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#OCBCCares Environment Fund 2020 finances development of dehydrated cleaning products to mitigate increase in plastic waste, as coronavirus outbreak spurs growing demand for cleaning products

#OCBCCares Environment Fund 2020 finances development of dehydrated cleaning products to mitigate increase in plastic waste, as coronavirus outbreak spurs growing demand for cleaning products

  • 03 Jun 2020

The Fund will stop calling for applications from this year. OCBC Bank will explore other strategic ways of deploying funding to mitigate climate change issues


With the Coronavirus (Covid-19) global outbreak becoming a catalyst for more frequent use of cleaning products – as more people turn to hand soaps and household detergents for protection – it has also given rise to more plastic waste. It is therefore timely that one of the five ground-up projects that the #OCBCCares Environment Fund is supporting this year addresses the problem of excess plastic bottles, as demand for bottled cleaning products increase.

67 applications were received in 2019 and 18 were shortlisted for further evaluation, before five were finally selected to receive funding totalling $100,900.  Over the three years since its launch in 2017, the Fund has provided $270,000 in financial support to implement 15 ground-up projects, out of 157 applications received.

The Fund will stop calling for fresh applications from this year. The Fund was introduced at a time when private sector financial support for environmental projects was relatively thin on the ground. Since then,  several like-minded private-sector organisations have created similar environmental sustainability funds.  The Fund’s evaluation committee has also observed that while the number of applications has increased over the years, it has received fewer proposals that meet the objective of the Fund – which is to empower the general public to implement sustainable and scalable climate action solutions that will benefit Singapore.

The Fund will therefore refocus on upstream projects from 2020 and identify gaps where sustainable and strategic support is needed to mitigate climate change issues. The emphasis on reducing CO2 will continue to underpin the Bank’s  environmental efforts as it is a significant climate changer. New initiatives will be announced as and when they are finalised.


Supporting projects to reduce carbon emissions

All five projects selected by the independent evaluation committee,   chaired by Mr N Sivasothi, Senior Lecturer, National University of Singapore, provide solutions for reducing waste – from food to textile and plastic wastes.  Since 7 April 2020 when circuit breaker measures in Singapore have kept most people at home, the amount of waste generated has increased. 

The other members of the committee are Ms Koh Ching Ching, Head, Group Brand & Communications, OCBC Bank; Ms Sueanne Mocktar, Director, 3P Network Division, National Environment Agency; Dr Lena Chan, Senior Director, National Biodiversity Centre, NParks; and Ms Serena Seah, Senior Principal Engineer, Water Demand Management & Inspectorate, PUB, Singapore's National Water Agency.

One of the projects selected in this final year of funding ground-up efforts –Team SimplyGood – has found a way to make dehydrated cleaning products that can cut the amount of plastic packaging by as much as 90%, compared to bottled ones.  Produced in tablet form to be dissolved in reusable containers, these detergents will require production of fewer plastic bottles.  The reduced volume, weight and shipping associated with the product and packaging can also result in lower carbon emissions. 

Helmed by Clewyn Puah and Jeremy Lee, Team SimplyGood has developed some prototypes of the detergents which have been successfully tested. Funding from the #OCBCCares Environment Fund will support work to improve product formulation and diversification into specific cleaning detergents used in households – for washing hands, dishes and surfaces such as walls and floors.  

The team’s Eureka moment occurred when it came across literature* indicating that more than 90% of a typical bottle of cleaning product is simply water, with the remaining 10% being the active ingredients that do the cleaning. “If we can deliver the active ingredients for these cleaning products to buyers in tablet form, this can reduce the need for repeated production of plastic bottles each time anyone buys a bottle of detergent,” shared Mr Puah.

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA),  domestic and trade premises generated about 73,000 tonnes of waste in April 2020 alone.   This is 11 per cent more than the 66,000 tonnes generated in March 2020.

The effort to reduce waste – and the resulting carbon emissions – is in line with OCBC Bank’s ongoing efforts to help tackle climate change.  In recent years, the Bank has supported several initiatives targeted at reducing carbon emissions – from planting trees at the OCBC Arboretum and Coney Island to store CO2, stepping up on sustainable financing which led to the Bank topping the Bloomberg and Debtwire sustainable finance league tables in 2019; to supporting community efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Details of the five projects that will receive funding in 2020 can be found in Annex 1.

The #OCBCCares Environment Fund has achieved impactful outcomes

The #OCBCCares Environment Fund was the first private sector-led fund to financially support ground-up projects in 2017, encouraging more companies to subsequently come forward to offer funding support.

Ms Koh Ching Ching, OCBC Bank Head of Group Brand and Communications said: “Our #OCBCCares Programme has always focused on providing targeted help to address gaps.  So, in the same spirit – now that there is sufficient impetus to fund ground-up projects – OCBC will be moving on from supporting community projects.  Instead, we will explore how our #OCBCCares Environment Fund can provide sustainable and strategic support upstream, to help mitigate pressing climate change issues such as rising sea levels and increasing temperature.  

“I would like to thank our independent evaluation committee members Ms Sueanne Mocktar, Dr Lena Chan, Ms Serena Seah, and our  Chairman, Mr N Sivasothi for providing insightful guidance over the past three years.  As bankers, we do not have the expertise that the committee members have provided, enabling OCBC to support the 15 projects that have delivered sustainable outcomes.”

Mr Sivasothi said, “OCBC has made great strides in its environmental journey, from funding ground-up projects within the community, stopping financing of new coal plants to planting more than 4,700 trees across Singapore to store CO2.  Their investment in green initiatives has always been targeted and impactful.  I am excited to see what their next environmental project is.”

“It has been a fulfilling experience serving on the #OCBCCares Environment Fund committee.  I have had the chance to meet many enthusiastic applicants across all ages.  A few have successfully used their projects as springboards to develop more long-term sustainable initiatives.”

He cited Heng Li Seng, the founder-turned-Chief Executive Officer of Green Nudge, as an example. From his project to get participants at sporting events to bin fruit peels correctly so that they can be converted to compost, Green Nudge is now a social enterprise that supports businesses and communities to create positive environmental impact.   

Details on members of the #OCBCCares Environment Fund evaluation committee can be found in Annex 2.

*Ellen MacArthur Foundation:

Projects that the #OCBCCares Environment Fund will support in 2020


Team SimplyGood

The project involves developing dehydrated cleaning products that would help offset an increase in plastic waste, as the coronavirus outbreak spurs a growing demand for cleaning products.  The team will improve product formulation and diversification into different cleaning detergents - for washing hands, dishes and surfaces such as walls and floors.  


Project Black Gold*

While composting is a now a common practice, this project will see three communities across Singapore working to change behaviour on a larger scale – to convert food waste into compost for the gardening community.


Team Savour*

Leveraging technology, students from two universities are developing a location-based app that would help F&B companies and retailers minimise food wastage by notifying consumers of deals on unsold bread that would otherwise be discarded.


The Clothes Library*

This subscription-based clothes swapping service will benefit women from lower-income families and help support Singapore’s zero-waste agenda.


The Wishy Washy*

Students of Mee Toh School will get to improve their prototype of an innovative water tank that collects rainwater to wash plastic bottles and metal cans so that they are fit for recycling. The students will build several more, to be placed in other schools.


* These projects were selected at the OCBC Green Pitch, which was the closing event for Changing Course, an Eco-Business exhibition sponsored by OCBC that featured the Arctic region, the sobering frontline of climate change.   It was held on 2 November 2019 at the ArtScience Museum at the Marina Bay Sands Singapore. 

There were two rounds to The Green Pitch.  A total of 62 individuals attended Round 1 on 16 October 2019 to learn about budgeting and how to present their pitches well.  Of the 35 applications submitted, 12 were shortlisted for Round on 2 where applicants made their Shark Tank-like business pitches; winners were selected after the pitching was done.  Besides members of the #OCBCCares Environment Fund evaluation committee, the guest judges were Eco-Business CEO Jessica Cheam and award-winning multimedia journalist Fraser Morton.

Members of the #OCBCCares Environment Fund evaluation committee





Vice Chairman

National University of Singapore,
Mr N Sivasothi, Senior Lecturer, Department of Biological Sciences; Director of Studies, Ridge View Residential College


Ms Koh Ching Ching,

Head, Group Brand and Communications



National Environment Agency
Ms Sueanne Mocktar, Director, 3P Network Division


National Parks Board
Dr Lena Chan, Senior Director, National Biodiversity Centre


PUB, Singapore's National Water Agency

Serena Seah, Senior Principal Engineer, Water Demand Management & Inspectorate





Media Queries

Heng Yishi