Partnering with Eco-Business, OCBC Bank launched the inaugural OCBC Climate Index, a measurement of the current levels of environmental sustainability awareness and climate action among Singaporeans. Eco-Business developed the approach and framework for the Index given its expertise in environmental sustainability. OCBC Bank developed the research methodology.
The approach and framework for the OCBC Climate Index is based on an individual’s climate action conversion journey across key aspects of urban living. There are three pillars in the journey – knowledge of environmental issues (Awareness), how much and how often one adopts green practices (Adoption), and how often one encourages others to adopt green practices (Advocacy).
To represent the main aspects of urban living, four lifestyle themes were chosen: Transport, Home, Food and Goods. These were weighted based on how they impact an individual’s carbon footprint – Transport (45%), Home (25%), Food (15%) and Goods (15%).
The Index is derived from a survey sent to a nationally representative demographic sample of Singaporeans. From 19 May to 3 June 2021, 2,000 Singaporeans aged between 18 and 65 were surveyed online on 106 questions relating to the three key pillars across the four themes.
Based on how the respondents answered the questions, a score for each pillar and then an overall score, duly weighted, are derived. The overall score can range from 0 to 10.
The inaugural OCBC Climate Index national average was 6.7 – with Singaporeans scoring an average of 8.3 in the ‘Awareness’ pillar, 6.5 in ‘Adoption’ and 5.6 in ‘Advocacy’.
This means that the average Singaporean is highly aware of environmental issues, adopts many green practices some of the time and advocates some of these issues and practices to their families and friends. About 54% of respondents, had scores of between 6 and 7.9.
The highest score was 9.5; with about 15% of respondents scoring between 8 and 10. The lowest score was 3.1; just 1% had scores of 2 to 3.9. Around 30% of respondents had scores of 4 to 5.9.
The OCBC Climate Index showed that Singaporeans had high awareness of the environmental issues across the four lifestyle themes but that this was not reflected in terms of their adoption of green practices.
- Transport: Of the drivers surveyed, 95% were aware that travelling by car generates 12 times more CO2 emissions than travelling by train. Yet 78% of them drive for over 30 minutes a day, on average.
- Home: 87% of respondents said they know that air-conditioning units emit the most CO2 emissions of all household appliances. Yet 34% of them use air-cons at home for more than 7 hours a day, on average.
- Food: Of the respondents who eat meat, 76% were aware that their choice of food has a huge impact on the environment, yet almost half of them consume red meat more than twice a week, on average. Fortunately, 77% of red meat-eaters reflected a willingness to reduce their consumption.
- Goods: 81% know that one plastic bag takes 500 years to degrade. Yet 78% of them do not bring reusable bags with them whenever they go shopping.
Top reasons for not adopting climate action: Cost and inconvenience
The OCBC Climate Index found that the top two reasons for not adopting green practices were cost and inconvenience, followed by reasons such as finding it hard to maintain sustainable habits, feeling that the status quo is sufficient and not caring about the issue, and believing that individual action is too small to make an impact.
It seems to follow that that Singaporeans are more likely to adopt sustainable practices that are convenient and have cost-saving benefits. For example, 77% of the respondents frequently switch off their appliances at power sockets if not in use and 80% buy new items (apart from food and household items) once a month or less.
The Index also found that the level of adoption of green practices is likely to be affected by the respondents’ life stages.
- Millennials (aged 25-40 years old): The highest proportion of Singaporeans to drive a car with a likelihood of owning larger cars above 1,600cc. Given the age range of this demographic, they are the most likely to have young kids aged 12 and below. Millennials cited inconvenience as the top reason for not choosing green practices.
- Gen Z (aged 18 – 24 years old): Do not fare as well in adopting green practices at home. For example, Gen Z comprise the highest proportion of respondents who use air-conditioning at home for more than 7 hours a day – close to twice the percentage of Baby Boomers. A possible reason for this is because Gen Zs are not yet responsible for household electricity bills and hence have a lower understanding of the cost associated with the usage of air-conditioning.
- Baby boomers (aged 57 and up): The least likely to purchase eco-friendly products if they cost more. This is likely because many are planning to retire or are retired and keep a closer eye on their budgets. 76% of this demographic are concerned about costs.
Singapore has long recognised that climate change is an existential threat. It has unveiled the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a nation-wide approach towards sustainable development. Under the Paris Agreement, Singapore is committed to halving emissions by 2050.
Ms Koh Ching Ching, Head of Group Brand and Communications, OCBC Bank, said, “The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report delivered stark warnings about how human-induced climate change is affecting the planet, and how damaging the impact might get.
“In line with the push for greater climate action, the OCBC Climate Index gives an indication of where Singaporeans are in terms of our knowledge and lifestyle habits that affect climate change. We hope that the Index can raise Singaporeans’ awareness on the carbon emissions driven from human activities and to nudge more environmentally sustainable behavioural change.”
She added: “Indeed, it is all in our hands. Each and every one of us can do our part for our future generations.”
Ms Jessica Cheam, founder and managing director of Eco-Business, notes that the average Singapore resident generates over 8,000kg of carbon emissions annually according to SP Group’s My Carbon Footprint calculator. That is more than twice the world’s average and far above the target to maintain a sustainable footprint.
“As even small actions accumulate and contribute to a rise in global carbon emissions, every individual has a key role in reducing their own emissions by adopting more sustainable practices,” said Ms Cheam.
“This inaugural Climate Action Index provides an intimate look at the attitudes and behaviour of Singapore residents towards climate change.We are delighted to have worked with OCBC Bank on this ground-breaking index which will from now on provide an annual snapshot of changing climate attitudes in our country.”
“The data generated from this Index will help inform policy, business and consumer decisions for years to come, and help us achieve our shared national targets on sustainability and the Singapore Green Plan,” she said.
Key milestones in OCBC Bank’s environmental sustainability journey
OCBC Bank actively champions environmental sustainability in the different communities it serves.
In 2019, OCBC Bank made a commitment to no longer finance new coal-fired power plants, becoming the first bank in Southeast Asia to do so. Later that year, the Bank announced that it was aiming to build a S$10 billion sustainable finance portfolio by 2022 – a target that was surpassed 2 years ahead of schedule in Q1 2020 amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. A new sustainable finance target of S$25 billion by 2025 was then set.
To grow its sustainable finance portfolio, OCBC Bank has ramped up support for renewable energy projects and works closely with its customers on sustainability-linked loans and green loans. In addition to lending, the Bank assists its customers’ fund-raising efforts through green bonds.
As part of this green push, OCBC Bank adopted the Equator Principles in 2020. An internationally-recognised risk management framework, the Equator Principles serves as a guide how the Bank determines, assesses and manages environmental and social risks in projects.
On the consumer front, the Bank has launched OCBC Eco-Care Loans, including the home, renovation and car loans, which incentivise individuals to own electric vehicles and to build more environmentally sustainable homes.
The #OCBCCares programme is also important in getting the community involved in the fight against climate change. Under this programme, we launched the OCBC Environment Fund to support ground-up initiatives that enhance Singapore’s sustainability landscape. Since 2018, S$165,000 has funded ten such initiatives. Under the #OCBCCares programme, we also supported the OCBC Arboretum, a landmark project at the Singapore Botanic Gardens which conserves and studies 200 species of dipterocarp trees. The 2,000 trees at the arboretum can store 80 million kg of CO2 over their lifetimes. Research at the Arboretum can also improve future forestation and carbon storage projects.
Take the OCBC Climate Index survey and get more insights at www.ocbc.com/climateindex.