OCBC Bank, through its #OCBCCares Environment Fund, has committed S$100,000 to support the implementation of the top five winning sustainability projects generated from the Sustainability Exchange progamme organised by EB Impact, the  non-profit sister organisation of Eco-Business.

Launched today, the second edition of The Sustainability Exchange is a youth-mentorship programme aimed at solving sustainability challenges aligned with the Singapore Green Plan. Under this programme, youths will be matched with experienced professionals to work on solving sustainability challenges faced in Singapore.

Besides providing financial support, OCBC Bank will also conduct workshops on budgeting and presentation skills for all participants – to help them prepare robust proposals and present well.

OCBC Bank hopes that by partnering Eco Business, the #OCBCCares Environment Fund will take a more targeted approach in addressing climate change challenges. The participants of the Sustainability Exchange are expected to  work on a defined set of problem statements  to address the five pillars of the Singapore Green Plan.  Shortlisted youths will work with their mentors from January to April 2022 to develop proposals to address these challenges. The winning solutions will be selected for funding and implementation at the end of this mentorship period.

Several aspects of the Singapore Green Plan require the support and collaboration of individuals.  These include the need for higher adoption of electric vehicle use, opting to cycle over driving, cutting down on household energy and water consumption, reducing waste and making green purchases. According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, human-induced climate change is affecting the planet, and the impact is damaging.

Yet, the inaugural OCBC Climate Index launched in August this year found that while Singaporeans are aware of climate change issues, many have not adopted green practices.  The top two reasons for not doing so were cost and inconvenience, followed by reasons such as believing that the status quo is sufficient, not caring about the issue, and believing that individual action is too small to make an impact.

Nudging climate action beyond awareness

The objective of the Sustainability Exchange is therefore aligned with OCBC Bank’s announcement in 2020 that the #OCBCCares Environment Fund will switch to focus on identifying gaps where sustainable and strategic support is needed; and fund projects that truly mitigate climate change issues, especially to nudge individuals to adopt green practices.

Since its launch in 2017, the Fund has successfully provided $265,000 in funding to implement 15 ground-up community sustainability projects.   These ranged from the development of dehydrated washing detergents, food composting, waste management, recycling of clothes to re-wilding a camp site at Sarimbun to promote biodiversity. Several other companies have similarly committed to fund ground-up community projects since then.

From 2017 to 2019, while the number of applications for the Fund had increased, there were fewer proposals that met the objective of the Fund – which is to empower the general public to implement sustainable and scalable climate action solutions that will benefit Singapore.  Instead, after two years, the Fund began to receive more applications for awareness of environmental issues, and fewer calls for lifestyle changes or adoption of environmentally responsible behaviour.

Ms Koh Ching Ching, OCBC Head of Group Brand and Communications shared: “The Sustainability Exchange programme fits the bill for our Fund as it takes an actionable approach towards getting people like you and me not to just talk green but also do green.”

“We are glad we can fill in the funding gap to support the implementation of winning solutions, assessment of tangible outcomes and possibly scaling up of proven solutions.”

Ms Jessica Cheam, CEO of Eco Business, Board Member of EB Impact and Chair of the Climate Action SG Alliance said: “We are excited to be partnering OCBC Bank on this second edition of the Sustainability Exchange. The #OCBCCares Environment Fund will provide the critical resources needed for youths to turn their ideas into reality. The time for awareness is over, what we need today is action.”

Human Action is key to a more sustainable world

The need for urgent human actions is validated by the findings of the inaugural OCBC Climate Index, which was launched in partnership with Eco Business in August this year.

The inaugural OCBC Climate Index national average was 6.7 – with Singaporeans scoring an average of 8.3 in the area of awareness of environmental issues, 6.5 for adoption of green practices and 5.6 for advocacy of issues and good practices to families and friends.

The findings of the OCBC Climate Index were telling. For instance, 95% of the drivers surveyed 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.  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.”

Ms Koh said, “No effort is too small, and no one is too young when it comes to taking action for the environment. It is all in our hands to act now – collectively – for a more sustainable future. The solutions developed by the youths can spur results-driven action and encourage them to lead the climate change fight.”

Mr N Sivasothi, then-Chairman of the #OCBCCares Environment Fund evaluation committee echoes the Bank’s strategic move to fight climate change. The senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore Department of Biological Sciences and Fellow, Ridge View Residential College shared: “In today’s world when human-induced climate change is affecting the planet, we need to ensure that climate solutions are lasting and impactful. The answer lies in encouraging collective action. The #OCBCCares Environment Fund’s support of the Sustainability Exchange is in the right direction. The youths, guided by their mentors, will be challenged to develop sustainability solutions for a defined set of problem statements meant to address the five pillars of the Singapore Green Plan.  I look forward to seeing the youth rise to the challenge of mitigating climate change in Singapore.”

Applications for youth and mentor participation begin from now till 30 November 2021. More details of the EB Impact Sustainability Exchange programme can be found in its media release dated 19 October 2021.

Key milestones in OCBC Bank’s environmental sustainability journey

The #OCBCCares programme is important in getting the community involved in the fight against climate change. Under this programme, OCBC launched the #OCBCCares Environment Fund to focus on identifying gaps where sustainable and strategic support is needed; and funding projects that can directly mitigate climate change issues. Under the #OCBCCares programme, the Bank 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.

On the business front, OCBC Bank made a commitment in 2019 to stop financing 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.

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