Economic Development and GHG Emissions

There is a clear relationship between economic development and GHG emissions among ASEAN Member States, with the least developed countries having the lowest emissions. In these states, the social aspect (S) of ESG is of primary concern and is related to both poverty reduction and the provision of essential infrastructure, healthcare, and education. While the environmental aspect (E) is recognised as important, it plays a more significant role in more advanced economies. Middle-income economies such as Malaysia and Thailand tend to follow a path that aims to balance social and environmental priorities.


ASEAN countries are advancing in ESG adoption at varying speeds, influenced by their levels of development. While there are a few common threads, the challenge lies in balancing the Environmental “E”, Social “S” and Governance “G” factors. Policies and initiatives often prioritise the “E” over the “S” and “G” in most countries, with more developed countries focusing extensively to strengthen the “G” factor. In contrast, least developed countries have comparatively limited measures. Measuring the “S” factor is particularly challenging, involving a broad range of subjective factors that are often harder to quantify and standardise. Despite this, there is a growing recognition of the importance of the “S” factor in ESG policies, alongside the well-addressed “E” and “G” factors.


ESG in Singapore

Singapore is known for its forward-thinking sustainability policies and regulations. The government has taken steps to prioritise sustainability across various aspects of life, from business to daily living. With the aim of reducing carbon emissions intensity by 36% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, Singapore has implemented carbon taxes, established a carbon trading market, and invested in research and development of green technologies to ensure clean, affordable, and reliable energy for the nation’s needs.              



Singapore has established various laws and policies to ensure sustainable practices across all sectors. The Singapore Green Plan 2030, a national movement, aims to propel Singapore’s sustainable development agenda. The Green Plan comprises five pillars - city in nature, energy reset, sustainable living, green economy, and resilient future – to reinforce Singapore’s commitment to sustainability.

In July 2016, Singapore launched the Climate Action Plan, outlining the country’s strategies for climate adaptation and mitigation. These include implementing measures such as coastal and infrastructure protection, reducing carbon emissions from power generation, and developing new low-carbon technologies. Notably, Singapore took the lead in the ASEAN region by introducing a carbon tax in 2019 (Ministry of Sustainability and Environment 2020). This tax, initially set at SGD 5 per ton from 2019 to 2023, is scheduled to increase progressively, reaching SGD 25 per ton in 2024 and 2025, with plans to further escalate to SGD 50 to SGD 80 per ton by 2030.

Moreover, Singapore is at the forefront of the region as a carbon services hub, providing a range of services related to carbon management and emissions reduction. The increasing demand for such services is estimated to bring a gross added value ranging from USD 1.8–5.6 billion (National Climate Change Secretariat Singapore n.d.).



In Singapore there is no legally mandated minimum wage for either local or foreign workers. Instead, Singapore adopts a Progressive Wage Model (PWM), specifying minimum wages for specific economic sectors such as cleaning, security, and retail. Currently, the PWM governs eight sectors, with coverage expanded to include the food services and waste management sectors in 2023. This model is applicable to both citizens and permanent residents of Singapore.

To ensure meaningful employment for local workers, Singapore has implemented a Local Qualifying Salary (LQS) requirement. Employers must pay local workers a minimum of SGD 1,400 before they are eligible to hire foreign workers. This measure aims to uphold fair labour practices and prioritise the welfare of local employees.



To strengthen Corporate Governance (CG) processes and practices, various government agencies in Singapore have implemented whistle-blowing platforms. These platforms allow individuals to report any potential improprieties and involve entities such as Enterprise Singapore, the Competition & Consumer Commission, the Ministry of National Development, and more.

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) has mandated climate reporting for issuers in the financial, energy, agriculture, food, and forestry industries. Starting from the financial year (FY2022), these issuers must include climate reporting on a “comply or explain” basis in their sustainability reports, with mandatory reporting becoming effective from FY2023. Furthermore, issuers in the materials, buildings, and transportation sectors are obligated to submit mandatory climate reports from FY2024.

Beyond climate reporting, SGX has also mandated that issuers establish a board diversity policy addressing gender, skill, experience, and other relevant aspects of diversity to help companies strengthen board diversity. This policy is expected to be included in annual reports, providing details such as diversity targets, plans, timelines, and progress. Similarly, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has issued an updated version of the practice on board diversity policies in the Code of Corporate Governance. 


Notable ESG Practices

Interviews with Singaporean experts and stakeholders revealed key insights into ESG practices in the country.

Singapore is at the forefront of ESG data platforms compared to other ASEAN Member States. Under Project Greenprint, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Singapore Exchange (SGX) introduced a digital disclosure portal called ESGenome. This platform enables companies to report ESG data in a structured and efficient manner, providing investors with consistent and comparable information. MAS also partnered with Singapore-based fintech, Hashstacs Pte Ltd (STACS) to develop ESGpedia, a data registry platform that collects ESG certifications and data from various sectors, streamlining the investment process and mobilising ESG capital.

A public sector employee emphasised the financial sector’s call for more ESG regulations and guidance in Singapore. Lack of clear directions or instructions possess reputational risks. An example of detailed sector guidance includes regulators planning a roadmap for mandatory disclosure requirements by financial institutions, following the guidelines of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB). Additionally, establishing a framework and providing funding is equally important for businesses making the green transition. A green finance academic center commended the Singaporean Government and relevant regulatory bodies for supporting investors in sustainable finance.

A private sector employee from a multinational technology company praised the clear guidelines and policies provided by the Singaporean Government to help them better strategise their operations and transitions. While the Singaporean Government plans to phase out internal combustion engine vehicles by 2040, this company has set an ambitious target to transition its country fleet to hybrid or electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030, a decade ahead of the national goal. The company mentioned that with a clear roadmap provided by the Singaporean Government, there would be sufficient time and infrastructure to support them in accelerating their green transition.


Case study – Building a Greener Future in Singapore

A Singapore-based company specialising in innovative urban space solutions offers a wide range of services encompassing sustainable urban renewal, senior living, urban living, retail, and large-scale integrated developments. This company is committed to developing green properties, optimising resource efficiency, and utilising renewable energy sources.

To minimise its environmental impact, the company aims to reduce Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 100% and Scope 3 GHG emissions* from purchased goods and services by 20% per square meter by 2030 with 2020 as the base year. The company also intends to increase the use of green materials to 50% by 2030. Furthermore, the company is committed to combating plastic pollution and avoiding single-use plastics in its business operations. It has implemented the Integrated Management System, combining ISO 9001 (quality management system), ISO 14001 (environmental management system), and ISO 45001 (occupational health and safety management system) to enhance its ESG practices.

Adopting ESG principles is seen as a competitive advantage, and despite the projected increase in capital expenditure in the short term, the company anticipates positive returns on investment and internal return rates in the mid to long-term.

This article was contributed by RSM Singapore and was originally published in the report on ‘ESG Practices in ASEAN and Korea: Pathways Towards Sustainability.’

* Scope 2 emissions refer to indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heat, and cooling. Scope 3 emissions refer to all other indirect emissions associated with the organisation’s activities.

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