February 12, 2019
5 min read

Remarks by Lim Boon Heng at Temasek Chinese New Year Luncheon 2019

Good Afternoon Colleagues, Partners and Friends,

On behalf of Temasek Board and Management, a warm welcome to our annual Lunar New Year Lo Hei and Luncheon. It is great to get together in celebration of this auspicious occasion.

Let me begin by taking this opportunity to express our appreciation to Mr Michael Lien, who retired from the Temasek board in June last year. Michael served as a director of Temasek Holdings from 2010 to June 2018. Thank you, Michael, for your commitment and contributions in the past years!

In October last year, we lost a valued and long-serving member of the board, Mr Kua Hong Pak. He served on the Temasek board since 1996, and made a truly meaningful contribution to Temasek’s evolution. He is greatly missed. Nevertheless, his lifetime achievements are for us to remember and to commemorate.

2018 marked a new milestone for Temasek. It was the year our portfolio crossed the S$300 billion mark in value.

While we continue to build on our commitment to do well as an investor, we are mindful that the enduring success of Temasek as an Institution is tied to the well-being of our environment – be it the business, geopolitical or our physical environment.

Today, we find ourselves in a world obviously shaken by turbulence in the socioeconomic and geopolitical landscape, which you all see.  However, even the physical environment presents increasing volatility. Climate change is real, and its effects have been on stark display all over the world, even again during the past few weeks.

Against this backdrop, organisations, corporations and societies need to stay true to their “Purpose”.

During a recent speech that you probably heard about, Ho Ching posited the three dimensions that drive the Purpose of organisations, institutions and societies alike. These are, Primary mission, People and Planet, or the 3P’s, in short.

I think they are timely and relevant, and should be reiterated.

Businesses exist for the good of society. Therefore, doing social good has to be inherent in the business of a company.

Mr Lim Boon Heng, Chairman, Temasek Holdings

The first P, Primary mission. For many years, it has been postulated that the sole purpose of business is to make the most money for shareholders.  Today it is becoming more widely acknowledged that this definition is not only narrow, but perverse. 

Businesses exist for the good of society.  Therefore, doing social good has to be inherent in the business of a company. 

Naturally, in order to thrive, and to do right, and do good in society, a company has to be profitable. A failing business cannot provide jobs, look after its workers, or properly serve its customers, let alone contribute to society in wider ways.  Hence while being profitable is necessary, the best businesses seek to achieve “sustainable success” – in other words, attaining financial longevity.

The key questions here are: first, what is the inherent purpose of our company?  And then, by doing that, are we generating sustainable returns?

The second P is People. In a knowledge-based economy, there is an emphasis on the role of human capital. This means preparing the workforce, through investments in quality education, skills development, and skills upgrading and re-training.

We can have the best systems and processes in place, but without a skilled and motivated workforce, we will not scale to greater heights. If people are truly our most important resource, how are we building them, and their futures?

We must help our people remain relevant and skilled, in a changing world. Our people make up our wider community. The well-being of our community helps build bridges and goodwill far beyond the workforce.

You will hear more about Project Silver Screen, the first nationwide screening programme for those aged 60 years and above, that I foreshadowed when we came together for the last Lunar New Year. 

This is a neighbourhood-based, “3-in-1” screening of eyesight, hearing and oral health. It aims to improve preventative care for our seniors.  We aspire to make functional screening hassle-free, accessible and affordable. This programme is a partnership between Temasek Foundation with the Ministry of Health, the People’s Association, Silver Generation Office and SG Cares.

Temasek and 14 other organisations have committed to support Project Silver Screen.

I hope more of our portfolio companies will join in this journey of giving, and supporting our older citizens, who have given much to build our nation.

Individuals may also make contributions through donations or volunteerism via Temasek Trust’s online donation platform, at temasekgives.sg.

The programme doesn’t just subsidise the cost of the screenings.  Funds raised further reduce out-of-pocket expenses for devices such as spectacles, dentures and hearing aids for those who need them but may have difficulty attaining them. The project team has already reached out to more than 40,000 seniors and we want to benefit more.

Project Silver Screen reflects an emerging model of social tripartism – where the government, the business community and civil society “Do Good Together”.

The third, and equally important, P is Planet.

Most of you would be familiar with the United Nations SDGs and the facets of our ABC World – an Active Economy of jobs for people; a Beautiful society for justice and inclusion; and a Clean world of fresh air, clear water and a cool earth.

What can we do to contribute to a better world? This question gives rise to a responsibility that organisations should embrace. As leaders of your respective organisations, your actions and decisions can make a difference. This is what we will be addressing today.

In my note to you last week, I articulated the magnitude of the global and national challenge on climate change, and highlighted how we are at an inflexion point towards 2030. Climate change affects us all. It is the central challenge of our times.

In an annual expert survey by Allianz Group (the Allianz Risk Barometer 2019), climate change ranks among the top 5 global risks for companies, along with business interruptions and cyber security risks. 

Singapore is not immune. The CBD in Singapore warmed 8 times faster in the past 5 years than the national average over the past 50 years. As a flat and low-lying island, large parts of Singapore could be under water if temperatures by 2030 go up more than 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial times.

Collectively, we account for a sizeable amount of Singapore’s GDP and workforce. How can we be a collective role model for businesses in Singapore, showing we can better integrate climate change within our business ethos?

Today, we have invited a few experts and practitioners to share some thoughts on this.

We are glad to welcome Associate Prof Switzer, from the Earth Observatory, who will articulate the global implications of climate change, in particular on sea level rise. 

We also welcome Mr Joseph Teo, Singapore’s Chief Negotiator on Climate Change, who will share, at the national level, Singapore’s plans for 2019 as the “Year Towards Zero Waste”.

Finally, Ms Chua Sock Koong will share with us Singtel’s ongoing journey and measures they have adopted in support of climate change, while embracing the UN SDGs.

We have seen increasing evidence of the critical stage we are at in the race on climate change. Urgent action has to be taken.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and any questions you may have during the sessions. Let us work together, to journey towards achieving an active economy, beautiful society, and in particular, a clean and cool earth.

With that, I wish all of you a fruitful session and a Healthy and Prosperous New Year ahead! 新年快乐, 新年进步! (Happy New Year, Wishing things go well this year.)

Thank you!