On 20 September 2023, SMU held its inaugural Sustainability Forum to showcase its multi-faceted contributions to economic, social and environmental sustainability. Themed “Making Meaningful Impact for a Sustainable Future”, the event attracted close to 250 participants, including students and educators from a range of institutes of higher learning, representatives from various social-service agencies and non-profit organisations, as well as business owners.
Guest-of-Honour was Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Ms Grace Fu, who extolled SMU’s holistic efforts in sustainability to date, and commended SMU students for their active contributions to community-impact projects, both locally and overseas.
The Sustainability Forum was part of the SMU Sustainability Series 2023, which ran from July to October 2023. During this period, events were curated along topics of sustainability, providing a platform through which SMU could engage with stakeholders and partners to further the discourse on sustainability.
In her opening statement for the Forum, SMU President Lily Kong highlighted some of the university’s strategies in its holistic approach towards sustainability, which are outlined in the SMU Sustainability Blueprint.
“We hope that by showcasing SMU’s sustainability-related efforts in research, education and community engagement, we can create opportunities for knowledge exchange, idea empowerment and forging of synergistic partnerships that can further our shared sustainability agenda,” she said. She went on to highlight some of SMU’s significant achievements thus far, such as attaining the 100% Green Mark Platinum status for the University’s campus infrastructure, as well as launching two innovative sustainability programmes recently.
Considerations in pursuing sustainable policies
During the forum, a lively panel discussion, “Opportunities and Challenges Towards a More Sustainable Future”, gave participants some insights into the challenges of implementing sustainable solutions and policies, especially in the face of competing interests and economic realities.
The panel was moderated by SMU Dean of Students Professor Paulin Straughan, and comprised SMU Board of Trustees Chairman Mr Piyush Gupta, Minister Grace Fu, and Founder and CEO of Insect Feed Technologies, Mr Sean Tan.
During the panel discussion, Minister Fu highlighted some of the challenges in executing the Singapore Green Plan 2030, including the need to balance sustainable development – such as harnessing new sources of water – with environmental, economic, and social impact.
“The low-income, underprivileged families, the small SMEs (small and medium enterprises), for example, we need to make sure that they are not excluded. Their needs are included in our consideration and then they are helped with that transition as well,” she explained.
Mr Gupta posited that while change can be brought about by the implementation of government policies, it is in changing human behaviour that new sustainability practices are adopted and embraced. Mr Gupta, who is also the CEO of DBS, touched on the bank’s efforts to help clients to transition to lower-carbon businesses and reduce the risk of stranded assets.
Mr Tan, who is also an SMU alumnus from the Lee Kong Chain School of Business, described how a stint at Enterprise Singapore armed him with knowledge of the process of upcycling food waste, and enhanced his understanding of how startups work. He built on this knowledge to found Insect Feed Technologies, which employs cutting-edge technology to produce black-soldier-fly protein – with the insects fed on clean food waste, helping with the twin issues of countering food waste and producing sustainable protein through insect farming.
Spreading more awareness, bringing allies into the fold
During the Forum, members of the SMU community showcased the University’s sustainability efforts in education, research, and community engagement, as well as student led-local and regional community service projects that have contributed to the preservation of cultural heritage, the promotion of social inclusivity, and environmental education and conservation.
The SMC Student Sustainability Award was presented to four recipients at the forum. These awards, supported by the Singapore Mentorship Committee (SMC), recognise efforts of SMU undergraduates who have made contributions across different dimensions of sustainability, as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Participants also had the opportunity to attend breakout sessions, which covered topics like research findings on consumer acceptance of cultivated meat, enhancing sustainable ageing and wellness in Singapore, as well as SMU’s sustainable infrastructure initiatives.
Reflecting on the day's activities, Forum participant and marine ecology research associate at the National University of Singapore Shu Qin Sam said, “It was engaging to listen to the different views, anecdotes and gain insights about opportunities, as well as know what our youth are involved in.”
Maode Hon, an assistant director involved in the area of service learning at Ngee Ann Polytechnic said, “The Forum was a great initiative and platform for collaborations to happen, and it’ll be great if other IHLs could join in this journey towards sustainability together.”
- Making Meaningful Impact for a Sustainable Future - SMU holds inaugural Sustainability Forum 2023
- SMU launches two Innovative Sustainability Programmes – Postgraduate Master of Sustainability and Undergraduate Second Major in Sustainable Societies