Environmental News Archive

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The long green mile

By Sheralyn Tay, TODAY
05 June 2007

SINGAPORE: It takes as little as turning off the lights and air-conditioner during lunch hour — but this tiny effort to go green seems monumental for most Singapore companies.

The first nation-wide initiative to get companies to practise energy-saving measures for one day only — it’s World Environment Day today — has received poor response.

Only 30 firms agreed to take part in the Eco Action programme, far short of the target of 100.

And the reasons given? Companies do not want to disrupt their workflow and fear a loss of productivity, noted the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), which is supporting the event.

The initial interest in the programme had been encouraging, said Ms Masayo Hada, assistant manager at Ricoh Asia Pacific’s Regional Environment Management Group. Almost 50 companies attended the briefing sessions on Eco Action, but this did not translate into action.

The sign-up rate appears to echo Singapore’s poor showing in a survey released last month by Grant Thornton International, which indicated that Singapore firms had little interest in managing their energy costs.

Just 25 per cent of Singaporean businesses, compared to a global average of 37 per cent, felt energy costs had a major impact on their cost pressures. And in terms of what companies have done to be more energy efficient, Singapore scored last in a list of 32 countries.

But Ms Hada put the cool response down to first-time jitters: “My feeling is that they are keen ... But maybe they are uncomfortable because they don’t know exactly what to do. Next year, we will inform them in advance and, hopefully, numbers will be better.” Nevertheless, she noted, this year’s range of participants is encouraging. They include the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, the Infocomm Development Authority, Alexandra Hospital, seven multinationals and four small and medium-sized enterprises.

Also, Eco Action’s low take-up rate among companies, said SEC executive director Howard Shaw, does not mean there are no “internal initiatives” being taken.

Around the world today, rallies, seminars, exhibitions, tree planting and citywide clean-ups are being held to mark World Environment Day.

In Singapore, Eco Action — registered as an official event with the United Nations Environmental Programme — asks companies to pledge to reduce energy consumption by describing ways to tackle carbon emissions, and acting on them for just one day.

Each company is required to submit a post-activity report. For photocopier vendor Ricoh Asia Pacific, a co-organiser of the programme, all 60 or so staffmembers will leave work three hours earlier today, when all office lights and electrical appliances will be turned off. This will save about 100 kilowatt-hours, the average amount of energy in a month consumed by a one-room HDB flat.

According to Ms Hada, each Ricoh office worldwide practises an energy-saving programme once a month. Initiatives such as turningoff the lights daily at lunchtime and using both sides of the paper have achieved huge savings — with energy consumption falling by 20 per cent and paper consumption by 39 per cent since 2003. - TODAY/fa

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