In the face of uncertainty, CDL’s longstanding conviction to Economic, Environmental, Social and Governance integration has laid the foundation for our operational resilience and agility.
2020 was a fitting reminder that change is inevitable and unceasing, especially in the face of a global pandemic and the climate crisis.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres rightly puts it, “the state of the planet is broken”.1 While infectious diseases have topped the global risks chart in The World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Risk Report 2021, climate change-related crises – to which no one is immune – remain as catastrophic risks.2 At CDL, we have long believed that the state and health of the planet are interconnected with the health of people and the economy.
As the world undergoes massive transformations to tackle unprecedented challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, enhancing risk processes, strengthening capabilities and collective global action, will enable the world to build resilience against future disruptions.
Operational Resilience and Agility
In the face of uncertainty, CDL’s longstanding conviction to Economic, Environmental, Social and Governance integration has laid the foundation for our operational resilience and agility. In 2020, we embraced change, pre-empted obstacles and accelerated solutions.
COVID-19 not only impacted our financial bottom line, but also affected our global workforce, supply chains and communities. We had to accelerate our digital capabilities; apply innovative technologies and solutions; adapt to safe distancing measures; seek alternative revenue streams while focussing on the environmental, health and safety of all our employees and stakeholders as a priority – putting people at the heart of what we build.
At the peak of the pandemic in 1H 2020, our tenants in Singapore and overseas, particularly in retail and F&B, were significantly impacted, and several struggled with operating challenges and cash flow constraints. We provided more than $40 million in property tax and rental rebates to our tenants to help them tide through this difficult period. Our hospitality subsidiary, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels Limited (M&C), also rolled out support programmes to frontline workers and displaced guests.
Lockdowns and restrictions across multiple regions resulted in temporary closures of our showflats. We stepped-up digital marketing efforts through virtual tours, online presentations and digital collaterals to reach out to potential homebuyers, achieving sales that are comparable with 2019. Across our commercial and retail portfolio, we swiftly implemented ever-evolving precautionary and safe distancing measures to manage business continuity.
Irrespective of the current pandemic situation, the Group continues to work diligently to reposition itself and grow its business. We have shielded ourselves through conservative accounting policies and have yet to unearth the deep value of our asset portfolio. In the meantime, we have taken a prudent approach with regards to our non-cash, non-recurring impairments and a special working group has been tasked to explore all options in formulating a recovery plan. Adaptability, resilience, and foresight will remain our compass as we navigate through this storm.
Climate Change Resilience – Towards A Low Carbon Future
Even as we continue to enhance our operational efficiencies amid this health crisis, we remain steadfast to our environmental obligations.
When we first started our green journey in 1995, sustainability was not quite the mainstream political or business agenda it is now. Today, with 10,000 square metres of city space being added every minute3 and rapid urbanisation impacting the climate and well-being, we have seen the re-evaluation of how the built environment is engineered.
The world has witnessed the fast-growing global convergence of long-term commitments to achieve net zero carbon, and Singapore is no exception. In addition to the launch of The Singapore Green Plan 2030 to promote sustainability across various key sectors, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently reaffirmed Singapore’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and submitted an enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution to achieve its Long-Term Low Emissions Development Strategy.
At our core, we have a strong foundation to adjust and adapt to change and to turn ambition into action by supporting the global transition to net zero buildings and a low-carbon future.
Further, COVID-19 has accelerated global ESG investing and increased investors’ appetite for companies with strong fundamentals. Leading asset managers and financial companies such as Morningstar, BlackRock, Allianz, Invesco and MSCI reported that their ESG indices and portfolios outperformed their non-ESG counterparts since the onset of COVID-19.4 5
Target: Net Zero Emissions by 2050
At our core, we have a strong foundation to adjust and adapt to change and to turn ambition into action by supporting the global transition to net zero buildings and a low-carbon future. Along with setting more ambitious science-based emission reduction targets, CDL has become the first real estate developer in Singapore and the first real estate conglomerate in Southeast Asia to sign the WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, pledging to achieving net zero operational carbon emissions by 2030 and advocating for all buildings to be net zero operational carbon by 2050.
In 2020, we are honoured to remain listed in 12 leading global sustainability ratings and indices. I am proud of the management for leading CDL to be placed on 2021 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World by Corporate Knights as the top real estate company in the world for the second consecutive year and top Singapore company for the third consecutive year. CDL also maintained its double ‘A’s in the 2020 CDP Global A List for corporate climate action and water security and is the only company in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong to score ‘A’ for corporate climate action for three consecutive years.
The Board fully supports CDL management’s unwavering commitment to transforming the built environment and the way we design, build and manage our buildings towards a low-carbon, healthy and sustainable world.
Change in the world is afoot, and prioritising ESG requires fundamental alteration to businesses’ DNA. As Singapore’s real estate pioneer and green building leader, CDL will continue to create impactful collaborations by engaging on issues that matter, driving long-term sustainability and value creation for our business and stakeholders, and building resilience against future crises.
Kwek Leng Beng
|1||Climate action: It’s time to make peace with nature, UN chief urges. United Nations News. 2 December 2020.|
|2||The Global Risks Report. The World Economic Forum. January 2021.|
|3||Climate Emergency: How Our Cities Can Inspire Change. January 2020.|
|4||BlackRock Joins Allianz, Invesco, Saying ESG Outperformed, 18 May 2020.|
|5||Sustainable Funds Weather the First Quarter Better Than Conventional Funds, 3 Apr 2020.|