Insights from Kopi Chat Deep Dive on Sustainability

In our October edition of Kopi Chat Deep Dive series, BLOCK71 organised a panel to discuss the role of technology in the field of sustainability. The panel consisted of Xin Yan from Yoripe, Natalie Phoon who won the title of Ms Earth Fire, Veerappan Swaminathan from Sustainable Living Lab, and was moderated by Joshua Wong from Temasek Foundation Ecosperity. During the discussion, the panelists shared some interesting insights into the sustainability landscape. Here are 4 of the key takeaways that we gathered this installment of Kopi Chat Deep Dive.

From left to right: Alvina Fu (NUS Enterprise), Veerappan Swaminathan (Sustainable Living Lab), Natalie Phoon (Ms Earth Fire), Xin Yan (Yoripe), Joshua Wong (Temasek Foundation Ecosperity)

Key Takeaways on Tech’s Role in Sustainability

1. Nuclear energy may be Singapore’s best bet at green energy

Singapore has low sun hours due to the amount of cloud cover in regions closer to the equator. Thus, solar energy does not prove to be a very viable option in the Singapore region. Other options such as wind energy and geothermal energy are also insufficient in Singapore for them to be adequate replacements for fossil fuels. As it stands, nuclear energy and offshore solar farms may be the closest Singapore gets to adopting green energy. However, Singapore still has a way to go before such technology can truly replace fossil fuels.

2. Work at the city level to promote sustainability

In order to propagate solutions in sustainability, you have to start from cities. Most developmental work is from the standpoint of working with cities and at the city level is where the solutions get made. On the other hand, appealing to international organisations like the UN may not prove to have much effect when it comes to the implementation of green energy or other sustainability solutions. Thus, governments have to take initiatives to implement city level changes as opposed to leaving it to international organisations to intervene. Energy saving starts from home and in brief, us as individuals need to do every little bit we can for a sustainable future.

3. A longer frame of reference is essential for the sustainability of a company

If one wants to look at the long-term viability of a company, one has to approach it from the perspective of its company’s sustainability in terms of profit and revenues. A quarterly frame of reference will result in a short-term loop and over emphasize on a companies’ immediate needs and objectives. A frame of reference with a longer time span will allow companies to shift their view into the long-term and address issues such as shareholder maximisation, instead of merely short-term goals that a company can benefit from.

4. Societal norms play a larger role than technology when it comes to change

Technology has an overstated role when it comes to inducing change. In fact, societal norms have a larger impact on whether and how change occurs. Social norms tend to make people resistant to change. Therefore, if we want to impact change, governments and even social groups need to start with education and incept the idea for a change to change.

Technology generally acts as an enabler. It tends to add on and improve the quality of life rather than to make the change. It is then important to think about what social norms that are being created and what habits, uses, and practices are being promoted when finding solutions to sustainability and then where viable use technology as an aid to empower that change.


There is still a long way to go for Singapore before sustainability in terms of energy efficiency can be achieved. In Singapore’s case, factors such as our geographical conditions and societal norms are obstacles to Singapore’s willingness and ability to adopt sustainable technologies. Fortunately, Singapore as a nation, and with its many sub-community, has taken the initiative to implement changes on a city scale in the hopes of a greener future. For us, that’s a good start.

Watch the full video of the Kopi Chat Deep Dive on Tech’s Role in Sustainability here:

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Posted by BLOCK71 Singapore on Wednesday, 3 October 2018

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