Singapore Sustains

2 people walking in the Singapore forest

As the world embraces the return to in-person meetings and events worldwide, the resurgence is taking place against a background of growing corporate focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

The challenge, in an era of concerns about ‘greenwashing’, is how to make such aspirations a reality. In a whitepaper from American Express Global Business Travel and supported by the Singapore Tourism Board, key strategies and approaches offer essential advice to help travel and meetings professionals deliver sustainable events.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Travel and meetings professionals are responding to the swelling demand for greener events: more than four in five (83%) say their organisations take sustainability into account when planning meetings and events.
  • As they look beyond Covid-19 to recovery, businesses continue to prioritise sustainability, building measures to reduce their environmental impact into their growth strategies.
  • A growing movement for accurate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to capture the environmental impact of their activities and explore how they can influence traveller behaviour with respect to sustainability
  • Corporate buyers are also looking to the supply chain to help them achieve sustainability goals. Many are sourcing for suppliers that adhere to sustainable practices and 70% of the respondents indicated that they place high or medium emphasis on green certifications and credentials when selecting a supplier.
  • Respondents have indicated that selecting green hotels is the top priority with 76% of respondents wanting their travellers to book with energy-efficient hotels and event venues, whether by encouragement (63%) or mandate (13%). Almost two-thirds want to see their travellers consume sustainable food options (56% encouragement, 6% mandate).
  • The issue of sustainability is becoming embedded in the decision-making process: it is now a top priority for corporate RFPs. That means the ability to monitor and improve environmental performance; effecting reporting at every stage of the planning and delivery process, and the removal of barriers that prevent the delivery of less damaging meetings and events.

The Amex report focussed on the essential pillars – the 3PS – Planet (environmental sustainability) People (employee wellbeing) and Profit (effective cost management.) Applying those techniques to events could include initiatives such as low or no-carbon ground transportation; effective public transport (from metro to free e-bikes); venues and hotels with a recognised green certification programme; and strategies for supporting local catering providers and so reducing ‘food miles.”

Singapore’s support of the Amex research is an obvious one. Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) places the nation in Asia’s top 3 for sustainability performance, but ambitions dwarf those statistics. The Singapore Government has set out its strategy to make the country a global leader in sustainability, where sustainability is a process and not just an end goal. The country will see 50% more land being set aside for nature parks – with an additional one million trees being planted – and every household living within a 10-minute walk of a park.

Singapore has always prioritised sustainability and placed it at the forefront of its long-term social and economic strategic planning. ‘Green’ measures are now woven into the infrastructure of the economy, with emphasis placed on reducing waste and increasing the use of renewable energy sources Businesses are also rewarded for sustainable business practices as the government ramps up efforts to create a green economy with green jobs. In 2021, the government also launched the Green Plan, outlining a focus on six pillars — a green government, a city in nature, sustainable living, energy reset, a green economy and a resilient future — along with bold ‘green’ targets to be achieved by the year 2030. By then, at least half the city’s public buses and public taxis will be electric, and by 2040, all the city’s public buses will transition off diesel and run on cleaner energy. New initiatives include goals to double electric vehicle charging points, reduce carbon waste by 30 percent by 2026, and to review carbon tax so that only the best-in-class carbon-intensive investments enter the country.

The effects of generating a culture of embedded sustainability have been embraced by the MICE sector, giving event organisers extensive support when embarking on their sustainability journey.  Singapore Tourism Board launched sustainability guidelines in 2013 that build on the ISO 20121 International Standard for Event Sustainability Management. These guidelines cover the entire business events ecosystem, from hotels and venues to event organisers and meeting planners. It even includes transportation, food and beverage, and audio-visual set-up providers. Singapore’s Hotel Sustainability Roadmap announced in March 2022 sets out clear targets and strategies; at least 60% of the country’s room stock will reach an internationally recognised sustainability standard by 2025, with the intention of achieving zero emissions by 2050. The Plan will position Singapore as a top sustainable and innovative urban destination. The recognition is that ‘green business is good business’, increasing the appeal to global organisers as well as tapping new visitor segments.

Paper and plastic make up more than a third of the waste generated at events. The country’sMICE venues have also made paper and plastic waste reduction a significant part of their operations. Resort World Sentosa (RWS) stopped using single-use plastic straws, water bottles and tableware at all its venues saving more than 100 tonnes of plastic annually. In 2021, RWS also introduced Eco-MICE packages for sustainable events, which include serving meals in sustainable packaging and providing reusable pens and recycled paper at events. Affirming the integrated resort’s ongoing sustainability journey, the Global

Sustainable Tourism Council honoured RWS with its ‘Destination Criteria and Industry Criteria for Hotels’ certifications.

Many hotels in Singapore have incorporated sustainable measures that go beyond planting a few extra trees on its compounds. Park Royal Collection’s Marina Bay is Singapore’s first garden-in-a-hotel and is home to one of Southeast Asia’s largest indoor atriums that also function as natural air purifiers. With its solar panels and double-glazed glass ceilings, the hotel reduces energy consumption by an estimated 160,000 kWh a year. Its sister hotel Park Royal Collection Pickering boasts 15,000 square metres of skygardens, reflecting pools, waterfalls, planter terraces and cascading vertical greenery.

In a world where organisers are demanding the highest standards of sustainability running through every facet of their events, Singapore is designing an ecosystem that delivers.

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