‘continue supporting technology adoption in the agrifood sector’, replacing the earlier Agriculture Productivity Fund that had been set up in 2014.”

In September last year, nine urban farms in the country were awarded close to S$40 million (US$29.3 million) under the government’s latest grant that is aimed at strengthening the city-state’s local food production and food security with most of these farms working on growing fresh vegetables and fruits using tech-forward solutions such as AI solutions. 

Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment said: “While we continue to plan to tackle our long-term challenges, we also need to respond swiftly to the immediate global food supply challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Supporting our agri-food industry and augmenting their production capabilities remains a key strategy in strengthening Singapore’s food supply resilience.”

The grant is an addition to the city-state’s earlier S$100 billion (US$72 billion) plan to adapt to a climate-stricken future.

Singapore’s Green Plan 2030

Additionally, Singapore unveiled its Green Plan 2030 that showcases a range of 10-year sustainability goals such as planting 1 million trees across the city, a 30% reduction in per capita landfill waste, along with the creation of a ‘carbon services’ sector.

This plan is in line with the country’s commitments under the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and Paris Agreement, and other initiatives include requiring all new car models to use clean energy sources and to support this, more than double the targeted number of electric vehicle charging points will be installed by 2030.

The plan is also taking these initiatives to classrooms aiming for at least 20% of schools to be carbon neutral by 2030, with the rest of the schools to follow, in an effort to reduce two-thirds of net carbon emissions from the school sector.

Zero Waste Policy

In 2019, Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) announced that year as the ‘Year Towards Zero Waste’ with an effort to raise awareness about waste and kickstart habits like reducing, reusing, and recycling among the citizens.

With Singapore’s Semakau landfill predicted to run out of space by 2035, this plan outlined several ways that Singaporeans can reduce waste such as buying only what is necessary, recycling waste properly to avoid contamination, giving away excess food to those in need, and eliminating any single-use disposables.

And in just the first month of operation, the collection rate of bottles and cans increased more than 30 times along with supermarket chain FairPrice charging for plastic bags at 25 of its outlets.

A 2015 Accenture report predicted that the circular economy could unlock US$4.5 trillion of global economic growth, driven by uncertainty in the future supply of many natural resources and the fickleness of commodity prices.

Hence, Temasek too has developed plans for the next decade, with the company committing to halve its net carbon emissions by 2030.

“I think that if we do the right thing, things will turn out well for us, and by extension our stakeholders as well. We will build our capabilities in areas like AI, blockchain, digital, (digitalisation), cyber, and sustainability, all very important things, because they go to the health of the companies that we’re invested in, for long-term sustainable returns. That’s how we will approach it.”

Even in food tech innovation, Temasek has made massive investments for instance, it was one of the first funds globally to invest in Impossible Foods, a California-based company that makes plant-based burger patties that claim to taste like conventional meat. Just recently, it led a S$103 million (US$75 million) investment round, which is Temasek’s second investment in the food tech.

Recently, Temasek has been offering its support to encourage sustainable solutions for climate change such as the newly launchedSustaintech Xceleratorthat includes partners like DBS and Google, and the platform aims to help those who are developing innovative tools to improve the monitoring and verification of environmental, social, and economic impacts of nature-based solutions (NbS).

It also extended its backing to Chinese food-tech venture capital Bits x Bites who recently raised US$30 million in the first close of its US$70 million fund investing in technologies that aim to transform China’s agri-food supply chain. And in July of last year, the Temasek Foundation awarded Singapore-based startup TurtleTree Labs S$1 million (US$718,800) after winning The Liveability Challenge 2020. The company will use the prize money to create a pilot product in Singapore and scale-up its biotechnology solution for slaughter-free lab-grown milk with full functionality from all mammals.


Lead image courtesy of Temasek.


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