Commentary: Race for scarce talent in green finance looming in Singapore – CNA

When it comes to developing policies, there’s a need for research to help policymakers determine their economic, environmental and social impacts. This also means that universities and think tanks need to hire and train more researchers who can study the impact of public policy. 

For example, we found that the improvement of plumbing in HDB flats, as well as the installation of visible meter readers, resulted in lower household water consumption.

We also discovered that disclosing precise flight arrival timings in Changi Airport significantly reduced the idling time of taxis at airport terminals, leading to reduced carbon emissions. This evidence-based research is useful in informing policies that nudge people towards greener actions.

Research can also demonstrate if government initiatives, such as the establishment of carbon trading platforms in Singapore and other Asian countries, help businesses decarbonise. While it requires deeper investigation, our initial research evidence reveals that financial institutions are the most active market participants on a few carbon trading platforms.

As these institutions are not large carbon emitters, further research has to explore how to incentivise industrial firms to reduce their carbon emissions.


Sustainability is a long-term task, and we need more specialised human capital to comprehend and tackle these critical issues. We also need them to propose solutions that can be implemented on a greater scale.

Singapore’s local universities are trying to catch up by offering sustainable finance certification courses and educational programmes, such as NUS’ recently launched MSc in Sustainable and Green Finance programme, which offer both theoretical and real-world training in the field.

It should be tertiary institutions’ mission to nurture a new generation of these financial experts. These fresh talents will be able to think beyond the traditional approach of maximising financial profits; channel capital flows to sustainable entities and provide rigorous evidence for informing sustainability policies.

Ultimately, they will encourage families and firms to play their part in making Singapore and Asia a better place to live in. Then the painting of a green economy landscape will be complete and the war for ESG talent won. 

Sumit Agarwal is the Low Tuck Kwong Distinguished Professor of Finance, Economics and Real Estate at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School and Managing Director of the Sustainable and Green Finance Institute (SGFIN) at NUS.

Zhang Weina is an Associate Professor of Finance at NUS Business School, Deputy Director of SGFIN and Academic Director of the NUS MSc in Sustainable and Green Finance programme. 

Johan Sulaeman is the Dean’s Chair and Associate Professor of Finance at NUS Business School. He is also the Director of SGFIN.

The opinions expressed are those of the writers and do not represent the views and opinions of NUS.

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