Asia

One of the most vibrant financial hubs in Southeast Asia, Singapore has discovered the potential of Impact Investing

The host city of SIGEF 2018 emerges as one of the most promising regions for social entrepreneurship in Asia

Doing good while doing well’ is a new motto for bankers and investors who believe that profit and purpose can go together. While impact investing is a relatively new jargon for financial people, there is no novelty in the fact that it can positively affect businesses. The challenge often is to calculate the impact, as the human factor is hard to measure and classify.

A few decades ago, studies started to show that happy employees are more productive, or that companies which invest in social or environmental projects in their communities have less legal and reputational problems. The sustainability concept has developed greatly since then. Impact investing was the step onward, as foundations and investors started to realize that all these factors combined – happy employees, respected communities and safe environment – could generate wealth for all.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore emerged as a hub for many of these impact investors, including the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) and Impact Investing Exchange (IIX Asia). A growing number of international impact investing funds have set their offices in Singapore, resulting in more than 300 social enterprises.

Like many of the successful impact investing initiatives worldwide, the island’s government has played a key role in this process, often as one of the intermediate investors and thus helped to foster a welcoming environment for new ones. A recent survey published by Standard Chartered Private Bank showed that 4 in 5 ultra-rich Singaporeans are currently engaged in sustainable investing. According to the report titled Asia Sustainable Investing Review 2018, investors in Singapore have the strongest understanding of sustainable investing in Asia, and about 64% of them are highly motivated to do good and earn a profit at the same time. 

Part of the optimistic scenario is due to the fact that young generations, more keen to work and invest with purpose, are starting to play an important role in Southeast Asian financial markets. Another factor is the realization that there’s need to solve social and economic problems in Asia, which requires high-scalable, replicable and potentially profitable solutions. Even giant commercial multinationals like Google have started to develop their own products and services, focusing on technology to improve lives.

The host city of SIGEF 2018 is growing as an innovative impact investment hub and emerges as one of the most promising regions for social entrepreneurship in Asia. Next September, experts and investors will discuss the subject with a qualified audience during SIGEF 2018 by Horyou.

Once a resource-constrained country, Singapore invests in sustainable and efficient technology to cater for its energy needs

Solar panels used to power walkway lights

Singapore has faced many challenges in the last two decades, most notably in the energy sector. With limited renewable energy options, the island still relies heavily on imports. Typically, according to the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCA), the average wind speed is not powerful enough to activate wind turbines, while calm seas limit tidal power generation. Not to mention that the country doesn’t have a river system with fast flowing water which makes hydroelectric power a rather impossible investment option, and nuclear plants are not safe due to the limited land area and population density.

Nevertheless, Singapore has committed to becoming a benchmark in green energy and to profit from one resource the island has abundantly: solar energy. Earlier this year, the NCCA announced that the country aims to increase solar deployment from 47MWp to 350 MWp by 2020. The goal is that renewable energy would represent 8% of all the power demand. In order to do so, the country is investing heavily in research and development, as well as in creating an attractive ecosystem for cleantechs.

One of the projects developed by the government is to install solar panels on rooftops of high-rise public buildings, as well as on water surfaces. The latter, pointed as a bold and innovative pilot program, has reached so many good results that it was recently extended to the ocean. Popularly known as ‘energy islands’, the structure will supply energy to industrial and residential areas. Yet, as the geographical limitation makes it harder for the country to expand indefinitely its solar power plants, the government has decided to invest in efficiency.

The University of Singapore is thus working on solar cells that convert more sunlight into energy, and is, to that end, is making them cheaper to be integrated into buildings. The cost of solar energy has also been reduced in the last decade, making it more competitive.

Last year, the government announced that six clean energy investments across the fields of solar, wind, microgrids and energy management will help position the country as Asia’s leading cleantech hub. Currently, more 100 than clean energy companies are part of this ecosystem and helping to attract research funds, as well as an elite team of researchers. The university has already 110 PhD students, half of whom have graduated and are working in the solar energy industry.

As the authorities have secured the funding and support for these projects, the future for clean energy in Singapore seems bright!

Singapore is the host city for the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum (SIGEF), organized by Horyou, the social network for social good. The event will be held in September 2018.

Through time, the meaning of philanthropy has evolved from loving people to allocating private resources that help them tackle the challenges of an improved quality of life. Since the 1930s, philanthropy has continued to evolve through to the mid-twentieth century, in resonance with the major events of the period. Donors around the world are more aware of the challenges that different communities are facing every day.

Source: CNBC

While still remaining true to the memory of the great past practices, philanthropy today is more organized, professional, and global than ever before. Philanthropists work to improve and strengthen communities, support the arts, build schools and raise educational standards, combat epidemics, and provide relief to the victims of war and natural disasters; and they do so in a variety of ways. Individuals make donations and volunteer action. Neighborhood organizations take on local and global projects. Foundations support cutting-edge research. Corporations give back to their communities.

In Asia, the state of Singapore has been a benchmark for philanthropy initiatives for which many of its foundations have helped to develop a thriving environment, finding new ways to reach to people in need and, moreover, empower them to speak out for themselves and pursue the Sustainable Development Goals. Let’s have a look at the philanthropy foundations advancing these challenges in Singapore.

#SDG4 – Philanthropy advancing quality education: The Lien Foundation

The Lien Foundation was founded by Dr. Lien Ying Chow whose passion for education and commitment to the community led him to donate almost half of his wealth to help the deprived. The foundation supports and advocates early childhood education and elder care in Singapore, as well as access to clean water & sanitation in developing countries.

#SDG 3 and #SDG4 – Philanthropy advancing quality education and well-being: The Lee Foundation

One of Singapore’s oldest philanthropy institutions, the Lee Foundation, was founded by business tycoon Lee Kong Chian in 1952. A family foundation, it has since given nearly USD$1 billion charity, with tens of millions given annually to almost all sectors, including education, health, welfare, and religious groups.

#SDG8 – Philanthropy advancing decent work: ACSEP

The Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy (ACSEP) is a research centre situated within the National University of Singapore Business School. It aims to advance the understanding and impactful practice of social entrepreneurship and philanthropy throughout Asia by focusing on research and education (NUS Business School, 2016). Its goal is to be a resource and knowledge hub that connects those who have the ability and desire to do good with those in need. The center also engages in collaborative efforts with academic institutions, government agencies, corporations, non-profit organizations, and social enterprises.

#SDG17 – Philanthropy advancing partnerships for the goals: NVPC

The National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) is a non-profit organization that aims to promote a culture of giving in Singapore by catalyzing development in volunteerism and philanthropy. NVPC facilitates partnerships with non-profit organizations, corporations, public sector bodies, and individuals in order to build Singapore’s giving ecosystem. NVPC also conducts research on giving motivations and behaviors, while it also creates roadmaps and landscapes of the giving sector, and aspires to be the go-to-place for giving.

The commitment and synergies that these foundations are creating towards the sustainable development goals demonstrate the progress on the oriented focus to look for new ways to help people in need by leveraging the giving networks to magnify the scope of philanthropy today. Horyou is proud to support disruptive Philanthropy through its platform, events and ever-growing community of innovators and social good doers, from Singapore to Japan, in all Asia and beyond.

Singapore is the host city for the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum (SIGEF), organized by Horyou, the social network for social good. The event will be held in September 2018.

About Horyou

Horyou connects more than 250,000 Internet users to Non-Profit Organisations, Artists, and Innovators in 180 countries. Horyou organizes international events in resonance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, such as the Horyou Village in Cannes during the Film Festival and the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum, SIGEF. Horyou recently launched Spotlight, the first global social currency supporting economic inclusion worldwide, embedded into the social network. Horyou aims to connect CSR and innovative companies to its diverse community of change-makers worldwide.

Written by Sueyfer de la Torre

 

The Asian city was recently named top country for meeting UN health goals and has already achieved 4 of the 17 sustainable development goals. Here’s the story.

Singapore has already achieved 4 of the 17 sustainable development goals

The year is 2015. A coalition of countries, Singapore included, have adopted the UN Sustainable Development Goals and two years later 43 of them presented Voluntary National Reviews in which they committed to specific goals. Despite the regional and national commitments, many countries are still far from reaching the voluntary goals they set for 2030 but some are taking a straightforward path. Singapore is one of them.

According to the SDG Index and Dashboard Report, Singapore has already reached four out of the 17 SDGs (1, 7, 8 and 9), the highest number in all South and East Asia. The city-state is also closer than any other country to meeting health-related targets, according to a global health review published by The Lancet Medical Journal last September. Singapore is now placed at the 61st position out of 167 countries in the SDG Index.

Its Achilles’ heel is the import of emissions, including nitrogen and carbon dioxide, which is common in small countries due to their need to import and trade goods. In order to improve this scenario, Singapore should whether diversify its economy or set trade policies so the imported goods would be more sustainable.

As for the other SDGs, Singapore is clearly investing in reducing gender inequalities, promoting education and strengthening institutions. The literacy rate has now reached 99,9% and the rate of female labor participation in the workforce is over 76%. The quality of institutions and the safety of the population is one of the highest in the world.

The evolution is ongoing. The city is making an effort to host more events related to the SDGs, such as the Unleash Innovation Lab, next May, and the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum, SIGEF 2018, Horyou’s main SDGs event, next September. In addition to bringing diversity and innovation, the events help the city to become known as an SDG-friendly place and a hub for ideas and actions to attain the goals.

The host city of SIGEF 2018 is a reference in MedTech and new technologies as indeed Singapore aims to be at the upfront of a promising market with the right setup to attract both investors and innovators.

(Photo: RENDY ARYANTO/VisualVerve.SG)

Singapore is home to more than 60 MedTech companies which are mainly focused on research to develop new and innovative health care approaches. It is, indeed, a promising market. According to the Singapore Economic Development Board, the Asian medical technology market is expected to be the world’s second-largest by 2020, with a promise of a better life expectancy and quality of life.

In the last few years, the government has made a big effort to build a welcoming infrastructure for these businesses, either by investing in patient care based on a talent pool with big data and analytics skills, or by developing a supportive ecosystem which counts on research institutions, universities and startups, all of which provides the MedTech companies with a rich and fruitful research and development hub.

This ecosystem allows for companies like Tictrac – an app developing company which focuses on tracking health data and giving tips and information to its users -, to come up with solutions for patients with diabetes and other chronic diseases. In a recent interview, Martin Blinder, Tictrac CEO, confided that: “It is for people to find reliable information about the best way to reduce risk and improve their health. After meeting their doctor, people go home with some very high-level information, often go online and end up finding a lot of contradictory information or dangerous fat diets”. The company has a partnership with the Singaporean Ministry of Health, which aims to use more technology to prevent and manage diseases.

The successful combination of a friendly environment for MedTech innovation and public-private partnerships has pushed many companies to be more willing to invest in this market. In the last few years, a number of Singaporean IT businesses have set up MedTech operations in order to profit from the market’s good prospects. The electronic manufacturer Venture Corp is one of them and has been shifting their investment to LifeSciences and Medical Technologies, which now represent 43% of their revenues.

In a speech at a MedTech event last year, the Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran stressed the importance of investing in new health care technologies knowing that populations are getting old and that artificial intelligence is taking over most industries. “We know that the nature of jobs is changing profoundly, as technology and automation play an increasing role in driving innovation and operations,” he said. “We need to transform our societies and economies to become more age-friendly, and turn longevity into a positive force for economic and social development.”

The host city of SIGEF2018 next September is thus the perfect place to bring together innovators and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Organized by Horyou, it will include a special panel on MedTech.

Kenneth Bok is a former Goldman Sachs trader and the founder and CEO of Blocks, a Blockchain research platform based in Singapore. A passionate believer in sustainability, ecology and technology, he is Horyou’s Partner and Ambassador to Singapore and the organizer of De/Centralize 2018, the country’s premier conference on Blockchain and decentralization mechanisms for building a better world. One of the questions the event raises is: “Can these technologies help to create a better world?’. Horyou blog has talked with Mr. Bok.

De/centralize takes place in Singapore

– What does decentralization mean for technology, economics and law?

The Blockchain has enabled for distributed computing platforms which store and process information in radically different ways from normal server-client architecture. This has profound consequences in the way digital tokens can be integrated with the internet, how data is stored, and even how contracts are written and executed between parties. Decentralization is still a mysterious word really, but the gist of it is that there are more resilient and alternative structures to the ones we have one. Think about the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica issue. Even if Facebook are doing their best, they are still under the purview of various governments who can shut Facebook down if they choose to do so. This is not so easy with decentralized systems.

– Blockchain is a technology that lies heavily on decentralization. What can we expect from the conference in terms of content and debates about both subjects?

We are hosting some projects that could really change the world. Cosmos and Blockstack for example. I think there is a lot of hype with blockchain, and our goal is to separate the signal from the noise. We have some really world-class VCs such as Tim Draper who is going to give us a keynote, as well as Zooko Wilcox from ZCash giving us a presentation on the latest developments with digital money. We definitely want people to form their own opinions, to question everything and to decide for themselves if Blockchain is more than speculation and hype.

– How can Blockchain help to reach the sustainable development goals, reduce poverty and help to build a better world?

Michael Casey and Paul Vigna’s new book ‘The Truth Machine’ opens wonderfully with a story about the World Food Program’s (WFP) initiatives in Syria. Many of us take for granted that we have a passport, social identities, bank accounts, but this is not the case for refugees and stateless persons. The WFP is using a Blockchain solution to coordinate and track food distribution. Blockchains have tremendous potential to enable people who are unbanked and unidentified to be part of the system and have access to loans, make contracts, have a proper job, and so on.

Kenneth Bok

– How do you see the future of Blockchain technology in 10 years?

AI, Blockchain and IoT will become more integrated and will be truly mind-boggling in their capabilities. We will be able to do science better, make decisions better, become more efficient and effective in whatever we do.

– Could you name some of your top speakers and their business/areas of expertise?

Lasse Clausen from 1kx is one of the smartest token fund managers that I know of.

Adrian Brink from Cosmos: they are building the next generation Blockchain systems that are pushing the boundaries.

Meltem Demirors is a great speaker, thinker, and has worked with the World Economic Forum, MIT Media Lab and Digital Currency Group.

– Singapore is our next Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum – SIGEF 2018 – host city. For years, it has been a technology, Blockchain and sustainability hub. Why, in your opinion, does the city have such a vocation? Should it be a role model for Asia and beyond?

Singapore has had many things in its favor, geography for one, but we have been particularly blessed with good leadership. Mr Lee Kuan Yew was the architect of our country and built a meritocratic system with good law and order, an emphasis on education and racial harmony. We have one of the best healthcare systems in the world and it is extremely safe here. Clearly Singapore’s methods will not work in countries much larger than us, but our methods have been studied and implemented in many places outside of Singapore.

De/Centralize takes place from 5-6 April at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Singapore. The event is an Horyou Media Partner.

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