Foster a sustainable future: Reflecting ESG values in the workplace

June 4, 2023

Ng Ying Yuan, COO for Group Human Resources, DBS, shares the bank’s commitment to sustainability and how this has won buy-in from employees.

The employee experience (EX) has become a decisive factor in determining the success of a business. A positive work environment that provides meaningful work, resources, and support is crucial for keeping employees engaged and connected to their jobs. By focusing on EX, organisations can also foster a productive and fulfilling work culture that helps employees achieve their career goals.

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) has become a key component in EX discussions due to its influence on an organisation’s culture and work environment. Aligning ESG with employee values, many organisations are finding out, improves employee satisfaction, engagement, and wellbeing, and improves talent retention.

With sustainability being a business priority today, many employers are also finding it necessary to reflect their ESG values across their organisation.  When employees see these values reflected in their workplace, it not only instils a sense of pride in their efforts but also demonstrates that the organisation is actively contributing to a sustainable future.

In the banking and finance sector, ESG factors are playing an increasingly important role in investment decisions made by banks and financial institutions, which, in turn, impacts EX. DBS is an example of this trend, as the Singapore-headquartered bank has a longstanding commitment to sustainability, which dates back to its founding as the Development Bank of Singapore in 1968 to finance the nation’s development, said Ng Ying Yuan, Chief Operating Officer for Group Human Resources, DBS.

Speaking exclusively to HRM Magazine Asia, she added, “The past couple of years have been a tremendous opportunity to establish a reset and rethink the role all of us, be it in the private or public sectors or as individuals, can play in making a greater difference for a better world. Organisations are increasingly looking beyond the pursuit of profits at all costs. Similarly, individuals are starting to see their jobs as more than a means to pay the bills and are instead seeking out purposeful careers.”

“Individuals are starting to see their jobs as more than a means to pay the bills and are instead seeking out purposeful careers.” – Ng Ying Yuan, Chief Operating Officer for Group Human Resources, DBS.

Ng shared that the bank’s employee value proposition centres around purpose and creating a supportive environment that allows employees to lead a fulfilled life. This is guided by the motto, “Be the Best, Be the Change and Be the Difference”, which empowers employees to create impact, improve lives and enable change beyond banking.

She described this as a “compelling competitive advantage” that gives DBS an edge in the competitive labour market when it comes to talent retention. Between 2021 and 2022, the level of voluntary attrition at DBS was similar to what it was before the pandemic and in some cases, lower than the market average in regions in which DBS operates.

Ng continued, “Our employees continue to choose to build their careers in DBS, and today, more than one-third of our job vacancies are filled by our own people. These speak to the attractiveness of our holistic employee value proposition, and in the industry, DBS is seen as the place to be if job seekers are looking to do purposeful, innovative work that intersects the finance, technology, and sustainability spheres.”

Driving green business continuity

Climate change, according to Ng, is one of the most pressing concerns of our time, and this has become a crucial aspect for businesses as stakeholders seek to partner with organisations that show their commitment to addressing it. She encourages organisations to take steps to futureproof their businesses and that of their workforce by prioritising climate change initiatives.

In Singapore, the government established the Singapore Green Plan 2030 as part of the nation’s efforts to drive economic growth and create jobs through sustainability. The Green Plan aligns with the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement and supports Singapore’s goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Against this backdrop, DBS will remain “purpose-driven and a trusted partner” to its customers and the community, Ng stressed, while doubling efforts to provide cutting-edge, sustainable banking solutions. “Our people are key enablers in this endeavour, and we will continue to nurture talent who can shape the future of banking for better environmental and social outcomes in Singapore and beyond.”

Particularly, DBS provides funding for investments that focus on renewable energy, climate adaptation technologies, and the shift to a circular economy. It has also been supporting its customers in transitioning to more environmentally friendly operations and lifestyles by providing green and sustainable finance options.

“To create impact beyond banking, we are committed to being a force for good by championing social enterprises, which are organisations that aim to address critical social and environmental issues while achieving financial success,” she added.

Going green: For people and the community

To ensure employees are equipped with the necessary skills to be successful and aligned with ESG objectives, it is critical for organisations to prioritise upskilling. Incorporating green skills, which not only support sustainability goals but also provide a career advantage, is a crucial part of this process.

Ng acknowledged the significance of providing employees with up-to-date skills and knowledge, noting that this will enable them to grasp how sustainability can be incorporated into their work.

As an example, a Sustainability Learning Campus was established last year to house all sustainability-related training programmes offered by the DBS Academy, enabling employees to enhance their skills in a more holistic manner. By staying at the forefront of skills development, Ng is confident that DBS’ workforce is equipped to deliver effective solutions and support customers in meeting their sustainability objectives.

DBS has also embraced a sustainability strategy that is based on three pillars, namely responsible banking, responsible business practices, and creating impact beyond banking. Going beyond sporadic campaigns, the bank is determined to become a purpose-driven institution and ensure that its commitment to this objective is integrated into the mindset of all its employees, shared Erwin Chong, Group Head of Corporate Real Estate and Administration, DBS.

“We hope to inspire our employees to lead more sustainable lifestyles and even become sustainability advocates in their own lives.” – Erwin Chong, Group Head of Corporate Real Estate and Administration, DBS.

Embedding sustainability into the daily employee experience and making it a default option is one of the approaches favoured by DBS, said Chong. He cited the example of the DBS Better World Café located at their Singapore headquarters, which incorporates sustainability elements into its food, design, and operation. Additionally, DBS has incorporated sustainable technologies and design principles into its premises, including a retrofit of one of its oldest office buildings, DBS Newton Green, which is now dubbed the first net zero building owned by a bank in Singapore.

Chong concluded, “We hope to inspire our employees to lead more sustainable lifestyles and even become sustainability advocates in their own lives. Going forward, we will continue to tap on behavioural science and ethnographic research to come up with more unobtrusive ways for employees to adopt more sustainable habits as they go about their usual routines in the office.”

By Josephine Tan, journalist of


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