How DBS Bank Is Doing The Most For Carbon Neutrality, Starting From Its Infrastructure

To attain carbon neutrality, DBS Bank has implemented a four-level approach to rethinking their operations.
by Jamie Wong

Photo: DBS Bank

At the beginning of this year, DBS Bank announced that all its manned branches would be certified under the BCA’s Green Mark Platinum by the end of the year. This is part of DBS’s ongoing efforts to attain net-zero operations.

To reduce their carbon, energy, water, and waste footprint, DBS has a four-lever approach, and prioritises their efforts according to this order. The first lever, where their efforts are primarily channelled, is to reduce the consumption of resources. The second lever is to generate renewable energy. The third lever is to purchase green products and energy. In contrast, the fourth lever looks at purchasing renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets.

Under this four-lever approach, the company has made alterations to its infrastructure, from its branches to its office buildings.

Green Mark

The Green Mark Platinum is the highest rating under BCA’s Green Mark, an internationally recognised green building certification scheme.

This certification assesses buildings based on five aspects: energy efficiency, water efficiency, sustainability awareness and operations, indoor environmental quality, and any other sustainable features. BCA’s Green Mark will then offer Green Mark Points to each company based on their performance in each sector, with a maximum mark of 149.

To achieve the Green Mark Platinum, companies must score about 95 points.

Certified green branches

DBS has retrofitted its manned branches to fulfil the Green Mark Platinum criteria. To use resources efficiently, the manned branches are equipped with intelligent occupancy-based lighting and air-conditioning systems, and video teller machines have energy-saving light dimmers and sensor controls.

Photo: DBS Bank

The environment is also considered in the very makeup of the branches. The wood panels used for the walls are crafted from Singapore Green Label-certified cork, and the branches use preserved moss, which requires minimal maintenance and thus uses few resources, like water or fertiliser.

Photo: DBS Bank

Presently, over 80% of DBS bank’s manned branches are already certified Green Mark Platinum.

Down to the roots

DBS’ Better World staff cafeteria also hosts a number of sustainability features.

Located in Marina Bay Financial Center Tower 3, the cafe was designed to minimise the consumption of resources. It employs occupancy-based lighting and air-conditioning systems, and low-energy appliances, as in the DBS manned branches.

Additionally, heat pumps were installed in the kitchen. These harness the waste heat from refrigerators and freezers to produce hot water. Melamine crockery was also replaced with biodegradable wares made from rice husks and starch.

To reduce food waste, the staff cafeteria also has food composting stations for employees to dispose of their food scraps.

The cafe’s menu was curated with F&B company Chilli Padi Holding Pte Ltd to use ingredients sourced from local farms, and suppliers with responsible agricultural practices. These include certified humane chicken and cage-free eggs, fish from sustainable aquaculture farms, and pesticide-free mushrooms.

Photo: DBS Bank

Through the trunk

DBS Bank’s efforts do not stop at their branches. The bank revamped one of its oldest office buildings, DBS Newton Green.

Photo: DBS Bank

Previously, the old office building consumed the energy equivalent of 200 four-room HDB homes in Singapore annually.

As in their manned branches and cafeteria, the office building has occupancy-based lighting and air-conditioning systems. It also houses low energy appliances such as energy efficient fans, and reengineered plumbing. These appliances have reduced energy consumption in common areas, like lobbies, pantries, and social spaces, by 70%.

To reduce the necessity of air conditioning, 10% of previously air-conditioned areas have been converted into naturally ventilated spaces.

Natural resources

Over half of the building’s perimeter is covered in living plants. This reduces the urban heat gain of the building, reducing the building’s internal temperature. It also provides a refuge for native butterfly and bird species.

DBS Newton Green has expanded their rooftop with a new overhang. This increased space can house more solar panels, enabling DBS to maximise its on-site renewable energy generation. This panel array powers the remainder of the building’s energy requirements, and spans more than 1,000 square meters. The solar panels also have AI-enabled optimisers to enhance the panel’s operating performance.

Through these renovations, DBS Bank extended the lifespan of the building and minimised the carbon footprint of the building, as they avoided squandering embodied carbon in the existing structure, or generating additional carbon by building a new structure.

DBS Newton Green was certified by BCA as a Green Mark Platinum Zero Energy development, and is Singapore’s first net zero development by a bank.

It is also one of around 500 net-zero commercial buildings globally, and was awarded the Singapore Good Design Mark 2022 for Sustainable Design by the Design Business Chamber of Singapore.

Branching out

DBS’ efforts continue beyond their infrastructure.

The bank has integrated environmental and social considerations into procurement decision-making. In 2022, 100% of DBS’ new suppliers committed to DBS’ Sustainable Sourcing Principles, which outlines their expectations in the domains of human rights, safety and health, environmental sustainability, and business integrity and ethics.

DBS has also co-founded the National Sustainable Procurement Roundtable (NSPR). The NSPR is a national movement that aims to build an innovative and sustainable supply chain.

The considerable effort put into infrastructure is representative of how corporate forces are reexamining the spaces they occupy and reconsidering how these can be refurbished to adhere to company goals.

“At DBS, we are committed to achieving net zero operations, a cornerstone of our sustainability strategy. Since 2017, we have pursued opportunities to redesign and rethink ways to be more resource-efficient and carbon-light across our operations,” said Erwin Chong, Group Head of Corporate Real Estate Strategy and Administration at DBS.

“These insights can serve as a beacon of inspiration for others to follow. Together, we can amplify our collective contributions to Singapore’s sustainability journey.”

This story originally published on The Peak Singapore.

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