4 months ago, my 9 peers and I sent off our application for a chance to win a place on the OWT232: Sustainability and Management, WBCSD Bootcamp module. It would be unfeasible to quantify how valuable, unreal and enriching our Singapore experience was in the 7 days we were there for. The lessons we learnt as people, students and future leaders for sustainability and business could last a lifetime. This year, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) decided to host their annual strategic council meeting for 2018 in Singapore. And what better place to set off our journey as future leaders in sustainability than “The Garden City”.
Living in Lancaster for the past year, it was an absolute shock working, living and learning in the modern metropolis, even just for a week. Only 1 out of the 10 students had visited the Lion’s City before, and still everyone was just as equally in awe of its unique beauty every waking moment we were there. On top of working as event hosts and university ambassadors for the council meeting, the group was also fortunately able to explore the city’s treasures. In our free time, we visited attractions like the Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands and the Southern Ridges Walk. The more we explored, the more we saw Singapore to be perfect embodiment of a comic book’s futuristic city of dreams. It is a place where urbanisation combines both sustainable development and technological advancement to build a true utopia.
Interestingly enough, this wasn’t the case 53 years ago, but Singapore’s recent urbanisation innovation has imbedded sustainability into the heart of its development. The infrastructure was improved through incentive programs such as the 100% greenery replacement policy and mandatory green building law. It was not a surprise Singapore ranked #4 in Arcadis’s Sustainable Cities Index 2018. Its advancements enabled it to satisfy the triple bottom line’s pillars of sustainability: people, planet and profit.
By 2050, the global population living in cities will grow to 2/3s, opening up new opportunities for infrastructural, economic, social and corporate growth. There has been a large debate on whether implementing technological advancement to keep up with urban innovation will be beneficial or detrimental to our development as an expanding population. The growth in cities tend to raise issues such as an increase in congestion, overpopulation and overconsumption. With new opportunities of mobilisation for populations and cities, challenges which are equally as huge will inevitably follow.
But WBCSD President and CEO, Peter Bakker, said “Sustainability will shape the change we need while technology can drive it”. And I would agree. Singapore has shown its ability to retain its deep heritage through the embracement of new technologies, while growing sustainably despite its land constraints and high population density. Therefore, I believe it presents a good argument for the endless possibilities other developing societies can too work towards.
Arcadis (2018) Citizen Centric Cities. The Sustainable Cities Index 2018. [pdf] Available at: https://www.arcadis.com/media/1/D/5/%7B1D5AE7E2-A348-4B6E-B1D7-6D94FA7D7567%7DSustainable_Cities_Index_2018_Arcadis.pdf [Accessed 04 December 2018]
Connor, A. and McNeill, D. (2018) Growing Cities Face Challenges of Keeping the Masses Moving Up, Down and Across. Available at: http://theconversation.com/growing-cities-face-challenges-of-keeping-the-masses-moving-up-down-and-across-92827 [Accessed 05 December 2018]
Kolczak, A. (2017) This City Aims to Be the World’s Greenest. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/urban-expeditions/green-buildings/green-urban-landscape-cities-Singapore/ [Accessed 03 December 2018]
WBCSD (2018a) Cities & Mobility. Available at: https://www.wbcsd.org/Programs/Cities-and-Mobility [Accessed 03 December 2018]
WBCSD (2018b) How We Drive Sustainable Development. Available at: https://www.wbcsd.org/ [Accessed 03 December 2018]
WBCSD (2018c) Setting the Scene: Peter Bakker. Available at: https://events.wbcsd.org/cm18/setting-the-scene/ [Accessed 05 December 2018]