Singapore co-op apex takes its annual leaders’ conference to Taiwan

The agenda included sustainability, cybersecurity and a session on emerging leaders

Over 120 people gathered in Taipei, Taiwan last month for the Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF) Annual Co-operative Leaders Conference (ACLC).

The annual event aims to help Singapore’s co-ops strengthen their processes and capabilities to learn, stay relevant and continue serving their members. Previous editions have been held in Malaysia, Singapore and online.

Attendees included 108 co-op leaders from 26 co-operatives, as well as representatives from the Registry of Co-operative Societies (RCS) and the Central Co-operative Fund Committee, who gathered for discussions around the theme of running sustainable businesses.

“This year, we have taken a powerful theme to heart, diving deep into the very essence of our co-operative DNA: that is Running Sustainable Businesses,” said SNCF chair Tng Ah Yiam.

“At our core, we believe that businesses can be a force for good, not just for profit but for the empowerment of the communities.”

The benefits of co-ops embracing Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives was discussed by professor Ang Hak Seng, former executive director of RCS and deputy secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

“If organisations do not start looking at ESG and sustainability, they risk becoming obsolete,” said Ang, who highlighted the financial benefits of eliminating waste to lower costs.

Cybersecurity was also on the agenda, with a presentation from SNCF executive committee member Bryan Tan, of NTUC Enterprise Nexus Co-operative. Tan warned that cyber threats are “no longer a question of ‘if’, but rather ‘when and how”, and advised co-ops to “build their defences in layers”.

Key recommendations from Tan included Investing in training around cybersecurity, putting in place protective processes such as user access reviews, and leveraging tech such as antivirus software, to safeguard co-ops and their members.

Delegates also heard from Taiwan’s co-operative sector via a presentation from Sophie Liang, an adjunct associate professor for the department of finance and co-op management from the National Taipei University. Liang’s research showed a decline in consumer co-ops, but a rise in agricultural and workers’ co-ops in the country.

Three new members of SNCF’s executive committee were introduced at the event: Evelyn Siow, Mavis Ren and Dr Leong Choon Kit. They will join the rest of the committee in serving a three year term in leading SNCF.

The event also featured a session with participants of SNCF’s Emerging Leaders Programme. The eight co-op leaders had been selected to take part in an overseas leadership bootcamp and a number of learning exercises, before presenting their findings to a panel at the end of the programme. SNCF plans to nurture 100 emerging leaders over the next five years.