November 17, 2022

Do Schools in Singapore have ESG Goals to Reduce their Carbon Footprint?

The global temperature is likely to increase by 2-4 degrees Celsius by the close of the century, which will be disastrous to life if we do not effectively address the problem of global warming. The situation is so dire that the Secretary General of the United Nations describes the planet as "periled and paralyzed." To avert the looming danger, there is only one way out: cutting down the carbon footprint from our operations. In Singapore, one of the main greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters is schools, which release an average of 9.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Despite the high emission rates, schools in Singapore have ESG goals to help them cut down GHG gases in line with the UN targets of achieving net zero carbon rates by 2050. Keep reading as we dig deeper into the Singapore Green Plan 2030, which aims to start by hiving off 2/3 of GHG by 2030 and zero carbon emissions by 2050. We will also outline key activities that school administrators can use to keep their carbon footprints low.


What is Carbon Footprint? 

Carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) generated by an individual, business, product, or institution. The dominant GHG is carbon dioxide (CO2) which is emitted from actions such as the burning of fossil fuels. However, other greenhouse gases, such as methane (CH4) from wastes and agricultural fields, and nitrous oxide (N2O), are also very important. 

When calculating the carbon footprint, a school must factor in all GHG gas sources. These can be categorised into three main categories: 

  • Scope One Emissions: These are direct emissions released by a school or facilities that are controlled by the institution. Emissions from the use of fuels for heating fall into this category. Emissions released from refrigeration and school transportation also fall into this category.
  • Scope Two Emissions: These are indirect emissions, especially from the generation of the energy a school uses. They include all GHG emissions emitted into the atmosphere because of the consumption of electricity, heat, steam, and cooling. In most schools in Singapore, electricity is the primary source of scope two emissions.
  • Scope Three Emissions: These are all emissions associated with an organisation but outside Scope One and Scope Two delineations. Mainly these emissions are released by other organisations, such as suppliers, to produce raw materials or products that your organisation uses. These emissions can further be categorised into franchises, investments, leased assets, and end-of-life treatment. 

Special Benefits of Having Clear ESG Goals for Schools in Singapore 

  • Helps schools to win the support of stakeholders. 
  • Clear ESG goals and plans can help your school to cut down its operating costs. 
  • Allows you to improve the air quality in both classrooms and offices. 
  • ESG improves harmony between schools and neighbouring communities. 
  • Gives you the perfect opportunity to help address major problems, such as global warming, that are facing the planet today. 
  • ESG goals help schools build an enthusiastic workforce and reduce staff attrition. 

The Singapore Green Plan 2030 Targets for Schools 

The Ministry of Education in Singapore has outlined its agenda for promoting sustainability under the country’s Green Plan 2030. It is helping to set the pace for ESG in schools and make the planet a better place for all. To achieve this, the ministry is using the following initiatives: 

  • Eco-Stewardship Program: This program is building on the current environmental efforts from the lowest to the highest levels of learning. It aims at updating the teaching and learning about sustainability within science and humanities curricula at all levels of education. 
  • Piloting Sustainability Features: The ministry of education is helping schools develop ESG goals by harnessing solar energy, cutting down electricity use, and reducing waste generation. Even as the country targets to reach a 75% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, the ministry is assisting schools in targeting zero carbon emissions in the same timeframe. 
  • The New Science Center: Singapore appreciates that for schools to set and achieve their ESG goals, they require ample knowledge and support. Therefore, the New Science Center is aimed at showcasing innovative sustainability applications so that schools can replicate them in their institutions. The centre will also partner with individual schools to help them set clear goals for cutting down carbon footprints, reducing waste generation, and recycling. 

How to Create ESG Goals 

Now that you know the importance of ESG for schools in Singapore, does your institution have clear goals and plans? This is crucial because it serves as a guide, showing the actions to take and identifying areas for review with key performance indicators (KPIs). So, here is the process of drawing and implementing an ESG plan

  • Carry out a comprehensive review of your school’s operations to identify major ESG risks and opportunities. 
  • Reach out to the institution's stakeholders to bring them on board and factor in their suggestions. Stakeholders include teachers, non-teaching staff, local authorities, and government officials. 
  • Carry out a materiality assessment. This is a vital step because it helps you to identify material topics for action. The best approach is to identify and work on areas that will have the greatest impact not just in cutting down carbon footprint but also promoting sustainability. 
  • Create a good ESG plan. To be able to reduce your school's carbon footprint in line with the selected topic, you need to have a clear plan. Your ESG plan for cutting down your carbon footprint should include: 
  1. The targeted goal for lower carbon footprint. The objective should be pegged to the country’s long-term goal of achieving zero carbon emissions
  2. Identify a preferred framework to guide the ESG strategy. The ESG framework provides global standards for all organisations so that stakeholders can see the efforts, rating, and appreciate the efforts. Good frameworks to consider are the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Task-force for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). 
  3. Create a team to help you implement the ESG plan. The best way to achieve this is by roping in all staff members. You could also look for ways to include carbon footprint as a component of the learning process. For example, students would come in handy in helping to keep lights and computers off when not in use. You should also bring on board international organisations, such as Climate Fresk, to help you in advancing the journey for sustainability.
  4. Report your ESG outcome. In this step, you report every effort that has been put toward promoting sustainability. In the ESG report, make sure to capture the efforts to cut down the carbon footprint. Also, the report has to factor in both the negative and positive impacts so that stakeholders can get a clear picture of the school's ESG rating. 
  5. The report you create should be published for all stakeholders to read. Also, the report should form the basis for the next ESG reporting phase. The report also forms a good point to gauge your ESG success.

Areas of Action for Schools to Cut Down their Carbon Footprints 

The average carbon footprint for schools per year is 9.4 metric tons. This is a huge amount of emissions, and every board of a school has to come up with clear strategies for cutting it down. Other areas of action that schools in Singapore should focus on to reduce their carbon footprint include: 

  • Supporting Alternative Means of Transport 

Transport accounts for 1/5 of global greenhouse emissions every year. Your school can help to reduce this by supporting alternative and more efficient means of transport. For example, you might want to encourage teachers and employees to use the school bus instead of using their own cars. Other methods include supporting cycling and using electric cars. 

  • Reducing Waste From the School 

When waste is released into the atmosphere, the process of anaerobic decomposition releases methane gas, which is part of greenhouse gases. Even when combusted, it still releases harmful emissions into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. To address the challenge, your school should work on cutting down waste at source. Consider recycling wastewater and working with recycling companies to avoid releasing waste into the environment. 

  • Improving the Efficiency of Your HVAC System

HVAC systems in schools account for a big portion of energy-related costs. This can quickly raise your carbon footprint and electricity bill. To reduce energy use and cut down Scope Two emissions, you need to improve the efficiency of the HVAC system. One of the recommended methods is installing CONTINEWM

CONTINEWM is an innovative device engineered to help improve the efficiency of an AC system by reducing resistance to airflow. When an AC is running, the moving parts generate positive electrostatic charges that create resistance to the movement of air. To counter this, CONTINEWM releases negative charges that clear the positive charges. This helps to create a smooth flow of air through the HVAC system. You can improve the energy efficiency of the HVAC system by up to 50% by using CONTINEWM.

This post has demonstrated that schools in Singapore, with the assistance of the Ministry of Education, are setting clear ESG goals to cut down carbon footprints. It has also demonstrated the actions that school management and boards can take to achieve greater sustainability. Remember that once you select the preferred method for improving ESG, such as using CONTINEWM or minimising waste, it is a good idea to review the impact and make adjustments for improvements.