Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Gardens by the Bay

It’s surprising the assumptions we make sometimes. Recently, I was lecturing to a group of young professionals and asked how many of them knew what sustainability was. Incredibly none had a clue. The closest we got was the sustainability of a business in financial terms, not exactly what I had in mind.

Maybe it is different terminology. It seemed that while sustainable development was not a familiar term, corporate social responsibility (CSR) was. But they are not the same in most accepted definitions and the environmental angle of sustainability need not be prominent in CSR.

This apparent gap in mutual understanding is all the more surprising as it is in Singapore, a first world developed state, where everyone talks about the weather and climate change is openly accepted as the reason for the quirks experienced here, such as the lack of rain in the last two weeks! So the symptoms are familiar enough and being ‘green’ is commonly discussed. And to cap it all, this is a country that is about to open its spectacular ‘Gardens by the Bay’, a recreated tropical paradise, in the heart of the city. This Asian version of the UK’s Eden Project is designed to bring awareness of the balances of nature into a rapidly growing and teeming hub of urban living.

What was evident, when we had explained each other’s versions of ‘green’ was the absence of a sense that there was much that any individual or company could usefully do, or any strong sense of responsibility. This could be a bit of an unfair summary, and may be the result of being a small country in a highly competitive region, but the disconnection was clear.

green24 is a way of re-connecting people and companies to a larger framework and set of ideas. Employees and customers must become aware of what it means to be green and how they can contribute to this initiative. Overall, it is about disseminating more information, because greater awareness creates more options. Also, creating more discussion breaks down misconceptions and builds common understanding. Maybe at the end of our discussion in Singapore some eyes were opened. Building understanding, responsibility and environmental education, or whatever we wish to call it, is a large project in which each of us can play a part. The advent of internet technology gives us all the opportunity to spread awareness through information services like green24 and demonstrate – dare I say – sustainable commitment.

David Jackman

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