Face to Face: Ms Esther An Interview

Interview with Ms Esther An, Chief Sustainability Officer, City Developments Limited (CDL)

Tell us about your role as Chief Sustainability Officer at CDL.

ms esther an , cdl
Ms Esther An Chief Sustainability Officer, City Developments Limited CDL

As CDL’s Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), I report directly to our Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Board Sustainability Committee (BSC). Strategic thinking, anticipating trends and planning as well as effective implementation of ideas are key to my role. With the fast-changing business and sustainability landscape globally and locally, the biggest challenge is to uphold CDL’s sustainability leadership in Singapore and the region as well as maintain CDL’s high profile in global sustainability rankings. Referenced by many global institutional investors, these rankings reinforce our brand reputation and trusted track record.

To complement my role as CSO, I lead the company-wide Sustainability Committee, which drives sustainability across all corporate and operational units of CDL. Set up in 2008, the committee supports the Sustainability department in implementing initiatives, drives and monitors various aspects of CDL’s sustainability practices, and ensures effective integration of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives into our business operations and corporate objectives. Today, practicing sustainability alone is not sufficient, and communication is another key role that I play.

At CDL, we have been advancing our sustainability reporting in line with global reporting frameworks over the last decade. In 2008, CDL was the first Singapore company to publish a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Application Level checked sustainability report. In 2012, we became the first developer in Singapore to receive GRI Level A+ for our report. In 2015, CDL became the first property developer in Singapore to adopt the International Integrated Reporting Council’s Integrated Reporting framework and published our inaugural Integrated Sustainability Report (ISR). This has helped us make stronger business and financial sense of ESG integration. Most importantly, it has enabled us to articulate our ESG strategies and key performances with investors effectively. The dedicated report provides details on CDL’s ESG activities and performance, addresses the social and environmental impacts that are pertinent to the company’s business, and shares the company’s engagement with stakeholders.

Many global investors, in particular Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds, have been referring to our sustainability report as a key source of information on our performance for their investment evaluation. Beyond our annual Integrated Sustainability Report, CDL has also taken the initiative to create a dedicated sustainability microsite and provide quarterly updates on our sustainability-related initiatives and key ESG performance in a timelier manner.

Being in the sustainability scene for over 20 years, you have seen the evolution of the industry. What do you think caused the paradigm shift from economic development to sustainable development?

In the mid-1990s, sustainability and climate change were not familiar concepts to many in this part of the world. However, greater global awareness of the impact of climate change and increasing recognition of the strategic connection between sustainability and business performance has been the driving force for companies to be proactive rather than reactive in sustainable development. For instance, businesses can no longer ignore the impact of climate change risks on their bottom line.

In Singapore, businesses that do not adopt sustainable practices may face reputational or operational risks that will impact their license to operate, and be exposed to higher operating costs, with the water price increase and impending carbon tax. Furthermore, with green consumerism on the rise globally and greater investor demand for ESG data which influence investment decisions, adopting sustainable practices also presents tremendous opportunities for companies to grow their business. Indeed, the paradigm shift to sustainable development was accelerated with the landmark Paris Agreement and the United Nations (UN)

Singapore Sustainability Academy, located at the Skypark of CDL’s City Square Mall, is the first major People, Public and Private (3P) ground-up initiative. (Photo credit: CDL and VMW Group – Visualmediaworks)

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As governments align their policies with the Agreement and UN SDGs, businesses must act fast to integrate sustainability into their operations. Besides potentially enhancing their license to operate, this will enable them to create sustained value for their business, investors, stakeholders and the community.

Do you think sustainability has been well adopted by the built industry in Singapore?

In the 1990s, the building industry was considered to have caused a negative impact on the environment and perceived as destroying before constructing. However, CDL believed that we could build and manage with sustainability in mind. We established our ethos of ‘Conserving as we Construct’ and have been committed to future-proofing our business through a three-pronged strategy as a developer, an asset owner and a corporate citizen.

We develop green buildings, manage them in an energy- and resource-efficient way, and engage stakeholders on sustainable development. Being a pioneer in green building and sustainability has its opportunities and challenges. While there was much room for us to innovate and achieve many ‘firsts’ since 1995, there were also challenges. Along the value chain, in particular, there was a lack of awareness and knowledge about the benefits of green products and practices in the early days.

To help stakeholders understand and support our sustainability vision and mission, we devoted much time and effort to communicate our goals and plans. We introduced several key platforms to engage with and get the message across to our contractors and suppliers. These included the CDL Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) policy, CDL 5-Star EHS Assessment System and Green Procurement Guidelines. As one of Singapore’s largest landlords, we also launched several eco-outreach initiatives to influence tenants to adopt the good habits of reduce, reuse and recycle. Key programmes include Project: Eco-Office, a first-of-its-kind green office campaign with Singapore Environment Council since 2002, “1°C Up” Programme since 2007, and the CDL Green Lease Partnership Programme in 2014.

With consistency and tireless efforts to engage, educate and empower our stakeholders, they have recognised the benefits of sustainable practices. Today, contractors support our approach and extend the same good EHS practices to other developers, which has helped drive change in the entire built industry. Besides reducing their carbon footprint, our tenants also saw the benefits of sustainable practices as they achieved savings in their utility bill. Looking ahead, the Singapore Government targets to green at least 80% of the country’s building stock by 2030, which could potentially be the lynchpin of Singapore’s climate pledge to reduce its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. There is thus room for greater adoption of sustainability by the built sector to collectively mitigate climate change and contribute towards Singapore’s greening and GHG emissions reduction goals.

What are the types of events that Women4Green organise?

To further support the international and national climate actions, we initiated the development of the zero-energy Singapore Sustainability Academy (SSA) with a vision to contribute to a green and sustainable future. It sets out to be a hub for capacity building, knowledge sharing, collaborations and networking.

Women4Green was established at the same time to support CDL and the Academy’s vision. Having worked in the building and sustainability arenas for over two decades, I would safely say that industries related to green building, technology, engineering and energy are in general male dominant. Being the first network in Singapore for women in sustainability, Women4Green aims to bring together women executives in the various green industries to contribute towards climate action, sustainable business and social change. It hopes to harness the collective knowledge and expertise of successful female leaders to empower other women to incite meaningful change in their respective industries. Women4Green initiatives and activities will be designed to support the UN SDGs particularly Goal 5 — achieve gender equality and empowerment of women.

We strongly believe that creating and expanding opportunities for women are fundamental to sustainable growth and will further advance our stakeholder engagement to build a sustainable future, at home or at work. It is our privilege to have successful female leaders from various industries to voice their support of Women4Green’s mission. It is not a rigid society but a platform to enable knowledge sharing about sustainability through online sharing and regular events.

By attending Women4Green events on topics related to sustainable lifestyle and business practices, participants will benefit from the collective knowledge and expertise of selected subjects and female leaders. The learning and exchange of knowledge and expertise will inspire participants to drive change through adopting and promoting best practices, innovations and engagement in support of the UN SDGs.

Women4Green was established at the same time to support CDL and the Academy’s vision

Through your role in CDL, you spearheaded various community engagement initiatives like E-Generation Challenge and EcoBank. Which is your favourite and why?

I am glad to have the privilege to create exciting community outreach initiatives. My favourite initiatives are My Tree House, world’s first green library for kids and the zero-energy CDL Green Gallery@Singapore Botanic Gardens Heritage Museum. Both were set up as our gifts to the nation when CDL celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2013.

The two projects demonstrate a high standard of green building commitment and innovations. Most importantly, the two platforms reach out to millions of visitors, local and overseas, to learn more about the appreciation of the environment and the beauty of nature. No single entity can tackle climate change or save the planet alone, these platforms have effectively reached out to and educated the public and young children to do their part for our planet.

Where do you think Singapore stands in the international arena in terms of sustainability?

Despite being island-state with limited land and resources, Singapore is ranked the most sustainable city in Asia and second in the world after Zurich according to the Sustainable Cities Index 2016 from global design and consulting firm Arcadis. A white paper by Solidiance in 2016 ranked Singapore amongst the top 10 global cities in green buildings and the country has been highly regarded as a garden city with high green coverage of almost 50%. Strong government commitment has played an instrumental role in setting the sustainable development agenda and direction through the introduction of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, Climate Action Plan and Public Sector Sustainability Plan.

These entail policies to steer the people, public and private (3P) sectors towards a concerted effort and greater impact to achieve our national goals on tackling climate change. For instance, SSA, a joint collaboration between CDL and the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore, is the nation’s first major 3P initiative in support of global and national sustainability goals. The SSA is supported by six government agencies – Building and Construction Authority, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, National Climate Change Secretariat, National Environment Agency, National Parks Board, and Urban Redevelopment Authority.

This is also the first time a local private-sector property developer and non-profit organisation teamed up to create a major training and networking facility on sustainability. The SSA aims to promote a low-carbon economy, resource efficiency, and sustainable practices among businesses and the community, in particular, youths. It will focus on thought leadership and advocacy; capacity building through education, training and mentorship; networking and collaborations; information, resource and solutions sharing; as well as stakeholder and community engagements.

At the same time, Singapore has continued to learn from other countries in the adoption of best international practices and game-changing technology for sustainable development. In the context of the building and construction industry, this is crucial as we need to continuously push boundaries for a better, cleaner and greener way to build. In 2014, CDL became the first property developer in Asia to adopt the advanced Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) method for The Brownstone, a 638-unit Executive Condominium located next to the upcoming Canberra MRT station in Singapore. In 2016, CDL also became an early adopter of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and Glued Laminated Timber (Glulam) in Singapore. The SSA was built using CLT and Glulam which have been used in Europe. PPVC, CLT and Glulam support the concept of Design for Manufacturing and Assembly that significantly boosts construction productivity, ensures quality and enhances worksite cleanliness and safety.

World’s Largest Concentrated Solar Power Project

dubai solar power projectDubai is going to be home to the world’s largest Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) project, costing 14.2 billion Dirhams (USD 3.87 billion). The project comes as part of implementing the fourth stage of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park and to support the end goals of Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050. To be implemented by Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (Dewa), it is expected to generate 1,000 megawatts (MW) of clean energy when completed.

Using the Independent Power Producer (IPP) model, it will include the world’s tallest solar tower, at 260 meters high, and a 100 billion Dirham fund to finance the plan. Furthermore, 500 million Dirhams will be allocated for research and development works in the field of smart networks and improvement of energy efficiency.
Concentrated solar power plants, unlike solar energy drawn from photovoltaic cells, use a large array of mirrors, called heliostats, to concentrate a large area of sunlight onto a small area, typically on top of a tower.

Electricity is generated when the concentrated light gets converted to heat, which drives a steam turbine connected to an electrical power generator. An advantage of CSP is that thermal heat can be stored easily, making it possible to produce electricity after sunset.

The Dubai plant will have several thousand heliostats located around a tower. The resulting heat-transfer fluid will power a steam turbine to generate electricity. Incredibly, the new plant will deliver power at less than 8 cents per kilowatt per hour, down from the typical 15 kilowatts per hour rate. Once complete, the solar park is expected to
reduce 6.5 million tons of carbon emissions each year. A typical coal plant produces around 3.5 million tons of CO2 per year.

Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 consists of five main pillars: infrastructure, legislation, funding, building capacities and skills, and having an environment-friendly energy mix.
The infrastructure pillar includes initiatives such as Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, which is the largest generator of solar energy in the world from a single location, with a capacity to produce 5,000MW by 2030, and a total investment of 50 billion Dirhams. The first phase of this project began operations in 2013 and the second will begin this year. Estimated to be in full operation in 2030, the Solar Park will produce 25 percent of the
total energy production in Dubai and 75 percent by 2050.

BEX & MCE Asia 2017

Global Showcase of Green Building and Construction Innovations

bexasia 2017

Build Eco Xpo (BEX) Asia, Southeast Asia’s leading trade exhibition for the green building market, kicked off with a bang at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre. Visitors from more than 50 countries attended the event to get a firsthand look into some of the latest innovations and insights in the Asian green building, HVAC-R, water, energy and heating industries.BEX Asia is co-located with Mostra Convegno Expocomfort (MCE) Asia, the region’s leading trade exhibition for energy-efficient solutions that power industrial, commercial and residential buildings. BEX and MCE Asia 2017, the key anchor trade exhibitions of Singapore Green Building Week (SGBW), are proud to be part of a larger movement contributing to the future well-being of our planet.

Centennial Woods: Exhibitor at BEXASIA 2017
Centennial Woods: Exhibitor at BEXASIA 2017

The SGBW hosts a wide variety of events to galvanise the community to act on sustainability, reaching out to international green building experts, policymakers, academics, built environment practitioners, end-users, as well as members of the public and students. Platform for the latest innovations in Asia The BEX and MCE Asia exhibition floors brimmed with the latest green building and energy-efficient technologies, providing visitors with a broad view of the vast array of solutions driving meaningful change in Asia. A key theme throughout the exhibition were smart devices that promise to power next-generation homes, offices and buildings. From smart lighting to data-driven energy management solutions, visitors were spoilt for choice by the latest innovations on display.

“We are glad to be able to participate in this year’s edition of MCE Asia 2017,” said Mr David Yim, Marketing Manager at AGC Asia Pacific Pte Ltd.

“It is a great opportunity for us to share HalioTM, our smart-tinting glass that brings active glass technology into the market to deliver powerful and responsive natural light management. Through the event, we are not only able to reach out to new and potential clients, but are able to network with some of the brightest minds in the industry.”

Othercompanies debuting their latest solutions,ranging fromplug-and-play escalatortechnology to smart HVAC control valves, include: • AL-SUS Technologies’ Step Lift, an evolutionary lift that can be quickly installed to fit existing staircases, without having to build expensive escalator or lift shafts. Meant to complement the use of staircases, the step lift is a platform that automatically moves up a single flight of stairs. Space saving and energy efficient, Step Lift also boasts safety features for hassle-free usage. • Ariston’sAndris Slim 20 (SL20) Storage Water Heater is designed for modern living, with an energy efficient water inlet flow control system. Its slim and aesthetic design allows it to fit into tight spaces, perfect for modern apartments in urban jungles like Singapore.

Business Consultancy

Green in Future is endowed with a wider understanding of the niche market of Green delivered through a passionate editorial team. Our strong marketing capabilities can assist Companies in establishing their brand presence and network with the right prospects.
Our marketing campaigns are strategically designed to  boost the brand awareness and help generate leads.


  1. Lead Generation
  2. Social Media Amplification
  3. Branding Awareness
  4. Client Engagement

1. Lead Generation:

  • Create awareness of the product, company and service.
  • Generate targeted leads and Notified by email for enquiries.
  • Integrated with email, Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn.

2.Social Media Amplification

  • Product related posts and user shareable content updates.
  • Social Ad and Promo campaigns to a niche audience.
  • Review weekly and modify campaign based on results.

3.Branding Awareness:

  • Awareness of the brand through exclusive write-ups
  • Promotional banners in website
  • Email Campaign EDMs
  • Advertorial in Newsletter

4.Client Engagement:

  • Provide networking opportunities at Conferences and Seminars.
  • Business exposure to exhibitors at major events across Asia
  • Organize workshops / events for product launches/ services.

Technology and Landscape Design 2017

Green In Future will be organizing a series of seminars, conference workshops and master classes throughout the year on various topics.


Technology and Sustainable Landscape Design, 3rd March 2017




Technology Sustainable Landscape design