Businesses must ensure a liveable and sustainable planet, not just focus on profits: Ho Ching

SINGAPORE: While businesses pursue profits and financial returns, they must invest in training for their people and also fulfil their obligation to ensure a liveable and sustainable planet for all, said Temasek Holdings CEO Ho Ching on Saturday (Jan 19).

Speaking at the St Gallen Symposium 2019 Singapore Forum, Mdm Ho said businesses have a stake in meeting the needs of society and helping to make lives better.

“For businesses, profits are just a shorthand notation for financial strength and viability. Businesses can thrive only if they succeed in meeting the needs of their customers as their primary mission, but that alone is not enough for longevity,” said Mdm Ho.

“If all of us try to extract the maximum amount of grass to feed our own sheep, the village green will soon be bare – we end up with no grass to feed our sheep, and we may even starve.”

With climate change posing an existential threat to humans, Mdm Ho urged businesses and organisations to rethink the purpose of their capital so that they can help society and take urgent action on climate change.

“In Singapore, we got warmer by about a quarter degree (Celsius) every decade since the 1940s, but in the last five years, our central district got 1 degree Celsius hotter – this rate of increase is eight times faster than before,” she said.

READ: Why Singapore is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world

READ: 2018 was Singapore’s 8th warmest year on record: Met Service

Singapore has pledged to deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – a commitment to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030 worldwide. However, Mdm Ho said the country has to move faster in order to transit into a low carbon and more energy-efficient economy.

“2030 is just barely a decade away. Global warming is one clear present danger to Earth and mankind – we only have 10 years to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Mdm Ho.

“There is no Plan B for us because there’s no Planet B.”

She urged businesses and organisations to continue to invest in people in order to help them transition into a fast-changing future.

“Governments can help support basic early education, but industries and organisations who know where the needs are and where the technology is driving towards – they must all play their part in the continuing education of our workforce,” she said.

READ: Singapore must do more to protect environment, guard against climate change, says PM Lee

She added that retirees should be upskilled and re-skilled so that they remain active and engaged in their silver years.

“Investment in people can never stop. It isn’t enough to train once in schools. Technology will both (make) obsolete old skills, create demand for new ones,” she said.