Growing up, Ms Andreia Ko never imagined that she would one day become a vegetarian.

“I always told myself that I could never give up eating meat,” says Ms Ko, 25. But today, she has been on a vegetarian diet for more than two years – a shift that she describes as “life-changing”.

What motivated her to do so?

“It started as a challenge between me and a friend. Keenly aware of the environmental effects of factory farming, we decided to go vegetarian for one month,” Ms Ko says. She has never looked back since.

Ms Ko says the conversion also encouraged her to weave sustainability into many other aspects of her life, including her career choices. “A year later, I decided to leave my marketing position in a social impact firm to pursue a career in the green economy.”

She now works as an analyst at an agriculture technology start-up. In her role, Ms Ko leverages traceability data to enable stakeholders such as farmers, rubber producers, and tyre manufacturers to trade rubber in a more efficient and transparent manner.

“I believe that sustainability is not just something you do, but how you live life and what drives your purpose every day,” Ms Ko says.

She’s not alone in her quest for more mindful, eco-conscious ways of living. A 2022 global survey by UK-based professional services firm Deloitte found that millennials (defined as those born between 1983 and 1994) and Gen Zs (born between 1995 and 2003) view climate change as one of their top personal concerns, just below the cost of living.

“Among the younger people, there is a larger sense of urgency to go green, and they want to act now,” notes Mr John Lau, sustainability lead, group personal financial services, UOB.


Rising demand for sustainability

The trend is the same in Singapore. The latest UOB Asean Consumer Sentiment study conducted in June 2022 shows that 34 per cent of millennials and Gen Zs in Singapore are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Among older consumers, it is 24 per cent.

But the older generation of consumers are catching up. In the UOB study, 64 per cent of baby boomers (aged 56 and above) cited a greater availability of sustainable products as the core reason for buying sustainable products – a 21 per cent rise from a year ago. This increase in awareness is the largest among all age groups.

The study surveyed more than 3,500 consumers between the ages of 18 and 65 from five Asean countries, including Singapore.

“The rising demand for sustainable solutions and products has helped to create a virtuous cycle as companies deliver on what consumers want. This in turn drives greater exposure for greener alternatives,” UOB’s Mr Lau, 39, says.

Mr Tee Hongda, 34, consciously incorporates sustainability practices in his day-to-day activities. He uses reusable bags when shopping, brings his own tumblers for takeaway drinks and does not use straws.

“On TikTok, there are a lot of videos on composting as a house hack to going green. But these are things that I saw older folks around me, including my parents, practice diligently for generations,” says Mr Tee, who is a consultant in a communications agency.

For example, he says, they would use orange peels to refresh their fridge, rice water to water their plants, and compost egg shells to use as fertilisers.

Mr Tee adds that while his generation is more vocal about the social issues they care about, he observes that the older folks are actively doing their part for sustainability. “I’ve had great role models growing up, but they are more about doing it than talking about it,” he says.


By the numbers

  • 34%
    Millennials and Gen Zs in Singapore are willing to pay more for sustainable products, according to the latest UOB Asean Consumer Sentiment study involving 3,500 consumers
  • 12%
    The same study revealed a 12 per cent increase in the number of Singaporeans wanting to know more about sustainable investments from a year ago
  • 93%
    Majority of Singaporeans who responded in the UOB Asean Consumer Sentiment study feel that financial institutions should provide better information on the benefits of sustainable investing


Meeting consumer needs

The 2022 UOB Asean Consumer Sentiment study also found that there was a 12 per cent rise in the proportion of Singaporeans who want to find out more about sustainable investments from 2021 to 2022.

Most Singaporeans also feel that financial institutions should provide better information on the benefits of sustainable investing (93 per cent), as well as more of such solutions to choose from (92 per cent).

To make it easier for customers to create impact with their everyday choices, UOB has rolled out a full suite of sustainable solutions.

For example, through UOB’s digital investing platform SimpleInvest, customers can explore a range of sustainable funds and start investing with $100. UOB SimpleInvest can be accessed through the bank’s mobile banking app UOB TMRW (pronounced as “tomorrow”).

Customers can also receive personalised insights on how they can bank and live more sustainably through the UOB TMRW app.

“The app offers customers a convenient digital doorway to sustainable banking by allowing them to easily access green deals, investments and banking products on mobile,” Mr Lau adds.

“In our study, we found that eight in 10 Gen Zs are unable to find a suitable sustainable investment product, Mr Lau says.

“UOB worked with strategic partners to screen, score, and monitor each of the products we offer, and sieve out suitable offerings for our customers,” he says, making sustainable investing more accessible.


Shifting to a more sustainable lifestyle

UOB has rolled out a suite of sustainable solutions to help customers create positive impact in a simple and easy manner, including:

How you pay: Forget about paying with plastic. The UOB EVOL credit card is the first bio-sourced (made with organic resources) card launched in South-east Asia, says the bank.

UOB EVOL customers can also reduce their electricity carbon footprint through the bank’s initiative with Singapore’s national grid operator SP Group, which UOB says is the first in Singapore.

When customers charge their SP utilities bills to their EVOL card via the SP app, UOB EVOL will convert 2 per cent of the billed amount to purchase SP’s My Green Credits. The credits are equivalent to offsetting 100 per cent or more of the customer’s electricity carbon footprint, says the bank.

How you travel: Those who need a car can consider using the UOB Go Green Car Loan to finance their purchase of an electric vehicle at competitive rates. Customers also receive three renewable energy certificates upon loan disbursement, which represent clean energy generated by renewable energy sources (such as solar or wind power facilities) to offset the use of non-clean energy.

Last year, UOB collaborated with SP Group to offer customers who take up the UOB Go Green Car Loan three months of free charging at SP Mobility’s public charging points.

How you live: More consumers are opting for sustainable financing options when it comes to buying property. In 2022, UOB observed a close to 10-fold year-on-year increase in the take-up of the UOB Go Green Home Loan in Singapore.

Customers who use the UOB Go Green Home Loan for their housing purchases can also get up to $3,888 worth of subsidies for U-Solar packages to help them switch to solar power and drive even more energy and cost savings.


The Future of Finance series explores how digital solutions and insights can empower individuals and businesses in a rapidly changing world, to create a more sustainable future.

This article was originally published on The Straits Times and was written by Kareyst Lin, Content STudio.


Source: The Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction