Bee rescuer, anti-food waste champion among winners at inaugural sustainability awards
Call him the bee whisperer.
Despite having been stung by bees repeatedly, Mr Clarence Chua has not stopped championing for the insects to thrive in Singapore’s ecosystem.
“It has been proven beyond doubt that 80 per cent of food products depend on bees in agricultural countries. In Singapore, plant growth can help mitigate the urban heat effect,” said the founder of The Sundowner Nature Experience Centre, which organises educational sessions such as an interactive encounter with bees, ants and earthworms.
Mr Chua, 39, has been rescuing bees since three years ago when he found a beehive in a metal shed that he had moved to the rooftop of a building along East Coast Road when he was starting the centre.
Instead of hiring a pest controller to get rid of the bees, he tried to move the hive out of the shed armed with “rudimentary devices” including a jacket, gloves, and a mask; know-how gleaned from YouTube videos; and a towel over his face. He was stung multiple times in his quest to learn how to rescue and relocate beehives.
Since then, he has worked with pest controllers and town councils to rescue about 200 beehives, temporarily housing them in three locations – on the rooftop of his shophouse in Siglap, in a gazebo at a house garden in Bukit Timah, and in a landscape nursery in the Thomson Road area. At these locations, the bees can choose to fly away or remain. This has helped save about 150,000 bees.
“The important thing is that they are not killed. If they fly away, they get a second chance to survive somewhere else,” he said.
For his efforts, Mr Chua received the Individual Excellence Award on Thursday at the inaugural Sustainability Impact Awards, jointly organised by UOB and The Business Times.
The awards celebrate the people and businesses who have made a positive impact on “the environment and societal well being” through their sustainability initiatives.
Mr Preston Wong, CEO and co-founder of treatsure, received the Impact Leader of the Year award, for engaging people to minimise food waste.
The mobile app treatsure is a platform that connects hotels and grocers with consumers who can purchase surplus buffet food and products nearing their expiry date at lower prices.
“The idea is to not just help consumers get a good deal out of their food, but also to help businesses optimise and reduce their wastage levels using technology,” said Mr Wong, 34.
He said treatsure has 80,000 local users and has saved an estimated 50 tonnes of food from going to waste since the app’s release in 2017.
The platform operates on a revenue-sharing model with partner hotels and grocers, including Grand Hyatt Singapore, Fairmont Singapore and F&N Foods.
Mr Wong said he plans to expand treatsure in Asia-Pacific.
In the Enterprise category of the awards, eight organisations were recognised – four small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and four large companies.
Singtel received the Impact Enterprise of the Year award in the large enterprises category for its efforts to uplift the community through digitalisation, innovation, capacity-building and philanthropy programmes.
The Social Kitchen, a food and beverage social enterprise, bagged the same award in the SME category for supporting the community through meal donation and empowering underprivileged and marginalised individuals through training and employment opportunities.
For the Impact Enterprises Excellence Award, the SME recipients are Kaer, which offers a sustainable building cooling system; Mindset Care, a charity supporting the local mental health community; and Speco Singapore, a hygiene solutions provider.
The winners of the same award in the large enterprise category are real estate companies CapitaLand Group and City Developments Limited (CDL) and utilities company Engie South East Asia.
The winners of the inaugural awards are role models and benchmarks for other individuals and businesses “to adopt more sustainable practices and develop sustainability as a competitive advantage”, said Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu, who delivered the keynote speech at the awards ceremony held at The Fullerton Hotel.
She added that “our low-carbon transition must be an inclusive one”.
“It is essential that SMEs too embrace sustainability in their business strategies. As MNCs and large enterprises decarbonise their supply chains, they should bring along their SMEs suppliers and customers and help them make the change.”
Further emphasising the importance of partnerships and collaborations in sustainability efforts, Ms Fu called for large companies to support SMEs by providing solutions and advice on emissions tracking.
Scope 3 emissions are managed by reviewing the entire value chain of a company, said Ms Fu. These indirect emissions are not from the burning of fossil fuel or electricity consumed by a company but could come from its suppliers.
“Some MNCs are conducting courses for their suppliers to raise the capability of the entire value chain. Companies can also tap on the expertise of research centres such as the Centre for Governance and Sustainability, the knowledge partner for the Sustainability Impact Awards, to learn about best practices and emerging sustainability trends,” she added.
Everyone has to play a part, said Mr Wong.
“I think there is room for the individual to (act), both in a corporate setting, and outside his or her role,” he said.