Nature Conservancy's Singapore unit eyes partnerships, blended finance

Singapore's growing emphasis on carbon credits, transition finance and blended finance holds great appeal for one of the world's biggest environment-focused asset owners.
Nature Conservancy's Singapore unit eyes partnerships, blended finance

The Nature Conservancy plans to furthen deepen its partnerships in the Asia Pacific and participate in new financing models to protect the environment via its office in Singapore. 

The office, which opened in late July, comes as more asset owners in the region commit to net-zero goals and increasingly consider how their operations affect the biodiversity of the plant, animal and marine life of the places in which they operate. 

“We recognised having a small team in Singapore, establishing new partnerships and innovating could help us deliver a greater scale and impact of our work in places like the grasslands of Mongolia, the rainforests of Indonesia or the mangroves of Papua New Guinea. So we are excited to be here,” Tom Brzostowski, Singapore country director at The Nature Conservancy, told AsianInvestor.

The Nature Conservancy is one of the largest -- and oldest -- environmental non-profit organisations by assets in the world.

Its assets total about $9 billion, of which the Office of Investments is responsible for managing approximately $4 billion, comprising endowment and other long-term investments.

The conservation-focused asset owner is actively expanding its team in Singapore, with plans to hire at least 20 new employees over the next five years. 

“In the past five years in particular, we have been closely watching Singapore as it strengthened its status as a regional and global hub for a number of things that have piqued our interest such as climate action, carbon markets, nature-based solutions, blended finance, sustainable finance, growth of family offices, etc,” said Brzostowski.

The Nature Conservancy had identified some specific opportunities where it could bring its global expertise and resources to help Singapore achieve its climate and sustainability aspirations, he added.

“It’s another reason why we are here to help by supporting partnerships and ensuring that words turn into actions," Brzostowski said.

The asset owner has worked in the region for the past 35 years, across 15 countries and territories, from Mongolia and China to New Zealand, Australia and Polynesia.

The organisation has a long history with Singapore: close to 23 years ago, when former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, also considered the founding statesman of modern-day Singapore, co-established the Asia-Pacific Council, consisting of a group of influential individuals and business leaders to help guide and support conservation efforts across the region.

Former US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was also one of the founders. “This group is still going strong today,” said Brzostowski.

The organisation’s expansion into the city-state aligns with the Singapore Green Plan, which aims to position the city as a leading centre for green finance and services and as a carbon services hub in Asia.

Topics such as carbon credits, transition finance and blended finance have become increasingly popular among both family offices and institutional investors like pension funds and sovereign wealth funds.

The issue of  protecting biodiversity is climbing on the sustainability agenda for companies. 
Image credit: Shutterstock


Brzostowski said The Nature Conservancy has been actively considering new and clever ways to fund conservation and climate impact, including blended finance models.  “Blended finance is one of the unique things that The Nature Conservancy does,” he adds.

Blended finance refers to the strategic use of development finance and philanthropic funds to mobilise private capital flows to emerging and frontier markets, resulting in positive results for both investors and communities.

Some large insurers such as Prudential have told AsianInvestor that they are keen to participate in blended finance projects to help with climate change and other socio-economic issues.

There is certainly more conversation around sustainability, with regulatory pressures driving most of the dialogues across countries in the Asia Pacific.

Yet, one of the challenges is that terms such as ‘sustainability’ ‘impact investing’ and ‘ESG’ have different meanings, although regulators are starting to bring in more well-defined definitions.

“In the past some may have considered an impact investor was just someone who could be investing in a company that hires people and the impact here is of creating jobs,” said Brzostowski. “What we are talking about is having a measurable science-based impact on people of nature while providing a financial return.”

Brzostowski believes that there has been a lot of progress on sustainability standards.

“They provide blueprints for companies and investors on how they can make a tangible difference. Consumers and investors are going to expect more from companies in coming years to show more about what they’re doing in the sustainability space, and by ensuring that this is measured.”

Brzostowski underscored the importance of Asia in those efforts: “Asia Pacific is so important in the global conservation and climate space. We can’t have a sustainable planet without a sustainable Asia Pacific.”

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