Nurturing Future Sustainability Leaders in Singapore
In the past, coding was a niche skill taught only in tertiary institutions. Now, children as young as 10 years old are learning to code. In Singapore, for instance, coding is incorporated into its formal schooling curriculum.
This focus on education to boost digital know-how is now extending to sustainability. More people and institutions recognize the importance of nurturing expertise in this emerging sector. As the climate change crisis looms large, having individuals take the lead in building a sustainable future is a matter of survival.
Global commitment to a greener future
In 2015, countries around the world committed to taking collective action to tackle the climate crisis by signing the Paris Climate Accords. They pledged to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius.
Singapore embarked on its own climate initiative, the Green Plan, which aims to build a more sustainable nation by 2030. SG Green Plan 2030 goals include reducing waste sent to landfills by 30%, greening 80% of Singapore buildings, slashing net carbon emissions from schools by 60%, and developing Singapore as a leading regional center for green finance and services to facilitate Asia’s transition to a low-carbon and sustainable future.
To achieve these targets, more sustainability experts are needed.
Investing in climate education
Compared to countries such as those in Europe, Singapore suffers from a relative lack of sustainability professionals. In traditional Asian societies such as Singapore’s, “established” education and career pathways, such as medicine and law, still attract more attention and applicants. More educational opportunities, funding and recognition will be needed to encourage more people to pursue a future in the sustainability sector.
Building a conducive educational environment is vital for supporting aspiring sustainability leaders in their journey. Climate education will teach them about sustainability issues and the impacts of climate change. Specialized knowledge and skills equip sustainability leaders to develop solutions for solving the climate crisis, contribute to sustainability advocacy efforts, or work in the green economy in such capacities as providing clean energy consulting.
Tertiary education institutions in the country are gearing up to change mindsets and fill this talent gap. The National University of Singapore (NUS), for instance, recently launched a Master’s program in sustainable and green finance.
At Singapore Management University (SMU), its core curriculum exposes students to important issues with environmental, social, and economic sustainability dimensions. Since 2019, SMU undergraduates have had the opportunity to take a second major in sustainability that comprises interdisciplinary courses in various business specializations, such as finance, operations and marketing entrepreneurship, and non-business fields, such as climate change and sustainability law and policy.
Recognizing the need for climate education, Equinix has invested in scholarships to encourage more students to pursue disciplines that can help tackle climate change, such as sustainable business management. For example, the Equinix Sustainability Scholarship at SMU provides funding and internship opportunities for students who major in sustainability. Equinix has also established two scholarships for NUS students enrolled in its Master of Science in Biodiversity Conservation and Nature-Based Climate Solutions program.
Developing sustainability skillsets
By investing in human capital, Equinix aims to develop role models that can lead the way in promoting a more sustainable way of life. Future sustainability leaders need to embody certain qualities and values to drive positive change in society.
- First, leaders need to be aware of how their actions affect the environment before they can cultivate the habit of embracing sustainability as a way of life.
- Second, they need to be forward-thinking and have the ability to anticipate future consequences. Beyond fixing a problem, leaders need to ensure that an action does not result in a negative effect elsewhere. For example, organizations need to consider factors such as affordability before switching to cleaner energy sources.
- Third, leaders need to wholeheartedly embrace change. As every effort can make a difference, leaders need to be role models for change and inspire others to adopt more sustainable lifestyles. A change in lifestyle to support sustainability might involve choosing to drink from cups instead of through straws, or buying nasi lemak packed in banana leaf wrappers rather than polystyrene boxes. To drive change, leaders must possess confidence, courage and grit. This means not being cowed by the prospect of marginalization when advocating for changes that might run counter to prevailing norms, and persevering until they achieve their intended results.
- Fourth, sustainability leaders must have compassion. To promote social sustainability, they need to accept diverse social norms, avoid being swayed by biases, and give everyone equal opportunities.
Championing sustainability at every level
At an organizational level, nurturing a culture of sustainability among employees is critical. For example, at Equinix, we run various CSR events throughout the year to encourage employees to volunteer for social causes and give back to the community. Social initiatives, like the Covid-19 relief campaigns, help employees develop a “future-first” sustainability mindset that focuses on giving, instead of taking. We are also developing a personal green tracker that will award points for employees’ sustainable actions, such as using reusable utensils.
Organizations can also empower their customers and extended supply chains to become more sustainable. To support sustainability progress tracking and attainment of sustainability goals, Equinix initiatives include publishing customized green power reports to provide companies with data on their electricity consumption, renewable energy usage and carbon footprints.
We also cultivate a responsible, inclusive and reliable world-class supply chain by deepening our engagements with suppliers to ensure our core environmental, social, and governance values align. Specifically, to address the 1.5 C global warming scenario, Equinix is engaging with 66% of our suppliers by emissions within the Purchased Goods and Services and Capital Goods categories, to set their own science-based targets by 2025.
Whether it is to meet global, national or corporate green aspirations, investing in education is a critical move to unleash the potential of sustainability leaders across all levels of governments and businesses. Together, we will develop changemakers who are committed to leading the charge of maximizing technology benefits to tackle climate change and protect our planet.