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Remarks by Mr Lim Boon Heng, Chairman, Temasek, at the 2017 Ecosperity Conference

5 June 2017


Good morning distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome Lord Mark Malloch-Brown and commissioners of BSDC. Welcome to our fourth annual Ecosperity conference and a warm welcome back for those of you who have been to this event before.  

Ecosperity derives its meaning from two words – Ecology and Prosperity. 

It is a recognition that growth can - indeed must - take place in a sustainable manner, where economic prosperity should go hand in hand with protecting our planet for future generations.  So every year, we bring together leaders like yourselves to robustly exchange views on different topics, to share best practices, and to “spark” ideas on what can be done to help build a more sustainable tomorrow. 

Some of you might recall that previous Ecosperity conferences were held in September. This year marks the start of our shift to the June window to coincide with a very special day today. Today is also World Environment Day.

The UN first designated a World Environment Day at the start of the UN conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm exactly 45 years ago. The aspirations and challenges that motivated our leaders nearly half a century ago continue to drive us today.



Our theme this year – Tomorrow Starts Today – recognises the urgency of this task.

Consider these facts:

Just over 50% of the world’s population now live in cities. By 2030, it will be 60%. Despite occupying only 3% of Earth’s land area, cities contribute 75% of global carbon emissions.

Global warming could cause sea levels to rise by up to 30 centimetres by 2065, and the world might get warmer by more than three degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The impact is profound, from the survival of coastal areas to the availability of arable land for farming.

If global consumption continues at the same rate and global population reach 9.6 billion by 2050, the UN estimates that we need three planets to sustain our lifestyles; meaning three Earths.[1]

Preparing for tomorrow really needs to start today.



This emphasis on sustainability has always been a part of Temasek’s DNA.  We invest for generations to come; we promote sustainability and good corporate governance in our wider community.  Ultimately, we seek to make a difference, to help secure the long term wellbeing of our economy, people, and communities.

You might have noticed references to an “ABC World” in the introduction video.  At Temasek, we have organised the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals into 3 pillars –the ABCs of sustainable development.

This organises our efforts by making it easier to explain how the goals work together to achieve our common, sustainable future.

“A” stands for Active Economy.  A vibrant and dynamic economy provides the foundation for strong communities by generating wealth, creating jobs and uplifting lives. Through investments in education, infrastructure and innovation, we can promote responsible growth and a more equitable share of our prosperity.

“B” stands for Beautiful Society, a society that is cohesive, inclusive and resilient. By overcoming poverty and hunger, reducing inequalities and through access to quality health care and education, we create the basis for a community that embraces the values of justice and respect.

Last but not least, the letter “C” represents Cool and Clean EarthIt means ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy the natural resources that we have today so that they can build a better tomorrow.



There is no better time to achieve this ABC vision.  In January this year, the Business for Sustainable Development Commission, or BSDC for short, launched the flagship report, “Better Business, Better World”. 

The report highlights the 12.3 trillion US dollars of economic opportunities in industries that can support the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Collectively, these sustainable industries can create up to 380 million new jobs.

Asia alone will account for nearly half of these economic opportunities. To contextualise this better for Asian businesses, Temasek has partnered the BSDC to launch the Asian edition of the report at this year’s Ecosperity.  I am very happy to see Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, the Chair of BSDC, and many other commissioners here today. Lord Mark Malloch-Brown will be sharing more of the key takeaways from the report in a few moments.

Companies are starting to place sustainability at the core of their business operations. 

Unilever’s “Lifebuoy” brand of soap is well known for its programmes to help communities improve their health and well-being. Lifebuoy has also been responsible for almost half of Unilever’s growth in 2015, growing 30% faster than the rest of the business. [2] Agri-business Olam has worked with its 4.3 million farmer suppliers to pursue sustainable practices. At the end of 2015, 30% of tonnage procured was under Olam’s Supplier Code of comprehensive conditions to purchase sustainable products.[3]

I am delighted that Unilever CEO Paul Polman and Olam CEO Sunny Verghese and other business leaders are present today to share their experiences with us.

Consumers are also driving businesses to focus on sustainability, especially millennial and female consumers; so men please take note. Based on a recent Goldman Sachs study, 93% of millennials, and 73% of women, agree that environmental and social impact is important in their investment decisions.[4]

Investors are also starting to take note of sustainability-themed investments. From 2012 to 2016, such investments have grown 14.6% on a compounded annualised basis, to 23 trillion US dollars.[5]

Many of these opportunities will be in Asia. Last year, China was the top issuer of climate bonds, amounting to 246 billion US dollars or 36% of the world’s issuances.[6]

All these developments point to the fact that there is no better time to do well, and to do good.



This year, we have over 350 participants from more than 40 countries attending Ecosperity. We have participants from the business community, public sector, civil society, NGOs, academia and the scientific community.

I am especially pleased to welcome student leaders from the Young Leaders Dialogue – a parallel programme of about 100 students from around the region – who are joining us via live video link.  The future belongs to them. It is so important for tomorrow’s leaders to begin thinking about sustainability issues.

This diverse audience also reflects the importance of establishing partnerships among different stakeholders to share ideas, capabilities and networks. We can encourage the private sector to deploy capital responsibly, and champion innovative solutions that address our sustainability challenges effectively. However, governments and civil society also have a part to play to create the right regulatory frameworks and the right social conditions.

Above all, we need a passion and a collective will to rally our communities to action.  We should not think it is a futile effort.

Many of us are familiar with the question of whether it is futile to throw starfish that washed up on the beach back into the sea.

After all, we can’t save all the starfish. But if many of us throw the starfish back into the sea, collectively it makes a big difference to the ones that are saved!

This simple story holds an important lesson for our gathering today. The task of building our sustainable future might seem monumental. At times, our individual efforts might appear futile. But collectively, we can bring about meaningful change. Whether you’re a business leader, policy maker, student leader, innovator, or thought leader, all of us can make a difference.



We have a full programme today. Our panel discussions will touch on how companies can create better markets and integrate sustainability values into their business models. We will also address how investors can finance sustainable initiatives. Our panellists will also explore how policymakers can embrace sustainability as a core strategy and create conditions for strong partnerships.

I would like to thank all of you for joining us today. I would also like to acknowledge and thank our speakers and panellists for sharing their insights and perspectives today. 

For those of you who have travelled a long way to be with us, I also hope you will have time to enjoy our city in a garden here in Singapore!

Thank you. 

[1] http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/

[2] BSDC, Better Business Better World Report, ( Jan 2017), 95.

[3] Olam’s website.

[4] Goldman Sachs, “The PM’s Guide to the ESG Revolution,” (Apr, 2017), 24.

[5] GSIA, Global Sustainable Investment Review (2016), 7.

[6] GSIA, Global Sustainable Investment Review (2016), 19; Climate Bonds initiative.




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Investment Themes

Investment Themes

Our investment activities continue to be guided by four investment themes and the long term trends they represent.