Transcript: Opening Remarks by Lim Boon Heng at 2018 Ecosperity Conference
Minister for Trade and Industry, and former Secretary-General of NTUC, Chan Chun Sing,
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and Deputy Secretary-General of NTUC, Dr Koh Poh Koon,
Ladies and gentlemen:
On behalf of Temasek, welcome to our fifth Ecosperity conference.
This year marks the second time we’re holding this conference on the United Nations World Environment Day. I see many familiar faces here today; thank you for continuing on this journey with us. We deeply value your continued support.
This year’s Ecosperity is our biggest yet. We have more than 600 delegates with us, representing 23 countries. This affirms our belief that sustainability is a vital subject that touches lives all over the world.
Ecosperity is coined from two words: Ecology and Prosperity. The name recognises that growth can, and should, take place in a sustainable manner. We strongly believe that doing good and doing right can, and must, go hand-in-hand with doing well.
When we conceived the conference in 2014, our goal was to rally like-minded leaders to come together, discuss, and spur ideas and solutions to help build a sustainable tomorrow.
Last year, we partnered the Business and Sustainable Development Commission to launch the Asian edition of their report; “Better Business, Better World”. The report identified 5 trillion US dollars worth of economic opportunities in Asia that will support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. And at the same time, create 250 million new jobs.
We also introduced the concept of an ABC World – an Active economy, a Beautiful society, and a Clean and cool earth. This framework places each of the 17 SDGs under these three pillars. It highlights the interdependence of the goals, and hopefully makes their purpose easier to recall.
Last year, our focus was the “Active economy” portion of our ABC world. This year, we’re putting the spotlight on what we call the ‘social’ SDGs, or the “Beautiful society” pillar - No Poverty; Zero Hunger; Gender Equality; striving for Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
These goals cut to the heart of what’s needed to build and maintain sustainable, resilient and ‘beautiful’ societies.
We will focus on three areas – Healthcare, Food, and Education. We have discussed with knowledge partners and stakeholders across public and private sectors.
Today, we are launching the Ecosperity Conversations Report, which highlights key takeaways from discussions conducted throughout the year. One common trend we’ve observed is that fundamental change is needed to ensure a sustainable business model across many different industries. Taking a “business-as-usual” approach will not work.
Let me share some insights from this research.
First, healthcare. 400 million people worldwide do not have access to essential healthcare services. Without effort and attention, this is a problem that will continue to escalate.
Within developed economies, we are seeing spikes in chronic diseases like diabetes. 422 million people worldwide, or one in every eleven adults, is a diagnosed diabetic.
To compound this problem, we can expect global healthcare spending to increase to 20 trillion US dollars in 2040.
So a “business-as-usual” approach isn’t going to work; we need a fundamental shift towards a sustainable healthcare system.
Can recent advances in technology extend healthcare into hard-to-reach areas? Can remote patient monitoring lead to reduced treatment costs? How can genetic testing contribute towards health and wellness? We’ll explore these questions today.
Food is our second focus area. A “business-as-usual” approach to tackling the growing demand for food will not work too. Growth rates in agricultural yield have actually fallen. Climate change, environmental degradation and over-fishing make it more difficult for traditional food sources to feed a growing global population with an increasing demand for protein.
We need to relook at how we produce and consume food at a system level. These are acute problems with wastage and loss in our supply chains. A third of the food produced worldwide doesn’t even reach our plates.
What can businesses and governments do to create sustainable food systems that can supply safe, affordable and – importantly – nutritious food? What technologies exist to disrupt traditional methods of food production, or even to create new sources of food?
The third focus area for this conference is education. We’ve come a long way to give our children equal access to education; three quarters of young people in Asia are enrolled in schools today. But is their education sufficient to prepare them for the future?
Because of new technologies, new jobs are created in industries that did not exist just a few years ago, while traditional jobs are disappearing.
Think back to just a decade ago – most of us wouldn’t believe that you could earn a living by writing 140-character messages or sharing pictures of yourself! A study by the professional networking platform, LinkedIn, showed that the number of people who list themselves as a “social media professional” grew 200-fold in just five years.
At this rate, two-thirds of our children in primary schools today will eventually take jobs that do not yet exist.
What about those who are already in the workforce? In ageing societies, the retirement age for the average worker is stretching from the sixties to the seventies. We even see the occasional person in his nineties being elected to high office!
How can we enable lifelong learning for a workforce that is expected to live longer and work longer?
I’ve posed many difficult questions; I don’t have answers, but I’m hoping some of you here do. That’s our goal with Ecosperity every year – to come together to find the right ideas to put into action, or even sometimes, just start by trying out.
Today’s programme features a line-up of distinguished speakers and panelists from both public and private sectors. With their support, I am confident that this year’s Ecosperity will inspire us all to take concrete steps towards transforming ideas into impactful solutions and outcomes for our communities.
We have some suggestions on how we can work towards a healthier lifestyle with better nutrition and continual learning. Details can be found in your Ecosperity mobile app. I hope that everyone will participate enthusiastically.
The drive to turn ideas into impact is one reason why we’re delighted to partner UNLEASH to hold their annual event here in Singapore. UNLEASH is a global innovation workshop focused on getting youth to conceive and deliver solutions that answer the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
You’ll have the opportunity to interact with close to one thousand of these young talents, and their ideas, this afternoon at the UNLEASH Marketplace, next door. I hope you’ll be able to share your insights and inspire them to take their ideas further, and to create real impact.
Again, thank you all for being here today. As I wish you all a very fruitful day of discussions and learning, it is my great pleasure to invite Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Chan Chun Sing, to deliver the opening address. Minister, please.