Speech by Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and Board member of MAS, at the SIAS Investors Choice Awards Ceremony on 7 Oct 2022
Dr Tony Tan
Former President of Singapore and SIAS Chief Patron
Mr David Gerald
Founder, President and CEO of Securities Investors Association (Singapore) (SIAS)
Mr Lim Chee Onn
Distinguished Honorary Member, SIAS
Mr Daniel Teo
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Good evening.
- Thank you for inviting me to this year’s SIAS’ Investors’ Choice Awards (ICA).
- The last ICA Dinner was 3 years ago when SIAS celebrated its 20th anniversary.
2. The last three years have been turbulent and uncertain.
- But we have achieved much as we transited to living with COVID-19. Thank you for working with us.
3. The world remains turbulent and uncertain. Disruptions abound:
- Global growth may be disrupted and dampened due to inflationary pressures arising from further escalation of the Ukraine war.
- Financial stability may be disrupted by disorderly market adjustments to monetary policy tightening in advanced economies.
- Security may be disrupted by rising geopolitical tensions in our region.
4. We must brace ourselves for more waves of disruptions.
- That’s why this year’s conference theme is apt
This year’s SIAS theme is "Advancing Corporate Governance in an Age of Disruptions”..
5. The pandemic has prepared us for the next waves of disruptions.
- Going digital
- Going green
- Going together
Supporting businesses to embrace digitisation
6. COVID-19 hastened the need for businesses to go digital.
- Many traditional businesses were disrupted, while others were able to seize new opportunities by digitalising their operations such as tapping on delivery channels.
- This digitalisation trend will continue, and I hope that many companies will keep up your efforts to go digital.
7. We will support our enterprises along their digitalisation journey.
- We have schemes to help companies use technology to transform your business and become more productive:
- SMEs Go Digital
- Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG)
- Grow Digital
- Where applicable, we will also review and expand these schemes to meet evolving needs.
- For example, we expanded our Grow Digital scheme to include more pre-approved digital platforms for SMEs to reach new markets more effectively.
- We recently included Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered business matching and cross-border e-payments facilities.
8. Boards and directors like yourselves can play a crucial role in digital governance.
- As business operations digitalise, boards can and must also become more attuned to digital and cybersecurity risks, including data security, data privacy, use of cloud solutions, and remote access to company networks.
- This is particularly relevant now with work-from-home arrangements being the norm.
- Boards and directors will do well to equip themselves with knowledge on digitalisation or bring in experts to advise on their company’s digitalisation journey.
- We have programmes such as the Digital Leaders Programme and Chief Technology Officer as a Service to help in this regard, to strengthen digital capabilities of leaders.
Supporting businesses to go green
9. As the world transitions to a low-carbon future and a greener economy, we are taking steps to help businesses overcome the challenges and capture the opportunities in the green transition.
- We are helping companies adopt sustainability solutions, through EDB’s Resource Efficiency Grant for Energy, NEA’s Energy Efficiency Fund, and the 3R Fund.
- These help companies reduce their carbon footprint and make the green transition.
- We are also helping companies tap green growth opportunities.
- Enterprise Singapore’s Enterprise Sustainability Programme helps companies with courses and grants to support their sustainability projects.
10. Sustainability must now firmly be on every company’s agenda.
- Sustainability disclosures are of great importance. Investors and stakeholders are increasingly interested to know what ESG risks companies are exposed to, how they plan to manage those risks, and how they are meeting their sustainability targets.
- Since 2016, listed companies in Singapore are required to issue sustainability reports listing their material ESG risks, climate-related disclosures, policies, targets, reporting and governance frameworks.
- Following a consultation last year, SGX has published a roadmap to make climate-related disclosures mandatory – a step-up from the current comply-or-explain requirement.
- These mandatory disclosures will be phased in over the next few years, by sector, starting with those facing the highest climate risks
These are the financial industry; agriculture, food and forest products industry; and the energy industry, starting in FY 2023 (report issued in 2024). The materials & buildings and transportation industries will follow for FY 2024 (report issued in 2025)..
- Sustainability disclosure requirement for listed companies will also percolate into the non-listed companies’ space.
- First, their suppliers and partners will also need to be able to measure and disclose their sustainability emissions and metrics, in order for listed companies to be able to disclose their Scope 3 emissions. Those unable to disclose such information could risk being dropped from supply chains over time.
- Second, as the disclosure waterline for listed companies rises, there will be comparative pressures from investors, customers and the general public for more disclosures from non-listed companies too.
11. These disclosures must be consistent, comparable and reliable to be meaningful.
- MAS is actively involved in international discussions at the IOSCO
The International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) is the leading international policy forum for securities regulators and is recognised as the global standard setter for securities regulation.Sustainable Taskforce, to advance robust baseline global standards on sustainability reporting.
- We have also reviewed and provided inputs to the exposure drafts of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB).Once the ISSB standards are finalised, SGX will work towards aligning our domestic reporting requirements with those standards.
- Last month, SGX and MAS also launched the ESGenome Disclosure Portal to streamline sustainability reporting and enhance investor access to ESG Data. This will ultimately help investors make informed investment decisions. The platform will pilot with listed companies first, but there are plans to extend it to non-listed companies in the longer term.
Internal Deliberations within the Board
12. As society becomes more diversified, we need to ensure the decisions we make consider the concerns and interests of various stakeholders.
13. Effective corporate governance starts with robust internal deliberations within the board.
- There is thus an increasing impetus to uplift board competencies, board renewal and board diversity. Boards that are competent and diverse can better help companies navigate disruptions, and complex and greenfield issues that are increasingly key to success.
- Another key ingredient for robust deliberations is the right board culture. Board culture begins with the Chair setting the tone. As set out in the Practice Guidance to the Code of Corporate Governance, the role of the Board Chair includes promoting a culture of openness and debate at the Board and facilitating the effective contribution of all directors. I hope that all Board Chairs present will continue to be intentional in creating such a culture, so that your Board meetings are vibrant and impactful.
External Dialogues with Stakeholders
14. It is also crucial to engage with external stakeholders. These include your customers, suppliers, employees, management, and even regulators. Corporate disclosures are important and need to be meaningful.
- The SGX Listing Rules and Code of Corporate Governance set out the minimum disclosure standards for listed companies.
- It’s helpful to see these disclosure requirements not as compliance checklists, but an opportunity to communicate to your stakeholders what your companies are doing and how you are addressing matters they are most concerned about.
15. Some of you may be aware that SGX RegCo and the Corporate Governance Advisory Committee (CGAC)
16. In closing, congratulations to all the award recipients tonight. Thank you for leading the way in corporate governance and inspiring all companies in Singapore.
17. Many thanks to SIAS for bringing us together. I wish everyone a wonderful evening.
18. Thank you.