City Developments Limited Esther An


Esther An

Chief sustainability officer

“Climate change” may be the buzz phrase now but it was not the case a couple of decades earlier. So, it was industry-leading when City Developments Limited (CDL) started integrating sustainability into its corporate vision, mission and business that was guided by an ethos of “conserving as we construct” in 1995.

 Today, it is a real estate conglomerate, spanning 29 countries and regions, that is ranked in 12 leading global sustainability ratings and indices. In January, it was the top real estate company in the 2020 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World list by media, research and financial information products company Corporate Knights, the gold standard in corporate sustainability analysis. It is also the only company in South-east Asia and Hong Kong to score As for both corporate climate action and water security in the 2019 A-List by CDP, a global authority on corporate environmental transparency and performance.

With the environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria being an increasingly popular way for investors to evaluate corporations, the Singapore Exchange-listed company demonstrates strong business sense by integrating ESG criteria into its practices, taking the lead in greening the built environment since the early 2000s. It was also the first Singapore company to publish a sustainability report using the Global Reporting Initiative framework in 2008.

Since then, CDL has spearheaded new trends on ESG integration focusing on stakeholder capitalism. This takes care of broader communities, including its employees, customers, suppliers, migrant workers, youths and the vulnerable, without compromising on returning value to its shareholders and investors. 

To address changing stakeholder expectations, CDL started conducting materiality assessments defining social and environmental topics that matter most to stakeholders in 2014. It found that the top material issues identified by stakeholders increasingly focused on innovation, energy efficiency and the adoption of renewables as well as climate resilience. “These new points of focus in ESG are aligned with CDL’s long-standing commitment to building smart, sustainable buildings towards a low-carbon economy and healthy, green living,” explains Esther An, chief sustainability officer of CDL.

Its low-carbon strategies and programmes are designed to contribute to Singapore’s goal to achieve net-zero emissions as soon as viable in the second half of the century, says An. In 2018, CDL became the first local real estate company to successfully set carbon reduction targets validated by the Science Based Targets initiative. In September 2019, it joined the pioneer batch of 87 companies worldwide to pledge support to United Nations Global Compact’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign. Participating businesses promise to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.  

In spite of Covid-19, CDL has  accelerated ESG investments, proving that its continual efforts in driving sustainable practices are not just the right thing to do, but also a good business plan. 

Since building a sustainable future requires the collaboration of a larger ecosystem, CDL has established many platforms, including the Singapore Sustainability Academy (SSA) in 2017. It is the first ground-up initiative and zero-energy facility here that’s dedicated to capacity building, networking and collaboration towards achieving global climate action and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

A partnership involving six government agencies as well as 15 founding industry and NGO partners, the SSA hosted 400 training sessions, workshops and events on green building and climate action in the first 30 months of its operation. CDL firmly believes that changing the climate will help change the future. And its actions demonstrate that unshakeable vision.


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