Let’s work in Partnership to Foster Regional Sustainability In Energy and Food Security

By Ken Hickson

Former NZ Chamber President

Attending the Sustainability: The Heart of Business Success organised by the New Zealand Chamber with Title Sponsor ANZ this month stimulated me more than usual, particularly to see where the Singapore New Zealand Enhanced Partnership was heading and to see if these two countries could come up with an Asia Pacific Partnership for Sustainability.  With a strong focus on Energy and Food Security.

Accepting that this is happened in the same month as the monumental COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow and the APEC – Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation – virtual event, which was hosted by NZ, made it all the more significant.

Let’s start with Jo Tyndall. As NZ’s High Commissioner in Singapore, she set the stage at this event, and as she has figured prominently in the past as NZ’s climate change ambassador, what she has to say is doubly important.

While she admits that not a lot has happened in the last two “Covid years” as far as the Singapore-New Zealand partnership is concerned, other than through intensive efforts to co-operate to deal with vital medical supply chain issues during these trying times, and also seeking to manage travel restrictions at home and aboard.

She did specifically mention that NZ is ready to collaborate with Singapore in the supply and management of hydrogen. Certainly NZ’s depth of experience in the clean energy field – hydro and geothermal significantly – means there is much more that can be done in ASEAN by joining “energetic hands”.

Awareness of the need to attach “sustainability thinking” to everything we do, as we grapple  with climate change impacts,  means there are even more opportunities to work together in the public and private sector.

Ringing in my ears at the forum was the profound reminder from Ms Tyndall that “we are now entering an era where this is central to business success”.  More from our esteemed High Commissioner later.

What about the contribution of others in this timely forum on sustainability?

Suzy Goulding - Director at Mullenlowe salt -  ably moderated the session and brought the best out of the panellists and enabled maximum audience participation.

Niro Somasekeran - Head of Resources, Energy & Infrastructure International & Corporate Finance South & South East Asia at ANZ – gave us all some very valuable insights in the attitude of the banking and investment community, as it is called on to put more money into climate action, clean energy, as well as sustainable and impactful projects.

Chelsea Morgan – Year 11 student AIS – provided a welcome and passionate addition to the discussion, reflecting on the global youth campaign to go beyond talk to act more strenuously on climate change. While we have seen plenty of evidence of anger on the streets from those who will inherent a badly damaged planet caused by the misdeeds of previous generations, Chelsea put her case strongly and intelligently, but in a calm and considerate manner, drawing respect from a much older audience.

Anita Neville – Chief sustainability and Communications officer at Golden Agri Resources (GAR) - gave added insight into the measures being taken in the agribusinesses, in which her company is a global leader, particularly in the palm oil sector

Susanne Artfelt Rajamand – Managing Director SEA Consumer & Foodservice of Fonterra SEA (Singapore) Pte Ltd - was able to give a lot of insight into how NZ’s leading dairy producer and exporter is managing to deal with climate change impacts and sustainability down on the farm and in all its factories.  

I was so impressed with what Susanne alluded to that I decided delve into it a lot more to come up with some remarkable evidence of how NZ and Fonterra is dealing with these crucial global - and national - food and agri-science issues and opportunities. More on this in the extended article.

All in all, a thoroughly worthwhile event and let’s hope we can get to attend more “live” events, that allow maximum audience participation and even more networking.  For good, of course!

Sustainability is Central to Business Success

If sustainability is central to business success, as Ms Tyndall genuinely believes, shouldn’t we be doing much more to “show and tell”?

When I set up Sustain Ability Showcase Asia (SASA) in September 2010 in Singapore, I made it my business to not only advise on what companies could - and should - be doing, but also to clearly “showcase” what some business have already embarked on.

In my 2013 book “Race for Sustainability”, I had plenty of examples of where businesses – primarily in Singapore - were definitely off the starting blocks. I also pointed out where I could see that much more needed to be done.

But I’ve also come to accept that this race is much more a marathon than a sprint.

As a sporting nation committed to being the best in the world, particularly in rugby, New Zealand well knows that you don’t just have to win matches, but you have to “sell’ the country and the brand as a winner.

I think Singapore and NZ can both be proud of their achievements – in sport, in food, in tourism, in economic management – but we need to see many more examples – case studies. if you like - of what’s being achieved in the sustainability sector.

Let’s look at NZ as a leading global food and agricultural producer. And let’s go into more detail on what Fonterra is up to.

As Fonterra’s Managing Director SEA Consumer & Foodservice in Singapore, Susanne is well versed in the challenges in the food supply chain and was ideally placed to tackle my question to panellists at the forum.

How is NZ, as one of the world’s largest dairy and meat exporters, facing up to all the research and development going on with meat and dairy alternatives. I mentioned that SATS, one of the world’s leading food caterers to airlines, is seriously adopting “lab produced protein products” into its gourmet food supply.

And, of course, along with this is the global pressure on countries like NZ. which has Food and Agriculture production at its heart, involving as it does,  a disproportionate share of carbon and methane emissions.

There are global campaigns now to cut emissions from food and agriculture. “Meat shaming” shares the global stage with “flight shaming”!  

Thankfully Susanne introduced us to a host of measures that NZ is taking - and Fonterra specifically - to deal with these troublesome issues, mostly around emissions.

Let’s look at methane alone, as it locks in far more heat in the short term and has been leaking just as relentlessly. The difference is that methane’s power fades faster, within just decades. If we stopped emissions today, almost all the methane in the atmospheric blanket would degrade within a lifetime.


More than 105 countries signed a commitment at COP26 at Glasgow to reduce their methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.


New Zealand has joined, as Minister of Climate Change James Shaw announced on the eve of COP26.


“Signing the pledge today builds on the commitment we have made to cut New Zealand’s net greenhouse emissions by 50% by 2030,” James Shaw said.

I’ve often praised NZ for its efforts to come clean in the energy sector, as the country is getting 82% of energy for electricity generation from renewable sources, hydro power and geothermal.

But it has a serious emissions problem down on the farm. Methane from animals.

I’ve also pointed out that NZ is relying on sustainable forestry to help fix the problem. To give NZ credit, it is the first country in the world to pass a law forcing financial institutions to disclose, and act, on climate-related risks and opportunities

So let’s see what Fonterra is doing to address methane emissions from the farm.

I’ve learnt that it’s working to tap into a large collection of dairy cultures to create new dairy fermentations we’re calling Kowbucha, which could inhibit the methogens that create methane in cows. More here


Then there’s plaintain – that large banana like fruit. With MPI and DairyNZ, they’re

expanding a promising trial with Nestle to include plantain in a cow’s diet to reduce the

amount of nitrogen produced, reducing carbon emissions and improving freshwater quality.

More here.

What’s seaweed got to do with it? Fonterra is working with the Australian organisation Sea

 Forest, to try to understand if we can reduce emissions by incorporating seaweed into a

 cows’ feed. More here.

Going beyond all that, the NZ dairy business is aligning with Royal DSM, a global science based company, to test whether the feed additive product Bovaer can reduce methane emissions from cows by over 30% in NZ as it does in Europe  More here.

There’s more from Fonterra, too, as it clearly is able to demonstrate that NZ is not doing such a bad job overall to manage all its emissions, particularly in the food and agriculture sector.

For a start, NZ already produces, processes and delivers milk worldwide at less than half the global average emissions.

It’s a climate “made for milk”, perfect for growing grass – relatively warm climate with a good amount of rain and a healthy dose of sun. Also, nutrient rich soils, which means NZ uses less fertiliser to grow the same amount of grass compared with other countries. 

This makes NZ ideal for pasture-fed dairy farming. Our cows are 96% grass-fed and spend over 350 days a year on grass, which is more than anywhere else in the world. It also means we use a lot less imported feed than many other countries, which keeps our carbon emissions low.

Fonterra is happy to share more on this. Go here for more:  (https://www.fonterra.com/nz/en/our-stories/articles/nz-milks-lowest-carbon-footprint-confirmed.html )

In energy, there could be a lot more in prospect if NZ and Singapore get together. Singapore is looking to import up to 30% of its clean energy/electricity needs, and other countries, like Australia, are already in line to supply 15% of this by way of the undersea Sun Cable from Darwin to Singapore.

Couldn’t NZ share more of its expertise - and clean energy – like Australia is aiming to do? 

But it’s in the supply of food where NZ is perhaps best known in this part of the world as a major exporter of meat and dairy products. Ms Tyndall has mentioned before that food security is a key area of mutual interest. 

As Singapore looks to New Zealand to diversify food variety and as a preferred country of source, we can also learn a lot from Singapore in terms of urban or vertical farming expertise.

Definitely room for collaboration there, particularly as both countries need to be seen to be doing more with food-tech and agri-tech.

Let’s start the conversation – or advance the process – where the public and private sectors of both Singapore and New Zealand explore how much more can be done collaboratively, particularly in the critical areas of energy security and food security.

Sustainability is the way to go for countries and companies.  And this event, initiated by the NZ Chamber, brought to a head many issues – and opportunities – that we cannot leave alone.

We might be a long way away from the farm and the factory here in Singapore; we might not see very often the massive hydro dams or geothermal steam rising in “the land of the long white cloud”, but we have the chance to line up and run to the finish in the race to save the planet.