Punching above the Green Mark

Will it ever be enough when it comes to staying sustainable?

Many people view sustainability as a fine balancing act. It’s about staying in harmony with the environment while managing social and economic needs. Cynics may find it too good to be true but it’s a fact that close to 200 countries have signed the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement which commits to ensuring that the rise in global temperature is less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and ideally kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

While there is more room for improvement, many corporations have taken the first step in integrating sustainability KPIs into their businesses. Likewise at DBS, sustainability is never just a buzzword.

Chew Meng Ee, Regional Sustainability Lead in the DBS Corporate Real Estate team, actively drives sustainability efforts across DBS workplaces and branches. She believes that adopting a sustainability outlook and strategy is integral to building a green workplace and powering the business for the future.

Can you share more about the sustainability efforts in DBS’ offices, including its innovation centre DBS Asia X?

Our strategy centres around clean energy and energy efficiency, and our goal is to propel a transition to a low-carbon bank by greening our energy mix and reducing energy use. At DBS Asia X, we recently ramped up sustainability efforts. This included fitting motion sensors, installing water efficient taps, and introducing an infused water dispenser to encourage the use of mugs instead of disposable cups. DBS Asia X was recently awarded the BCA Green Mark (Gold) certification in recognition of our efforts.

Sustainability efforts at DBS Asia X include installing water efficient taps and encouraging the use of mugs.

We also make it a point to bring our employees along in our sustainability journey. For example, we recently organised an engagement competition known as “Eco-Cup” where we rallied our employees to achieve outcomes such as energy savings and improved recycling rates.

Let’s break it down. Why is a sustainable workplace important?

Like the native American leader Chief Seattle said, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors—we borrow it from our children.” It really is in our interest to contribute to a sustainable workplace so that we can all reap the benefits in the long run.

Before we crystal-gaze into the future for the next generation, what are some of the latest trends in workplace sustainability or standards that we should adhere to now?

Greener buildings are being designed and developed these days. Building standards are regulated under the BCA Green Mark scheme and developers can be certified when they meet those standards. Almost all DBS buildings, including DBS/POSB retail branches, are already Green Mark certified or are in the process of achieving that. Two of our offices – DBS Asia Central and DBS Asia Hub – also received the highest Platinum award.

DBS Asia Central is a BCA Green Mark Platinum and Pearl Award Building.

What’s the one company or office that has impressed you with its sustainability efforts?

The upcoming Singapore Management University (SMU) campus, which has pledged to be part of a Super Low Energy (SLE) Programme. The SLE Programme is a newly launched Green Mark certification by Building Construction Authority to expand the envelope of environmental sustainability in Singapore. It aims to develop cost-effective solutions by pushing the limits of energy-efficiency and achieving net zero energy consumption. SMU is also planning the largest solar array at 1.35MWp in the city centre by 2019. The new campus will be adopting innovative and smart solutions/controls, wellness in building design, enhancing the environment through a 50% increase in internal greenery, amongst other sustainability initiatives.

What tips would you give for creating a sustainable workplace, especially to employees who want to play their part?

Always start with small steps. We can always bring our own drinking bottles or coffee mugs to reduce the use of disposables. Another easy thing to accomplish is to switch off electrical appliances when we don’t need to use them. Always remember to turn off the lights before leaving the room.

DBS Asia Gateway has been awarded the BCA Green Mark Certification.

On a personal level, have you done anything to waste less?

I take the public transport every day as it constitutes a lower carbon footprint as compared to driving. In the office, I ensure that I switch off the power plug whenever I leave the room and remember not to leave the phone charging after they are fully charged.