Symposium on Futures Sustainability 2017


Today, we are facing a serious depletion of natural resources. The traditional linear economic system, where humans exploit natural resources in a single direction that end up as waste at the landfill, is no longer viable in ensuring sustainability. A switch to a circular economy, which recycles or reuses products to produce zero waste, is needed more than ever.

The concept of a circular economy was discussed in a panel discussion organised by students of the Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES) programme on 25 March at the Symposium on Futures Sustainability at University Town Auditorium 1. The event aims to provide a platform to encourage public dialogue on topical environmental issues.

In partnership with the Rotary Club of Suntec City, Singapore, three distinguished sustainability speakers were invited to present on the topic “Steering Towards a Circular Economy” from different perspectives.


Ms Kimmis Pun, President of the Rotary Club of Suntec City, delivered the opening address 

Prof Michael F. MANIATES from Yale-NUS College traced sustainability all the way back to the production stage of consumerism. He explained that there are various considerations prior to the production of goods to enable a circular economic process.


 Prof Michael Maniates, Yale-NUS College Professor, shared the academic perspective of  facilitating a circular economy

Private firms and industries are key stakeholders in the advancement towards a circular economy. Ms Xin-Yi WONG, Sustainability Manager from fashion retailer H&M Southeast Asia, emphasised that commitment from businesses is crucial in ensuring that progress towards a circular economy stays on track. Citing H&M’s sustainability practices, Ms Wong explained that businesses can pursue paths towards a circular economy, such as promoting a change in consumption behaviour, decoupling growth from resource use and taking the initiative to work with researchers and non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).



Ms Xin-Yi Wong, Sustainability Manager for H&M Southeast Asia, explained how businesses can contribute to a circular economy 

Despite the potential of a circular economy, Prof Maniates cautioned that its environmental benefits could be reduced or even wiped out if the economy continues growing without limits. This stems from the fact that a circular economy can never be perfectly circular and waste-free. Even small percentages of waste add up when the economy expands. 

Ms Farah H. SANWARI, Executive Director of Sustainable Living Lab, spoke about the roles of the public in achieving a circular economy. To achieve greater sustainability, Ms Sanwari urged participants to consider how we can do our part to contribute to a circular economy through our daily activities and behaviours. 



Ms Farah H. Sanwari, Executive Director of Sustainable Living Lab, called on the public to play their part in achieving a circular economy 

A participant said, “I found the symposium informative and educational. I learnt about the circular economy and how sustainability does not have to be achieved at the expense of economic growth.”

Another participant said, “It was an eye-opening event which provided insights into how different groups in society can create a sustainable environment.”

BES student LI Fang shared how she became more aware of the various initiatives that social enterprises and businesses have put in place in Singapore towards a more circular economy. She said, “The circular economy is a complex topic. The Symposium managed to give participants a good overview of the issue and the impact of small actions taken by individuals. 



A group photo of the Organising Committee members and volunteers, together with BES Programme Director Prof Edward Webb