June 18, 2019
5 min read

Closing Remarks by Robin Hu at Ecosperity 2019

Head of Sustainability & Stewardship Group at Temasek, Robin Hu, delivering the closing remarks at Ecosperity 2019

This morning, we were simultaneously confronted with the sobering scientific realities of climate crisis, and the despair of our human fallacies. Rising affluence means that consumption has become insatiable whilst resources are depleting alarmingly. 

If one thing is abundantly clear from this morning’s deliberations, it must be that “Earth is no longer suffering in silence, it is crying out for intervention”. There is no justification acceptable for indifference. Not businesses, not government and not consumers – and that is you and I. 

This morning, we were greeted by a simulation of the rising sea level as we entered the ballroom. It might have felt like science fiction, but I’m afraid it’s not. So what’s holding us back? Why are we not acting, or not acting sufficiently?

There are three possible reasons that I can see:

  1. First, we don’t believe enough evidence has been demonstrated or we don’t trust the evidence presented.
  2. Second, we think we can’t do anything about it or simply don’t know how to.
  3. Third, we think it is someone else’s job, not ours. 

We are indifferent to the enormity of climate crisis and the ill consequences of resource depletion like water – which we just saw. If you happen to belong to any of the three categories, I hope that having heard what the experts have shared this morning, you are indifferent no more, because time, as Christiana and Dr Moniz have pointed out, is running out. 

So, how much time do we still have? Will and Naoko-san explained the concept of tipping points this morning. Once reached, devastating effects of climate change will take its own course. In other words, it becomes unstoppable. We don’t have enough time. 

While words like climate change, resource depletion, tipping points, biodiversity loss are accurate scientific descriptors, these words engage our brains in a rather gentle way.

So, what should we do given the existential threats to water, air and earth, the very nature that we have taken for granted, yet nature that is crying out for intervention? This is what the ‘C’ alphabet of the ‘ABC World’ is all about. It stands for Clean Earth – that means Clean Water, Clean Air and Clean Soil. This message is crystal clear and easy to understand, and therefore leaves no room for indifference.

So how do we deliver clean air, clean water and clean soil? We have heard from Christiana, Dr Moniz and others that collectively we can get the job done. There is room for optimism. As an investor, Temasek’s job is to engage companies. We see more companies building their corporate purpose around addressing the most pressing global challenges as described by the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

As a responsible generational investor who exists to build wealth for future generations of Singaporeans, we believe that companies that put sustainable living at the core of their business strategy have a better chance at good and sustainable performance over the long term. They are not solely focused on profit, but they are also accounting for people and planet. Profit (financial), People (social) and Planet (environmental) are the pillars of the Triple Bottom Line.

Let me give you a few examples on companies that put Sustainable Living at the core of their business strategy.   

On Clean Air and to combat urban air pollution, Gogoro from Taiwan has established the world’s first network of smart scooters and swappable batteries. With an innovative technology platform, the company reduces emissions from the scooters and keeps the batteries within its own network – a good example of a circular business model. 

On Clean Water, a Finnish start-up called Solar Water Solutions has adapted the well-established reverse osmosis technology for desalination in a way that it fits into an old shipping container and can be powered by solar energy. The technology is now accessible by remote communities say, on small islands that would otherwise have to depend on pricey, polluting diesel-powered desalination installations.

On Clean Earth, another company from the US, called Pivot Bio, works to address the serious environmental impacts of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, upon which half of the world’s food supply depends. Fertiliser run-off contributes to about 500 ocean dead zones around the globe; decomposes into nitrous oxide which is responsible for about 5 percent of global warming; and prevents the natural ability of soil microbes to produce nitrogen that nourish food crops. 

The future belongs to such companies that understand their purpose is bigger than selling products and making money. Companies that understand they hold the key to making this world a better place for our future generations.

We believe all companies and individuals can contribute towards our environment. But if the environment is not your company’s core strategy, worry not, for the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals cover every conceivable area of need. You will find purpose if you seek to make impact.

Ecosperity has entered into its sixth year.  Some of you are here for the first time and I hoped you have been informed. Some of you are here for the second time, in which case, I hope you have been inspired. For others who may be here for the third time, I expect you to have been activated – having taken personal steps to adjust your lifestyle, and implementing business strategies in your companies to produce products and services to advance sustainable living; and embracing the UN SDGs.

For those of you who are here for the sixth time, collect your badge of honour on the way out. On a more serious note, we must strive to be champions of sustainability. And being a leader comes with great responsibility to inspire and activate your colleagues, friends and loved ones into real action to drive exponential impact. 

So, here are the three steps of Ecosperity: Be Informed, Be Inspired, and Be Activated.

Ecosperity stands for the conviction that Ecology and Prosperity can go hand-in-hand. Today not only have we demonstrated that is it necessary, but it is also possible. We will take stock next year and let me now just make a plug: Ecosperity 2020 will be held in this very location, on 6-8 July 2020. We will be calling on you.  

With this, let me thank all of our partners, the speakers, moderators, exhibitors, and the organising team for helping us and spurring us from ambition to action.

Thank you. Be Activated. See you next year.