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  • Bryan Tan

Each One Of Us Has A Responsibility To Be Greener - Making the Cut with Claire Wong

We speak to Claire Wong, Head of DBS Foundation, on how each of us has a part to play in going green and how DBS is pushing their sustainability agenda through their three pillars and commitments to social enterprises.

Q: How do you pick which social enterprises to work with?

So for us, I think what we're passionate about is really about businesses being able to create impact. When we look at the criteria, we do want to support enterprises that first, have the potential for a sustainable business model that enables them to scale their business and doing so, scale their impact as well.

Second, of course, would be, what sort of problem are they trying to solve? For example in Singapore, we do see many enterprises seeking to solve the problem of increasing income inequalities, trying to be more inclusive.

In many of these enterprises, we also then look at the founders and the team. Being a social enterprise is difficult and we do believe that the people behind it have to be a special group of people who can navigate those challenges.

Q: So tell me a little bit about some of the great initiatives from these social enterprises and how they leverage technology to achieve their goals as well as to achieve some of the causes?

There's a lot of technology out there, and I think people are trying to use technology for many different things. You know, like to make lots of money, right? But I think it would be amazing if we can really use technology to provide access to millions of people, to health care, education, livelihoods, credit and so on, so I do passionately believe that technology can be used for greater impact.

So there are many social enterprises that we support to that end. For example, we support a social enterprise called 'Reach 52', and they aim to use technology and their platform to reach the 52% of the world's population that does not have access to health care.

Their platforms are being used today in the Philippines and we've provided them with a grant to open up in the Indian markets and now they're moving on to many other markets as well. So I think technology enables that, opens up markets that were never accessible before.

Q: Since we're sitting in a BMW, I thought I'd talk a little bit about what sustainability means at the BMW group. Basically, the idea, the values, and the practices of the circular economy sit at the heart of the group. It's a holistic approach to sustainability where you're not just looking at electric vehicles, but how the electric vehicles are manufactured to sourcing for raw materials, recycling, cutting down emissions of course and hiring a diverse group of individuals. So on that same note, what does sustainability mean for the DBS group?

At DBS, our sustainability agenda is underpinned by our three pillars. The first pillar focuses on responsible banking, and that looks at the heart of the bank's products and services, what sort of lending products do we have? How can we encourage customers to come on this sustainability journey with us as well? And a big part of responsible banking is also about financial inclusion, it's also about the people.

The second pillar of our sustainability agenda focuses on our business practices. So how can the bank walk the talk in how we procure, what we do and how we hire? These are all the things that we also think about.

The third pillar of our sustainability agenda focuses on creating an impact beyond banking. Most recently in February, the bank also announced an additional S$100 million commitment towards helping to enhance the scope of the DBS Foundation, as well as contributing additional resources toward philanthropic and other forms of giving. We're excited about this additional commitment, and we hope that enables us to grow our impact beyond banking in a time that we believe is much needed.

Q: The BMW iX that we're in now, is the company's technology flagship as well as a fully electric vehicle. On that note, how do you think Singapore is doing as we hit a fully EV future? How do you think we're doing for the next ten years at least?

I do think that we have come a long way, probably ten years ago I wouldn't have envisioned that we would have EVs so commonly used. I mean, I say commonly, but more common than it was before.

That will have a huge environmental impact and that has to do with making charging stations more accessible. I think we all need to work toward a more inclusive environment, each one of us has a responsibility to be greener.

Q: I know that DBS is committed to being net-zero by 2050. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

I think as a bank, we are committed to us achieving net-zero operational carbon by 2022 and we've also committed to having transparent disclosures. I think we were the first Singapore bank to sign on to the Equator Principles, which is a risk management framework for a lot of our lending practices in the infrastructure sector.

And finally, we're also steadily tracking towards zero thermal coal commitment by 2039. So these are some really important commitments that the bank has made on this journey that we're on towards net-zero.

Q: Let's talk a little bit about the individual, throughout the conversation we've talked about sustainability, making sure that it's inclusive and there's a hint to how the individual can contribute. What is your advice to us as individuals and how we can help to turn things around?

So I think the work that we have ahead of us is tremendous and I think every one of us has to play a part. I think it starts from the very, very small things as individuals.

When you look at just our lifestyles, how can we make small changes in our everyday habits? For example, for me recently I decided, okay, if I'm going to order coffee regularly, how can I make sure that the people that supply my coffee are sustainable? So I currently do procure coffee on a subscription basis from social enterprises.

Because I know that this lifestyle change for me and I'm sure for many of us, are things that we do consistently in our lives. And so if you make one small change, it can have a ripple effect of helping not just the environment but also helping the people that this enterprise supports as well.


This content is brought to you in collaboration with BMW Asia.

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