One Year Later: Catching up with the Managing Director of ACT’s Singapore office, Federico Di Credico
In April 2022 we caught up with Federico to discuss the opening of our Singapore office. Now one year into his tenure, he gives an honest and in-depth account of his vision for creating a sustainable ecosystem within ACT, his ambition to expand ACT’s reach in the APAC market, and the potential for nature-based solutions in environmental markets in Southeast Asia and beyond.
How are you settling in? Did you encounter anything unexpected?
From both a personal and professional standpoint, we didn’t run into anything unexpected, thankfully. Of course, moving to a new place always has its challenges, but we were ready and flexible enough to adapt. The day before we arrived in Singapore the COVID policy restrictions were lifted, which was great timing for ACT. This allowed us to connect with the community, which was essential, considering we were a new business presence in the region. We entered Singapore with the ambition of making an impact right away, and we got off to a good start.
Coincidentally, it quickly became apparent that because the borders had opened - and one of the first in Asia to do so - a lot of businesses took advantage of this and moved to Singapore. In this regard, we did feel some pressure concerning recruitment and housing, as we were competing with other corporations who had the same idea.
Concerning practical and strategic matters at the Singapore office, what has been your experience so far working with corporate partners and clients?
Having lived and worked here for a while now, it really has the “island effect” of a smaller community, even though there’s a population of 5 million people. Singapore is a land designed for business, so the infrastructure is well-organized. It’s very well-structured and impressive. The country is very safe – not only from a lifestyle perspective but also for conducting business. Additionally, I’ve found the government to be efficient, responsive, and accommodating regarding its support of corporations.
In the process of searching for and developing partnerships for ACT in Southeast Asia, it has become apparent that taking climate action is a focal point of both governments and businesses, and there are stakeholders who are ready to take on this challenge.
Last we spoke, you described creating “an ecosystem of sustainability” in Singapore. How are you developing this ecosystem?
We didn’t want to open a commercial office with just sales managers and an operations department. From the beginning, we wanted our office to be a complex structure with research and development, a sustainability specialist, project developers, a finance team, and legal counsel. And that’s not only because ACT is a complex company to do business with; it’s because we wanted a comprehensive and capable office so that ACT could immediately hit the ground running at full capacity with our entire suite of solutions. We have a lot of value to add beyond our networking and market expertise, and that gives us our competitive edge. So, the vision is to build our office ecosystem within ACT and make that work within the ecosystem and business framework of Singapore. More broadly, our goal is to help shape the ecosystem on all fronts, and I believe we are doing that.
You’ve previously noted that Southeast Asia holds a lot of potential for emissions reduction (e.g., carbon sequestration, forest conservation) - so there is an opportunity for environmental sustainability and economic growth in the region. Are there any trends or initiatives that could accelerate this?
Yes, there is a lot, especially with nature-based solutions and biodiversity. Historically, Southeast Asia has seen a lot of damage [to their environment], but that means there is a lot of room for repair. I think that is a point of sensitivity, but what I have observed is this: There are a lot of corporations that operate outside Asia and want to contribute to the development of nature-based and biodiversity climate projects, and Southeast Asia views this as a business opportunity where they can develop these projects and monetize them. Another trend I’ve noticed is that the smaller, local corporations are more aware of their place in the global supply chain and feel the pressure to take climate action. Maybe they are not as experienced or knowledgeable as other corporations around the world, but they see the future.
Governments are beginning to understand capacity building and they see an opportunity to involve the private sector. Because of our knowledge and experience, ACT is nicely placed to support the development of these projects and to help [organizations] hit their voluntary goals and satisfy their compliance obligations, which makes Singapore such a strategic location.
What are some of the unique opportunities for companies in this market?
The geography of the region is unique, and the natural environment offers an abundance of biodiversity. It’s a tropical climate, and there are a lot of islands and rainforests. Roughly 50% of the physical capacity of nature-based climate projects exist in SE Asia. That’s the physical element of this part of the world. The financial element is that this region of the world has the highest percentage GDP growth rate – which can be a problem as much as an opportunity. We want to see growth alongside the monetization of this environmental value in the region.
The world has changed since Europe entered the environmental commodities market 10-15 years ago, so I believe Southeast Asia will move at an accelerated pace in comparison. The world is a lot more connected, there's more awareness around this subject, and there’s more incentive for participation on a wider scale. The fear of falling behind because your competitors don’t take the same climate action measures seems to be an attitude of the past.
You recently attended the Asia Carbon Conference and were on a panel discussion for understanding voluntary carbon offsets. What did you take away from this experience?
The general understanding is that - while this region is still very much in a capacity-building stage operating in a voluntary market – corporates need to prepare for a future with compliance markets. We see a trend of local governments leading or sponsoring a lot of climate-based initiatives and they are creating their own ecosystem, which in turn creates awareness that has a ripple effect in the region. Businesses in all sectors and industries are curious about how they can create a new revenue stream and diversify their risk through nature-based solutions and carbon financing while fulfilling their climate action goals.
Looking to the future, now. What is your vision for the Singapore office in 2023?
We have a great team, but our work is not complete. We want to keep building up foundations and improving our ecosystem, both internally and externally. We are not here only to focus on Southeast Asia – we want to address our capacity to interact with APAC at large. For example, Japan has a serious goal of being net zero with their GHG emissions, and we see a lot of movement and action on that front from Japanese corporations. India is also pushing for domestic climate projects. We want ACT to play an active role in these markets, so that means expanding our presence and building our capacity to respond.
I was at a well-attended conference in Sydney recently and it seems Australia is ready to make its move in the global energy transition. There are a lot of different economies with different needs, but they all seem to be doing something, which means the idea of Singapore becoming a regional hub that understands how to deal with these dynamics will be essential for ACT’s growth.
Taking a holistic view, I don’t see 2023 as a year to solve all these issues because neither the market nor the world is ready to support this. However, ACT is building the infrastructure it needs to deal with jurisdictions and complexities beyond Southeast Asia and deliver solutions to all our APAC partners.
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Contact our team in Singapore: T: +65 69909220 | APAC@ACTCommodities.com