Jose Raymond: Linking the environment sector to other sectors of society

By Bhavani Prakash

Jose Raymond

Jose Raymond is Executive Director of Singapore Environment Council (SEC), one of the leading environmental NGOs in Singapore. Before he joined SEC in September 2011, he had a varied career that enables him to forge multiple stakeholder relationships. As an award winning journalist with Mediacorp for 12 years, he was particularly keen on taking up causes that supported the underdog. In 2007, he left journalism to join the Singapore Sports Council as Deputy Director, Media Relations and Social Media. He briefly worked as Press Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR).

Jose Raymond talks to Bhavani Prakash of Green Collar Asia about various initiatives undertaken by SEC, in engaging with industry as well as the community.

GCA: What is your vision for SEC?

Jose Raymond: My vision for SEC has been more than just caring for the environment. It’s also about linking various sectors with other sections of society. As an NGO, we don’t just head out to companies and say to them that “you have to do this because you have to care for the environment.” We give them a reason to support us. We show them that we not only care about the environment but that we also care about people. I have bought in 3 staff as of now who have special needs. We must link the environment sector to other sectors of society and show that we can play our part. This has given a social face to SEC, something that didn’t really exist in the past.

GCA: What changes have you brought about since you assumed this role at SEC?

Jose Raymond: When I came on board we had 12 employees and our turnover was Sing $1.5 million. If we look at market conditions and the broad economy where companies are downsizing, we have actually expanded by more than double. Our expected turnover by the end of the year is Sing $4.6 million. When I came in, I looked at the gaps and focused on a few key projects which we went and marketed aggressively. Basically we went after the low hanging fruits and this was essentially our game plan.

GCA: How do you engage with industry and create interlinkages between sectors?

Jose Raymond: I have worked in government and in media before, and now I am in the non-profit sector, and have been active in the community for a while. I have been able to use these networks to create opportunities or programs in which organisations are able to collaborate with us. When I make my presentations, it’s about showing them what they can do, what’s in it for them, why they need to do certain things for their own benefit and how it’s going to be helping and benefiting society.

GCA: Do you face challenges in making the case for sustainability? Do you have a method to convince companies?

Jose Raymond: Firstly I approach every presentation with humility, the reason being that if you head into a meeting with attitude that “I know everything and you guys don’t know anything and better just do it” or tell them “whatever you are doing is just wrong” it doesn’t work and it doesn’t strike a chord. So my style has been to show organisations that what they are doing right now may be acceptable business behaviour, but there are other ways for them to recreate their business and re organise their business structure to make it sustainable. Not just sustainable, but it also helps them with the bottom line. Every industry is different but if the information is forthcoming I am able to point out which are the areas companies can improve upon.

GCA: Can you talk about how SEC’s Project:Eco-Office has progressed?

Project Eco Office

 Jose Raymond: Project Eco-Office was started in 2002, so it’s in its tenth year this year. In the first ten years of   its existence,   it reached out to 102 companies which amounted to about 10 companies a year. This year after I took over, I actually said publicly that I will match what SEC has done in the last ten years in one year. So we are half way there now – as of July 2012 we have had 50 new offices certified. With Project Eco-Office we help companies with their energy, paper and water usage and their procurement and waste management. We have shown companies that if we keep track of these there will be financial benefits.

GCA: How have you tied up with waste collectors for Project Eco-Office?

Jose Raymond: Every single building and office has a different waste collector. Not everyone collects recyclables. So we provide companies and offices with links to waste collectors who do recycle. As much as possible we assist companies who do not have their networks established yet. It’s all about changing behaviour and getting them to change their usual routines.

GCA: Can you talk about how you have progressed with Eco-labelling schemes?


Jose Raymond: Our green labelling certification has 45 categories for products that range from construction materials to household materials like dishwashing liquids and paints. When we look at the audit protocol we look at the entire lifecycle of the product. A case in point is Shaw Inc which supplies carpets to many buildings and government offices in Singapore, and has a take-back system. They actually remove the carpets and ship them back to the US where they recycle them to be reused. This is as close as we can get to greening the supply chain, but can we get any better? Certainly. I have asked for a review to make all 45 categories more stringent. This is mostly internally driven but some of it is also externally driven, for example, we recently had a request from National Environment Agency (NEA) and National Parks Board (NParks) for a category for compost and mulch for which there is no standard at the moment. We also had a request from PUB to tighten up the standards for the amount of phosphates in dishwashers and detergents. To upgrade our categories and audit protocols we don’t just use our own staff but we also bring in environmental engineers and even major environmental consultants to help us. We are also part of the Global Eco-Labelling Network where we study best practices among countries globally. I have sent some of my staff to Japan for training in global best practices in areas such as waste management and 3R practices, and continue to look for additional training opportunities for them. I believe nothing should remainconstant. We should upgrade and look at things over and over again. Every now and then if I am unhappy with something, I will open it up, look at it again and make it better.

GCA: How do you think Singapore can become a vibrant place for green professionals and entrepreneurs?

Jose Raymond: Singapore has always been known as a leader in several areas, and is in the forefront of activity and research. We have seen quite a few international NGOs bringing their regional offices into Singapore and that’s not by chance but by design. The government has taken a conscious effort to bring them here. Because we are positioning ourselves in the forefront of the activity, we have industries which are trying to go green and they need help, so we work quite closely with SPRING Singapore. The government is going to implement The Energy Conservation Act in 2013 and train a minimum number of certified energy managers. Singapore has also set up the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) in 2010, even though the nation is just a tiny green dot. I think the very fact that Singapore Government brought together 3 international events earlier this year – The Singapore International Water Week, World City Summit and WasteMet Asia shows that Singapore wants to develop as hub of activity. Our water story is the one that is told all over the world. A country which is actually resource scarce is almost self-sufficient now. This shows that there is a lot we can share and we have got the expertise and we are trying to grow the industry. There is a lot we can do, and there are a lot of opportunities available.


About the Interviewer

Bhavani Prakash is the founder of Green Collar Asia, a thought-leadership portal on developments in the green jobs sector, where macro-level trends, as well as insights from green professionals and entrepreneurs are brought together.  Green Collar Asia is the media division of Worthy Earth, a Singapore registered and licenced executive search, recruitment and training firm.

Bhavani is a recruiter, speaker, trainer and writer in the environment/sustainability sector. She has an MBA (PGDM)  from Indian Institute of Management Calcutta and an M.Sc in Financial Economics from University of London. She is also a certified EQ Coach with Six

Connect with Green Collar Asia on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter.  Bhavani Prakash may be contacted via bp[at] or through LinkedIn.

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