Green IO
#17 Tech Sustainability in Singapore with Ian Chew & Thibaut Meurgue-Guyard
April 11, 2023
Ready to explore the digital sustainability landscape of Singapore? Travel there with Gaël Duez to meet Thibaut, the local representative of both the Climat fresk and the Digital Collage in Singapore and Ian, founder of Greenie web. ➡️ Join us for an insightful discussion as we delve into the Singaporean tech ecosystem and its sustainability landscape. ✅ Our guests share their views on the evolving domain of digital sustainability, achievements, and trends in IT sustainability in Singapore and in South-East Asia, as well as their perspectives on the main environmental crises. ❤️ Subscribe, follow, like, ... stay connected the way you want to never miss an episode!
Ready to explore the digital sustainability landscape of Singapore? 

Travel there with Gaël Duez to meet Thibaut, the local representative of both the Climat fresk and the Digital Collage in Singapore and Ian, founder of Greenie web. 

➡️ Join us for an insightful discussion as we delve into the Singaporean tech ecosystem and its sustainability landscape. 

✅ Our guests share their views on the evolving domain of digital sustainability, achievements, and trends in IT sustainability in Singapore and in South-East Asia, as well as their perspectives on the main environmental crises. 

❤️ Subscribe, follow, like, ... stay connected the way you want to never miss an episode!

Learn more about our guests and connect

Thibault is a versatile sustainability practitioner and digital footprint expert. He helps MNCs draft roadmaps for leaner technology towards the greater good, leads Climate Fresk & Digital Collage workshops, and is the co-founder of a VC-backed circular economy startup, Found & Seek

A true advocate of an enthusiastic, solution-oriented sustainability that taps into the power of collaborative action. 

Ian Chew is the Chief Executive of Greenie Web, a climate-tech SaaS company at the forefront of digital decarbonization.
Greenie Web helps enterprises achieve their net-zero goals, reduces internet-related energy consumption, and provides a low-carbon method to digitize traditional industries and build Web 3.0. Ian's expertise in this field has been recognized internationally, and he has been invited to speak at various EU countries' classes program in Singapore.

📧 You can also send us an email at to share your feedback and suggest future guests or topics.   

Thibaut and Ian’s sources and other references mentioned in this episode

Greenie Web
Found & Seek
E-waste collection bins in Singapore
Razer Inc.
Thibaut's medium (articles about Datacenters, Ecological Backpack or e-waste in Singapore)
Qcon London
Malaysia Star
VC (Venture Capital)
World Wide Waste written by Gerry McGovern
API days in Singapore 
E-waste collection bins empowered by the National Environment Agency
Climate Fresk and Digital Collage in Singapore
Stubborn optimism on climate - Christiana Figueres
CNA : major newspaper and media in Singapore
Nate Hagens


Gael: Hello everyone. Welcome to Green IO, the podcast for doers making our digital world greener, one byte at a time. I'm your host Gael Duez, and I invite you to meet a wide range of guests working in the tech industry to help you better understand and make sense of its sustainability issues and find inspiration to positively impact the digital world.

If you like the podcast, please rate it on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite platform to spread the word to more responsible technologists like you. And now enjoy the show. In this episode, we go to Singapore to meet Thibaut and Ian. Both will facilitate the first sustainable track at the API days conference this week.

So this interview is very keen to my heart because I had the pleasure to meet John, the founder of API Days Singapore, in the Paris session last year. In the middle of the main hallway, crowded like hell, we tried to get our hands on the sandwich before jumping to the next round of conferences. He shared with me his interest in sustainability, how he was enjoying the sustainable track I was hosting and asked me if I knew anyone in Singapore. I immediately introduced him to my dear friend, Thibaut and BOOM, voilà !After Qcon London last month. Yet another big tech conference dedicated significant time to the sustainability topic. Well done. Why Thibaut ? Thibaut is a local representative of both the climate fresk and the digital collage in Singapore.

He has managed to boost their participants and create a vibrant community of facilitators with diverse backgrounds. On top of this volunteering activity, Thibaut is a consultant in digital sustainability. And before his latest adventure, he has an extensive dry, quick hold of managing business units in the digital sector in France, in Singapore, and also in Hong Kong.

Why Ian? Maybe because he has his picture in several journals as Last Days, the star manager, the CWR and more to come. But to be honest, maybe because he founded 13 years ago when no one actually cared about the topic: Greenie Web, his digital decarbonization agency to green the Internet. And now full disclosure, we should have had a female guest with us today.

You know how important gender parity is for me. But she was prevented from speaking by her organization at the very last moment. This is something I notice more and more, and this really upsets me because a new employer should be able to bar someone from sharing her professional experience, providing no confidential information is shared.


Let's now dive with our guest into the lively Singaporean IT sustainability scene. 

Welcome, Ian and Thibaut. Thanks a lot for joining Green IO today !

Ian: Thank you, Gael. It's a pleasure to be here.

Thibaut: Thanks, Gael.

Gael: Thanks both of you. Ian, I'd like to ask you about your journey with sustainability first, as I do with all my regular guests. But first I'd like to start with a more personal question. So how proud was your mother?

Ian: Ah, that question. So just to give our audience a bit of a context, about a week or so back I actually posted a LinkedIn about one of my first features in a national newspaper. So even though I'm Singaporean and what we do predominantly is based out of Singapore. I had this wonderful opportunity to be featured on a complete full page in the Star Malaysia, which is Malaysia's largest English publication.

 It's a full spread across two pages in the middle of the newspaper, and it has been really my dream to share about sustainability on a national scale. So that was something that I was very proud of. And it also harks back to my childhood when I shared with my mom that one day I hoped to be in the newspaper for something positive, for something newsworthy, and it was a dream come true.

So that moment was a very proud one for my entire family, not just my mom. And very happy that you asked that question because it really brings smiles to my face, even just describing it.

Gael: Yeah. But I can't imagine, that's great that you manage to, as you say, raise awareness in - I've read the Malaysia Star when I traveled in Malaysia so a couple of time, and that is definitely a big newspaper there and being able to raise awareness in- such a topic that is not that mainstream, like sustainability it is, but digital sustainability and tech being an issue as much as a solution, that's not that common in Malaysia as far as I remember. So really, congratulations. How did this journey in sustainability start certain years ago or even maybe before?

Ian: Definitely. So the turning point for me really was one of the summits that they had back in 2009, so it was the Copenhagen Summit, and I still recall reading of that. It was called the Hopenhagen Summit. So instead of C, they replaced it with H because in 2009 that was supposedly back then one of the major turning points, right?

We've got a lot of people talking about climate change. That, for me, was one of the first large scale movements after the year 2000. So I was, as a much younger person, very interested. And one of the things that happened in that same year was that I first picked up coding. So people were talking a lot about biodiversity.

There was a lot of talk about deforestation and how to combat that, right? Combat wild forest fires. But in my mind, back then, when I first started coding, I was thinking to myself what can be done for technology? What can be done to ensure that technology does not go down the path of the other mainstream, I would say, assets or mainstream activities that we do.

Because when we had the industrial age, we had all these factories and no one thought about sustainability from the get-go. Right? So now they- or rather back then- they were then thinking of how to make, say manufacturing greener. How to make the physical supply chains greener? And I was thinking if they had done that right at the very beginning when they were first building factories about a hundred years ago, then we wouldn't have had that problem.

So back in 2009, when I first started picking up coding, tech was still much newer as compared to today, right? A good number of people still didn't own personal computers. They didn't have personal laptops. Lots of people I knew actually went to internet cafes when they wanted to surf or to play certain video games, right.

Certain computer games. So back then tech was still very nascent and I was thinking if we could embed sustainability into tech from the get-go, then we wouldn't be facing this same problem that we had with the industrialization age. Because in the tech age, if we talk about sustainability in tech from the beginning, then we would have a very sustainable journey: one in which our future generations would not have any trouble taking over, and one in which we would have no regret creating. So that's a bit of the genesis story with regards to my well journey in tech and sustainability, 13 years back.

Gael: And Thibaut, what about you? Did you ask the right question from the start or is it a bit more like me who after almost a decade, more than a decade in IT like "oops, actually, we should pay attention to sustainability at some point".

Thibaut: Yeah, so I come from the other side actually. Cause I crafted my career in IT consulting. I was a local partner for IT projects -like, I don't know- HR apps for banks, this kind of stuff. I also worked in machine learning and AI. But this topic really came to my mind during Covid where I actually decided to shift.

I was in the midst of I mean, I was realizing something was off precisely because I didn't ask myself the right questions. And more importantly, I think I didn't ask my customers the right questions cause I was really: "oh, I've always had customer facing roles and my role was to advise and to help them build meaningful Web apps".

These kind of, you know, IT digital structures. And now that when I look back, I realized them, I really didn't ask the right questions, and I contributed to projects that were beyond not stupidity. It's a bit harsh to say that. I realized I was working on apps. I perfectly knew another team in the company had it, but you know, business is business and I had to deliver because that was my pay grade at the end. Right. 

And my approach of tech and sustainability together comes from a more- I would say, -French pessimistic approach and more like a pragmatic approach, saying, "okay, you know, tech, you've been working in this and I realized I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to make an impact. Like it is not as exotic as the end.

It's more like, "okay, you know how to do this, but you want to do that, so how can you make something out of these two and see how it goes?" So this is pretty much my story.

Gael: And once again, COVID has brought a lot of bad things to the world, but I cannot count the number of people. It has actually helped to pose a little and think about their job and shift or adjust things in their professional and personal life. That's very weird and amazing at the same time.

That being said. Regarding Singapore now, because that's actually the main hero, the main character of our story today, it is a beautiful city island. What could you tell me about tech in Singapore? Because I read pretty amazing numbers like VC funding. You've got, I think, 90 of the 10 biggest tech companies in the world do have some presence or even headquarters in Singapore.

It seems to be very vibrant as well when it comes to funding a lot of startups, et cetera. So is it just a hype or is it something more grounded in Singaporean culture?

Thibaut: I will actually as my wife is Singaporean. So when I say we, and when I say Singapore, I'm including myself not as a citizen of Singapore, but as somebody who's here to stay, which is something is important to re-situate because sometimes people are just here for a few years and, you know so I won't speak on behalf of Singaporeans, but at least I feel part of their wonderful country.

I think Singapore is at the crossroads right now. Just before, we prepared this podcast with you, Gael, you mentioned. This concept of pharmacon, which is a concept I really find truly amazing and extremely powerful, explains that basically something that can be seen as a silver bullet, as a remedy can also be considered as something that makes a situation worse, like a poison.

So it's a very old concept, which I really think should resonate with our conception of technology today in Singapore and beyond. But going back to Singapore, they are attracting a lot of talent, a lot of funding, a lot of actual interest from the world, from Asia and also from Southeast Asia. And they need to make their decision whether technology should be leveraged for the greater good or should be leveraged for other topics like, I don't know, speculation, financing or whatever.

When you have a look at what companies are saying or what agencies are saying, you actually see the beginning of something rising here where I would say that to the highest level of national government agencies, they know that there is something to tap into and companies feel it too.

They feel something, but they have a hunch. But they still can't grasp how they should do it, what they should know and what would be the approach. And in general, I think, when it comes to sustainability with the capital S in Singapore, the strategies here, the KPIs are here, but the tactics, they are very, very scarce to find.

And a lot of exciting projects in Singapore are actually into the investigation of how you can make sustainability real and operational beyond just a few numbers, carbon footprint calculation and these kinds of things. How can you make sustainability relatable and reality rooted in the life of people at home and in the companies?

Gael: It's very interesting this crossroad image. And Ian, what are, according to you, the key features of the Singaporean Tech scene at the moment?

Ian: I think that's a very good question. To me, the Singaporean tech scene, there are two parts to it, right? The first part would be the pre VC part, and the second part would be the post VC part. So the VC era in Singapore actually is very young. It probably began about 10, 15 years ago, plus minus, right? And the first group of VC, that came to Singapore, were not exactly local VCs there. It wasn't an organic process in which venture capital suddenly sprouted up in Singapore, it was very much government driven. The government saw a need for there to be venture capital, to really grow the entire tech ecosystem, right? Because prior to the VC era, Singapore, it was very much of family businesses or individual hobbies who became very good at certain niche areas.

An example would be creative technologies that were very innovative, right? They actually created something that's called the sound blaster card. You can look that up. In its time at least, it was one of the most advanced tools that you could have in a computer. Right, but coming back to the present day in this VC era, we see that the Singapore real ecosystem has managed to grow quite steadily in the last 10 years or so.

A lot of it has been government supported, and when we tie it to our conversation and our topic today on it and sustainability, I think that it's a very good time to be in Singapore. Right. Because the past 10 years was spent building this entire tech in a sense IT ecosystem. And now there is this very large push both by industry and by the government to ensure that sustainability and climate change is at the forefront of matters.

And it's really for two very big reasons. 

The first one is because the country, our country , is an island nation, right? So it's a very existential issue in which if we don't play our part for climate change and the sea level rises in the way it has been rising, or the rate of rise increases even more, the country may cease to exist in a hundred, 200 years time.

Right? So that's one. 

And the second thing :To do with the competitive nature of the global economy because climate technology and sustainability in general would be one of the largest drivers of growth in the 21st century. So whoever, who lacks behind in this industry would lose a very important competitive edge in the global economy.

And as a country with little to no natural resources, being able to harness climate technology at its best is something that relates to the survival of the nation's economy. And so is also an existential issue from an economic sense.

Gael: And suddenly I feel very, very stupid because I was expecting an answer regarding how the Singapore economy wants to stay cutting edge. So exactly what I said in this second part, but actually didn't realize that it was a matter of survival for Singapore to fight by climate change. Yes, it's an island.

It's not a very mountainous island. So yes, actually you are absolutely right. The crossroad image is beautiful because Singapore is a crossroad and is at a crossroad. But business wise and sustainability wise, and bouncing back Thibaut on what you said with a broader vision to Southeast Asia. Can you tell me why Singapore is a beacon and kind of maybe leading the charge against climate change and other environmental crises and how Singapore is different from the rest of the region and how the rest of the region is keeping up the pace toward more sustainable?

Thibaut: Yeah, I think, I mean, again, I don't want to be rude, right? Just consider my inputs as somebody who truly loves this place and, and I try to be as mindful as I can. I feel Singapore is kind of cursed in a way because again, it's a beacon and honestly, an ivory tower in the middle of a region where actually it strongly clashes with the situation of the countries around it.

It's very hard to compare the status of sustainability in the Philippines. Very famous for the plastic pollution, for instance, and Singapore for simple reasons:

In terms of talent, again, I'm repeating this, but in terms of talent and of funding, they are not playing in the same playground.

 Singapore truly has an absolutely, honestly, a unique opportunity to actually be the flame bearer, you know, like during the Olympics to propose a new future. To represent this, I think this shift in terms of mindset. I recently joined a conference with a youth climate activist. And there was a senior minister related to the transportation authority in Singapore.

He was exposing to the climate activists and to the audience on that day that he wants Singapore to shift from being the garden in the city to the city in a garden. And we find that extremely smart and beautiful in a way to reverse the topic. This shifting of mindset.

Personally, I think it strongly shows how much Singapore wants to lead the effort in sustainability within its borders, but also encourage foster collaboration on the regional level and show the example, show how it's done in a way, cuz Singapore again has the opportunity, has the chance to have all the material they can, they need, to craft this desirable and appealing future to craft tech and sustainability.

Gael: Ian, what are, according to you, the main hurdles that other countries in Southeast Asia face at the moment to speed up on sustainability?

Ian: Yes. Yes. Definitely. So to me, I don't feel that they're hurdles. In fact, I feel that they're really, really good opportunities and that's really why, if we look at it from a more macro perspective, a good amount of VC money, right? So we're talking about venture capital firms either opening new offices or increasing their footprint in Southeast Asia.

Right. So a good amount of VC money is flowing into Southeast Asia because there are these opportunities within the region and in a sense, the various countries in Southeast Asia. People like to refer to us collectively as a region, but we aren't as homogenous as most people think we are. In fact, Southeast Asia is one of the most diverse places.

Around the world, right? We are made up of 10 different countries and hundreds of different languages and different beliefs and practices. So it's a place where there is a great amount of diversity, and this diversity is really key to the region's growth. It brings about new ideas and from these new perspectives and new ideas, you can get truly new innovation.

So to me, addressing your question, Gael I feel that Southeast Asia has lots of opportunity. The hurdles may really well be related to the lack of at -least in the past- relevant capital to fund the innovation. But as we've seen in recent years, the amount of capital pouring into the region has accelerated, and that's why you see more and more startups being born in the region and even more and more unicorns being mentored in the past couple of years.

Gael: And some of them being in the climate, tech sector. Indeed. And so if we roll up our sleeves and focus a bit on "What is being achieved in sustainability in Singapore?". Could you share with us some initiatives that you really feel should be put under the spotlight? Whether it's in data center sustainability, maybe a change in the way things are designed in the digital industry or the way they're coded or maybe the way that people handle data and everything related to AI or model training. Where things are moving and what are the landmark initiatives that you'd like to share when it comes to the Singapore Tech scene?

Ian: I'll just hop in here. So from my perspective, I feel that there has been an increase in awareness in general sustainability. We're talking about people being very mindful about things like Earth Day, earth Hour. In the second half of last year in Singapore, we had a climate action week. So in terms of sustainability as a whole, right?

We're talking about awareness regarding plastic waste, regarding General GHG, which stands for greenhouse gas emissions, right? There is an increase in such awareness, but if you look at it specifically from an IT angle, right, sustainability in IT, I think it's still very nascent. And I can tell you from experience because at Greenie Web, when we talk to corporations, when we talk to large corporations, when we talk to smaller businesses, right?

Your SMEs, your small and medium enterprises, there is a very eureka moment experienced by these corporations, right? They still feel that sustainability is a given each time you use a digital process because they grew up, or rather they were trained in a way that they were trained in the past 10, 20 years, in a moment in history where digitization automatically equated with going green.

In other words, when they first stopped using paper to send up mail, right, they started using it. They were told that they were going green, and that to some extent has been true. Right? But we are seeing what we call in-house at Greenie Web, the carbon financial divergence, right? Whereby finances in the past used to cap the carbon cost of an operation, whereas now with software, the financial cap that used to be placed on top of carbon has since been dissolved, and now you have this divergence where costs can be kept very low, but carbon emissions can skyrocket. Your carbon footprint is no longer restrained by your budget, right? A thousand dollars can get you maybe two, three, even five years worth of electronic digital marketing service.

And so you can send out these emails every day. And if you look at the carbon cost per email and you multiply that by the number of emails you send now in a month, multiply that by the number of years a thousand dollars can get you for those professional services. You now have a far larger carbon footprint from the digital wall then you would have had in a physical world.

And so these are the things that we like to share with our partners, right? And we like to share with the general public because long gone are the days whereby going online means you're going green. In fact, in the present day, by going online you could actually be tricking yourself into thinking you're going green, but actually be doing the exact opposite.

So that's a very long answer but I hope it gives you a bit of a picture flavor of digital sustainability.

Gael: This shifting moment when people realize digital does not always equal green is always very interesting. It reminds me, you know, the examples that Gerry McGovern took in his book World Wide Waste, when he actually talks, brings the topics of e-reader. Hmm. And that spontaneously, people would say, well, that's wonderful to buy a Kindle or whatever kind of e-reader you want because I will save so many trees to be chopped off.

And the answer that the studies when you incorporate life cycle analysis, et cetera, et cetera, for the US was kind of astonishing because depending on the study, you had a positive impact on the planet. If you read between 20, and for the other studies , it was 60 books per year. Otherwise, the carbon footprint is negative.

It's better to buy physical books than an E-reader and on average in the US. An adult citizen will read two books per year on average, of course. Huge discrepancy here. That's really stuck me with this example of, yeah, that's not that simple. And knowing that a lot of people are actually getting more and more aware of it in the tech scene in Singapore and pretty much everywhere around the world, this is like a huge battle that is being won as we speak at the moment.

Do you have other examples to share about initiatives taking place in Singapore at the moment?

Thibaut: Yeah, so actually Gael, you mentioned something, a keyword and that's actually my favorite approach to calculate impact footprint or in terms of waste of technology in general, which by the way will be the topic on our track during API days in Singapore with Ian here. It's the life cycle.

I think it's extremely important to have companies and individuals understand that the dematerialization is just materialization elsewhere, just not in our backyard. And to help them perceive this, I really like to use the circular approach cradle to grave approach focused on the lifecycle.

When it comes to understanding the life cycle assessment of technology, it goes through three steps, right?

The manufacturing, the usage of data, and finally, the end of life, whether it's obsolescence or recycling slash e-waste. So in Singapore, actually, we have a few incentives that were launched recently that can actually represent each of these steps. And the fun fact here is that Singapore really likes to rely on local champions to push for topics.

Example, manufacturing. You have this company that you may know called Razer, Razer very famous, I mean, in the gaming industry at least, a very famous brand of laptops. And they are gonna launch their new eco design laptop in the next few weeks. I hope to be part of this amazing event because they are planning some cool incentives to mention that.

But Singapore is now taking the topic seriously of eco-design hardware and manufacturing thanks to the promotion of a local champion. Because Razor is Singaporean now coming to usage one word must be mentioned and I know Gael, it's true to your heart. It's the data centers. So data centers in Singapore represent roughly 7% of the energy consumption, which is, when you think about it, it's huge in terms of ratio.

It's huge. 7% of the energy in Singapore is used for data centers. And also here you have some actual local champions. So for instance, our friend from coolest DC and PS that may be listening to this podcast in the future, who's actually working on innovative ways to develop data centers through smart cooling systems and a better layout of racks, et cetera.

And it's actually super important for Singapore to find their space in this industry for a simple reason :a lot of projects that were designed to go to Hong Kong- in terms of data centers- are now rerouted in Singapore for reasons that are quite obvious. You can imagine, especially between the fact that the US and China are fighting over technology topics and IP intellectual property.

So Singapore actually is benefiting from this shift of strategy from the big tech companies, from the US to actually absorb new projects of data centers and Singapore is actually super interested in these topics the change of approach in the Singapore government on data centers project that were a few years ago rejected for sustainability reasons and now they are re-accepted for the reasons I just mentioned, is actually very pragmatic, but very representative of the strategy on Tech of Singapore.

Finally on the e-waste part, the end of life, Singapore launched on the 1st of July, 2021- so not so long ago, almost two years ago- very exciting project of electronic waste collection bins that was decided by the National Environment Agency that now is collecting a lot of waste because in terms of number, for instance, in terms of electronic waste.

Back in 2020, you had roughly 20 kilograms of electronic waste per pack per year in Singapore, which is huge compared to the other countries in Southeast Asia. So to summarize this, you can see that Singapore understood quite extensively the necessity of addressing the life cycle assessment and started incentives either private through companies on regulation level for E-waste, for instance, to take this topic very, very, very seriously. And it starts with awareness, which is actually a topic that we can delve into later.

Gael: Very interesting the approach that we need local champions like having a change, a move toward a digital system, be rooted with local participants, local champions in how the Singaporean governments and other actors promote local champions. Very interesting approach indeed. Not necessarily the one always followed in Europe, but already 7% of the energy being consumed by data centers.

And because of geopolitical tension, this number might rise both in absolute and related terms. Should it be a concern? How sustainable is it for the industry? Ian, do you have any ideas on it?

Ian: I think that most people in the data industry are also cracking their heads with regards to the reduction of energy consumption and green data centers in general. And that's really rooted in government policy as well, because about three years back, the Singapore government actually launched a moratorium on the building of new data centers.

So that was something that Thibaut alluded to. From somewhere around 2019, 2020, all the way till the end of last year, right about the second half of last year, you couldn't build a new data center in Singapore. There were many reasons for it, but excessive data consumption and of course land space were key considerations when talking about data centers.

So the idea of being able to squeeze more into existing data centers. To ensure that new data centers were built in a way that consumed much less, has always been top of mind in the data center industry in Singapore. And I think that as we shift into a world that is I would say hyper digitized with so many more people coming online in the Southeast Asian region for the first time this year in 2023 and for the years to come.

The need for data centers will only increase in this region, and that's also extra impetus for people creating data centers to really think of how they can do so sustainably because data centers are not short-term digital infrastructure, right? They are digital infrastructure meant to last for decades, if not longer. And sustainable planning, in addition to the sustainability on the hardware devices will be paramount in ensuring this transition for us. At least for myself because we look at the more software side of things. We are also exploring ways with several of these partners in industry to see how software sustainability can increase the durability of hardware and data centers, allowing for extended life cycles so we don't have these use and throw or use and then recycle kind of situations that have been very rampant and that really add up to the e-waste situation experiencing by data centers in many other parts of the world.

Gael: Most of your clients are receptive. Do they manage to find a way to switch the way the code, the way they design software, and still answering the needs of their final customers?

Ian: I think we are still at a very early stage right now with most of these partners that we are talking to, they're still in the stage whereby they're trying to understand more, understand how a change in code, a change in software or the refactoring of things within the digital wall can affect downstream processes and workflows.

It's not as developed as we would like it to be, but I think that the necessity of the situation has brought them to the table in ways that we would not have imagined for many years.

Gael: So still in the awareness phase, but not that early anymore. Thibaut, awareness is something that, yeah, that's your daily branded bread and butter almost now. So maybe you could confirm or comment on what I've just said, that the level of awareness among technologists, I would say in Singapore is rising fast. Is it something that you've noticed ?

Thibaut: I'm gonna tell you I have many examples. I'm gonna quote one that I like to mention. When I arrived in Singapore two and a half years ago I remember that I wanted to do this, I wanted to work on the social social environmental impact of tech and helping companies design their linear infrastructures in a way. And some, not all of them, but a fair portion of sustainability practitioners that time in Singapore didn't mock me.

Alright. But they were like, really, "you really think it's gonna be something to take care of?" " Do you, don't you think we have more pressing matters like energy shift?" Now I'm not saying companies are eagerly looking at this topic, but at least nobody's mocking me anymore because they realized something was off and something that could be used in this area.

Okay. Technology and sustainability, it's not as obvious or as completely it's not black or, or white. Right? So that's actually in terms of awareness, I would say that we are still in the going from zero to one in Singapore. We are still in the very early stage of this. Now, when it comes to companies and I think that's what Ian is implying when he's working with partners.

When you go to companies, you have to speak their language, right? And the language of companies when it comes to sustainability in general, and especially in Singapore, is this carbon footprint. If you don't take this approach of carbon footprint to companies they will not listen to you actually because they will not find a value in what you deliver.

I have a lot of examples of that as well. When I talk to companies saying, you should do something about your carbon footprint or about your IT sustainability roadmap. Always comes the question of what is there for me? And what they imply here is either how much money are you gonna make me make, or are you gonna make me cut?

Or how much CO2 am I gonna save? It's maybe very complex actually, to address this topic in companies for a lot of reasons. First, I can definitely vouch for that I guess, but it's very hard to explain how much cO2 is generated from your technical infrastructures if you want to be very accurate. And the second thing is that technology also bears various impacts like pollution, mental health and biodiversity, which are absolutely not taken into accounting, carbon accounting companies.

So sometimes you feel a dissonance between the approach you have, the service you may deliver, and what the expectations of companies are.

Gael: I think it's not only located in Singapore that the carbon accounting and yeah, raising the level of awareness when it comes to climate change is kind of the golden key. Helping you to enter in quite a lot of companies now. And after that you've got an opportunity to talk about the other environmental crisis, the other planetary boundaries.

But carbon is the, as you say, what was your wording: the standard language to talk about sustain. sustainability.

Thibaut: Yeah, you gotta give them what they want. Right? It's very important. Maybe more generally on awareness. It's changing a lot. We can't compare maturity, even though the level of the lifestyle in Singapore is very high. You can't compare the level of maturity in Singapore and I don't know, North America or for instance, however I believe, I mean, that's what I'm doing, as you said, as my brand and butter. But I really believe in the power, the power of communities, right? Let's forget about CO2 footprint, whatever. Honestly, this is interesting, but you can't expect, you can't afford to lose time on exactly knowing how much CO2 you will save.

Let's act now. And I can see that definitely in Singapore, it's changing and it's about making connections that matter. And sometimes, you know, we focus a lot on feedback loops that may trigger the end of the world, like permafrost or I don't know, this kind of event. But we never focus so much on the feedback loop that can bring change to a higher level. Maybe, and that's what I say when I do workshops. I hope that I will be in one of my workshops one day at the next level. Because if Elon Musk actually did a workshop about climate change awareness a long time ago, maybe he wouldn't be considering some solutions he's mentioning like putting aerosols in the atmosphere et cetera.

Gael: Well, actually you want to have a workshop where you will have Elon musk and it will help you having Elon Musk not becoming Elon Musk. So you are running anti, you know, prevention. You've got a prevention program against the new Elon Musk of this world.

Thibaut: Let's imagine a multiverse where Elon Musk actually took part in a climate climate workshop or a climate threat. It's very important, I think, and there is a part of selflessness and awareness that I know it's kind of a leap of faith, but it's important for people who are crafting this kind of knowledge to believe in what they do because for sure you won't be able to see the impact the day after, but still you have to believe in it.

Gael: Yeah, agree with you. And how many participants so far in Singapore for climate fresk and digital collage, it's like more dozens, hundreds, thousands.

Thibaut: Ah, I would say both combined we are, we reached 4,000, I would say.

Gael: Oh my goodness.

Thibaut: Actually, it's actually growing a lot of momentum and we realize that working with people unlock unlimited potential. And now I can't say it for, I won't name anybody, but we are going to work with national government agencies to help them also embark on this wonderful journey to see, to identify and to show that sustainability does not necessarily have to be about regulations or bad news. It can also be exciting and appealing futures, and we are really helping companies also here through the community of volunteers to see that the pathways are exciting and it's gonna be hard, but it's gonna be brilliant.

Gael: Yes, actually this is why I really enjoyed it and it was truly refreshing to hear Ian rephrasing my sentence from hurdles to opportunities because I also believe that optimism is the way forward. A stubborn optimism to Christiana Figueres. 

Ian, like taking a step back actually and looking at the scene, like the broader scene at Singapore and beyond.

How do you feel today about climate change? I mean, you rightfully mentioned that it's actually an existential threat for your city, for your way of living, et cetera, et cetera. So how do you feel? Is it like a burden that you know is on your shoulders 24/7? Or actually, do you feel empowered or do you feel more optimistic?

Yeah. What is your state of mind at the moment?

Ian: So I feel that there is growing optimism with regards to the climate movement in Singapore. Back when I first thought of Greenie Web about 13 years ago, actually, it's 14 years back in 2009. The level of awareness has certainly shifted. Back then people were just talking more about carbon emissions.

Yes. And a lot more about looking at the climate crisis from a localized perspective, right? So how would it impact Singapore? How would it impact our coastal shorelines? How would it impact our economy? 

I think it is a testament really to the growth in awareness and the maturity of said awareness.

People in Singapore are now thinking about how climate change affects, not just Singapore. But other small island nations like us around the world. Right. How does climate change impact animals in oceans far away that we may never see? How does climate change impact potential diseases? Right. We're talking just now about the melting of the permafrost, right?

And how a lot of ancient zoonotic diseases can be released in the process. Right. So to me, I feel that there is still lots of room for growth. We've come a long way since I first started, about 14 years back, and that's a good reason for optimism because change doesn't happen overnight. And I feel that if we continue in the trajectory that we're headed to, there is every reason to believe that new innovations will come to be.

More people will join. Very interesting and meaningful. Say workshops just like climate fresk and digital collage that Thibaut is leading. And hopefully even one day we would have someone in Singapore or from the region that will be able to come up with a moonshot idea that becomes reality that will have an outsized impact on how the world deals with climate change.

With regards to my reflection on how climate change and our treatment of it has come to Singapore and we'll head for the next 10, 20 years.


Gael: Thibaut, do you want to add something?

Thibaut: I'm French. I have to balance a bit of optimism. It's true that when you retook that idea, I actually did this exercise last year cause I was preparing a masterclass for an MBA program to talk about digital footprint. And when you read articles on straight times CNA, the major newspaper and media in Singapore. Tech is only seen as the solution.

Only, it's never considered as something that can actually bring additional problems or that can be done for nothing or that will bring pollution elsewhere, et cetera. So I think we have to look at the bright side and be optimistic, but I strongly believe and mean you just earlier, let's not be blind about it.

Let's use our brain, our common sense because it's not so hard to deploy technology for the greater good. And maybe, I mean, from what I see in companies, the major challenge, I would say the best practice I have is to think of the user first. Ian has actually a lot of things to say on this, maybe we'll talk about that during API days, but putting some user-centered approach because there's no one size fits.

Of course, especially climate change, sustainability might actually be a good mindset, a good pattern to keep in mind to prevent technology from being leveraged for nothing or for something that is not gonna be very useful. I mean, most of the time, and believe me, I worked in this industry and this IT project, but 99% of the time the project I was working on, on machine learning, our AI, a good Excel document would've been way enough.

And sometimes we just want to, for the sake of fanciness, we want to add extra layers of complexity. But let's streamline a bit. Let's take a safe step back and to quote Nate. You also have some great simplification ahead, and it doesn't have to be necessarily sad or bad news.

Gael: Oh my God. Quoting Nate Hagens on my show. Now you made my day Thibaut, and actually you also met a wonderful transition. I'm such a big fan of this podcast. I didn't have that much the opportunity to share the wonderful job he's doing with it. But the thanks a lot for bringing the topic on the table and that's a great transition because the question, the last question I wanted to ask both of you was :

Would you recommend one or two thought leaders in Singapore or elsewhere, or one or two articles or books for people to grasp a bit more of what is at stake when it comes to digital sustainability? And of course, if it's a bit more focused on Singapore or the area, that will be awesome.

But please feel free to share whatever you want..

Ian: So on my side, I think that, honestly, Gael, I think you've struck gold with today's session because Thibaut is really one of the people in the sustainability and tech arena that has played an outsized role in the development of our particular niche, in today's context. Right. To give you a bit more context and our listeners as well, the sustainability and tech ecosystem in Singapore is still relatively small, so there aren't exactly that many players.

In that regard, Thibaut and his work with digital collage would be one of the key resources for anyone who is in Singapore and listening to this podcast right now. And once you get your first toes right into the idea of digital sustainability, digital collage is a wonderful place to be. 

On my side, what we are doing at Greenie Web is we are also launching the 28 by 28 program. So don't worry, this is not a Forbes 30 under 30 kind of program. The 28 by 28 program that we're launching at Greenie Web is to celebrate 28 years worth of negotiations regarding the climate crisis. It's basically in celebration of COP 28 this year, and the aim of this project is really to educate students from 28 different institutions around the world about digital sustainability. Thus far, we've already had our very first session in February, we did a hybrid session with the University of Tampere in Finland. We had our second session about a week back with students from the Singapore Management University, SMU, and we're actually having a session this week with faculty members from the University of Cape Town in South Africa. So for this, for this particular question, I'm afraid I don't have particular local resources, local thought leaders, but I think Thibaut and I are good starting points, and if anyone would like to join us, and this is a shout out to anyone listening to this podcast as well, feel free to join because the Singapore ecosystem needs every hand we can get.

Thank you.

Gael: Beautiful closing words because a call to the arms. Join us for the digital sustainability battle. But thanks a lot, both of you for joining. Actually, it was great to have this. I think it is the first time that we've got a Green IO episode focusing on a specific area. You know, most of the time I love to have cross national guests so that there will be two perspectives, but I think this focus on Singapore was very, very interesting.

It's interesting to see how much the governments, the states play a role here. So it's not only in France as if we follow the usual caricature, but anyway. So thanks a lot. Thanks to both of you. I hope that the API Day sustainably track will be an amazing success. At least they gathered very talented people.

Starting with both of you. So thanks a lot for joining. It was great to have you on the show, and I hope that this podcast episode will help you also to raise awareness even further of the usual people you've already reached. So thanks a lot again.

Thibaut: Thanks, Gael. Thanks a lot. It was an amazing opportunity. And speak soon.

Ian: Thanks, Gael.

Gael: And that's it. Thank you for listening to Green IO. Make sure to subscribe to the mailing list to stay up to date on your episodes. If you enjoyed this one, feel free to share it on social media or with any friends or colleagues who could benefit from it. As a nonprofit podcast, we rely on you to spread the word.

Last, but not the least. If you know someone who would make a great guest, please send them my way so that we can make our digital word greener one byte at a time.

❤️ Never miss an episode! Hit the subscribe button on the player above and follow us the way you like.

 📧 Our Green IO monthly newsletter is also a good way to be notified, as well as getting carefully curated news on digital sustainability packed with exclusive Green IO contents.