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Welcome and Opening Remarks by Prof Robbie Goh at the 10th World Sustainability Forum

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,

1. A warm welcome to everyone joining us at the 10th World Sustainability Forum or WSF 2023. Organised and supported by academic open-access publisher, MDPI, this is the very first time this global event is being held in Singapore and the region.

2. Whether you are here with us, in-person, at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) this morning or connecting virtually from across the world, we are excited to be your local and regional host for today, as we exchange the latest in sustainability research and best practices regionally and globally.

Driving Factors for the Forum

3. Today, we are facing unprecedented challenges around climate change and geopolitical conflicts, while grappling with the aftereffects of COVID-19 and the corresponding social-economic impact.

4. Sustainability is a global imperative, where the threads of environmental, economic, and social development entwine. Yet the latest UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Progress Report 2023 found that only 12 per cent of the SDG targets are on track for 2030. About half of the targets are moderately or severely off track. Even more sobering is the fact that over 30 per cent have either seen no movement or regressed below the 2015 baseline.

5. The social and community impact of sustainability, which focuses on people, is a complex piece that requires more intricate work. A staggering 575 million people will continue living in extreme poverty in 2030 and 84 million children and young people will remain out of school. At the halfway mark to the 2023 deadline, the UN has warned that we are leaving more than half the world behind.

6. More than ever, stakeholders from government, academia, industries, social groups, and individuals worldwide must band together to take urgent action to accelerate sustainability.

7. How do we ensure equitable access to resources, education, and opportunities for all, avoiding a frayed social fabric? Can we mend the gaps in healthcare, income, and inclusiveness to strengthen this weave? And as we look to the future, how can we best utilise technology and innovation to add vibrant hues to the tapestry of our social compact?

8. These are some of the areas that we hope to explore in today’s programme for WSF 2023 in Singapore, based on the theme ‘Sustainability for Social and Community Impact’.

9. Our keynote speaker, Dr Winston Chow, Lee Kong Chian Research Fellow and Associate Professor of Urban Climate at the Singapore Management University, will be speaking on how “Technology is not enough” to mitigate climate change. He will shortly share more examples on how community inclusivity and stakeholder engagement are critical for climate resilience and a sustainable future.

10. With sessions focused on the efforts towards engendering social and community good, and explorations in innovative means to create greater impact, today’s Singapore forum will also showcase collaboration efforts among different community groups to co-create sustainable solutions. You can look forward to paper presentations from academics hailing from across Southeast Asia, India, and Africa, on topics related to 'Sustainability through Innovation’ and ‘The Future of Sustainability’.

11. Also coming up are innovation showcase sessions by sustainability startups susGain, and Atlas Aquaculture. Furthermore, we have an exciting panel line-up featuring representatives from local charity The Food Bank, regional experts in sustainability from Deloitte, LVMH Perfumes & Cosmetics, IMC Pan Asia Alliance and our SUSS colleagues.

SUSS’ Role and Contributions

12. At SUSS, we firmly believe that education, purposeful continuous learning, and applied research must serve a bigger purpose – to contribute to real impact and social good. We are constantly forging partnerships with relevant stakeholders, contributing to policy and practice to drive positive outcomes on the most pressing issues we are facing today.

13. Sustainability-focused initiatives are, of course, one of the key areas we have been actively ramping up, in line with Singapore’s sustainability efforts and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For example:

  • In 2022, we started the Agri-preneur Incubation Programme (AIP), to empower young entrepreneurs to tackle Singapore’s food safety and security challenges by fostering innovative startup ideas. It supports the “30 by 30” goal, part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030 – to build up our agri-food industry’s capacity to sustainably produce 30% of our nutritional needs by 2030.
  • Through our AIP partner Nutrious Farm, the Bee Amazed Garden was set up at SUSS this year. This marks SUSS as the first bee-friendly university in Singapore and we are currently housing around 100,000 bees at the Experiential Urban Farm on our rooftop.
  • In July, we signed a MOU with leading professional services firm RSM, to empower small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to embrace sustainability and integrate ESG practices into their business models and operations.
  • SUSS is also the selected education partner for WE-Empower, a corporate social responsibility initiative of Succession Advisory Partners, connecting business families and grassroots enterprises in inter-related industries to build inclusive economic growth. Together, we will spearhead programmes involving our students,
    faculty, and business families, focused on promoting social entrepreneurship and innovation in communities across ASEAN.
  • On top of these, we are also offering several programmes in sustainability, such as the School of Business Graduate Diploma in Sustainability Management, the Undergraduate Minor in Sustainable Business Practices, School of Science and Technology Bachelor in Facilities Management, and Master of Built Environment, just to name a few. A new Master of Social Entrepreneurship (Sustainability track) will also be launched in 2024. Besides formal learning opportunities, short-term courses on sustainability-related topics are also available for learners to upskill on demand.

14. We are truly honoured to be the local and regional host for this year’s unique edition of WSF 2023, which also marks its 10th anniversary. A 24-hour global hybrid event, WSF 2023 kicks off here at SUSS in Singapore, before we pass the baton to university partners in Basel, Switzerland and Toronto, Canada.

15. The WSF 2023 brings together leaders, experts, and stakeholders from diverse backgrounds, united by a shared vision of a world that is socially inclusive, environmentally responsible, and economically successful. We are honoured to play a part in advancing knowledge, fostering collaboration, and driving concrete action towards this vision of a sustainable world.


16. In closing, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to:

  • Guest of Honour Minister Grace Fu (who will be joining us later);
  • WSF organisers, MDPI and MDPI Sustainability Foundation, and the Global Event Chairs;
  • All speakers and partners;
  • The organising committee especially the Singapore Event Co-Chairs Professor Cheah Horn Mun and Associate Professor Renee Tan;
  • And all of you who joined us here and virtually today.

17. We hope the forum will inspire a sense of urgency and responsibility for sustainability, especially in creating greater social impact. Let us strengthen our collective commitment to make positive contributions and together, weave a beautiful tapestry of a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive future for all.

18. I wish you all a fruitful and enriching time ahead. Thank you.

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