SINGAPORE, 14 March 2023 – "We can’t tackle climate change unless we collaborate" – this was just one of the takeaways at the “Championing Sustainability in Finance” panel discussion co-organised by homegrown financial services company Singlife and Women in Sustainability & Environment (WISE) Singapore to commemorate International Women’s Day (IWD).
Hosted at Singlife’s headquarters in Shenton Way, the panel featured women who are leading the charge in sustainability in their respective fields – Pearlyn Phau, Group CEO, Singlife; Gillian Koh Tan, Chief Sustainability Officer and Assistant Managing Director (Development & International), Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS); and Elizabeth Clarke, Director of Conservation, WWF-Singapore; and was moderated by Debra Soon, Group Head, Brand, Communications and Marketing, Singlife.
The audience – made up of WISE members, Singlife employees and members of the public with a keen interest on sustainability – took away first-hand insights into sustainability initiatives in the finance sector, the role of the public and private sector and the importance of collaboration, the interconnectedness of climate challenges, the need for talent, actionable tips for their professional career, and much more. They also had the opportunity to network and connect with inspiring and like-minded women and male allies.
Addressing what companies need to have in place, Pearlyn emphasised that having top of the house leadership, commitment, and vision, as well as oversight and guidance as to whether the right moves are being made to meet targets that have been set are critical to move the agenda forward. “We want to ensure we have initiatives that we can reasonably and realistically embed and execute, and targets that we can track and meet. It’s not just about checking the boxes.”
On the topic of talent, Gillian highlighted the need to be deliberate in mapping out talent strategies in sustainable finance. She shared that MAS is taking steps to ensure that Singapore has a pipeline of necessary talent in the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) space. “This includes quantifying the size of the opportunity, the demand and supply of jobs, down to the specific roles that will be created across sectors and sub-sectors. This will enable us to map out the baseline of skills needed for all sustainable finance roles. From there, we can design training programmes with educational institutions and centres of excellence.”
Elizabeth brought to attention the importance of nurturing the younger generation. “I’m continually encouraged and impressed by the younger generation coming through. What we can do to help them is to support education and values from a very young age. It doesn’t matter if they become a politician or a lawyer or work in insurance, because if they understand the fundamentals, the values, and the connection, they can apply these in any setting.”
Also discussed was setting clear and specific interim targets for industries and companies to head towards Net Zero, with panellists acknowledging that the pace of change has to increase or Singapore will not get to Net Zero by 2050.
Debra added that despite the challenges and change in mindsets, the focus on ESG today is so much more than 20 years ago. "Who remembers the hole in the Ozone layer and Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)? We tackled that before when there was less interest and awareness about climate change, I am optimistic that we will find a way to solve climate issues."
Commenting on the event, Trina Liang, President, Women in Sustainability & Environment (WISE) Singapore said: “WISE’s focus lies in facilitating concerted gender action to ensure the voices of women championing sustainability are heard in equal measure and strength. Partnering with Singlife for this panel was a great opportunity to showcase the representation of women leaders in the business of sustainability. We hope to see more of such conversations advocating for women empowerment at every stage of decision-making, so that they can serve as valued agents of change towards sustainability.”
As part of IWD, Singlife also created a video featuring Pearlyn and four other female employees who shared about their IWD reflections, women’s empowerment, as well as their “Wonder Woman” song – the one that always makes them feel empowered and like they can conquer the world.