The climate issue is real and requires urgent action. It is on our generation to take serious steps forward in tackling the issue to ensure a safe and healthy planet for our children.
A lesser-known culprit of climate change is food waste and loss, which accounts for up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We believe real change in our food systems and our consumption habits are imperative to reaching a cooler and more sustainable home for all.
DBS launched a regional ‘Towards Zero Food Waste’ movement in 2020, which has since created over 800,000 kg of food impact – comprising food waste reduced and recycled, or food redistributed – across Asia through various initiatives. These include nurturing social enterprises, and closely engaging employees, clients and strategic partners to encourage a positive change in mindsets and behaviours, and inspire action.
However, the problem has worsened in Singapore during the pandemic. The total amount of food waste generated in 2021 was 23% more than in 2020 – at a whopping 817,000 tonnes. In addition, though Singaporeans are commonly known for their love for food, households in Singapore are one of the largest generators of food waste, contributing about half of the food waste generated nationwide.
In our advocacy Towards Zero Food Waste in Singapore, we decided to pivot from highlighting the pressing issue, to celebrating the joy that comes with conscious consumption. We took a deeper look at the wonderful Singapore dishes we’re so proud of to show how they were borne of a time when scarcity and resourcefulness was common.
We also celebrated the good work of our beloved hawkers – whose culture is Singapore’s first inscription on the UNESCO representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity – and how they continue the thoughtful culinary wisdom of our forefathers with the conscientious use of ingredients in their kitchens.
The “abundance is better” mindset in Asia is not easily tackled. Since our journey Towards Zero Food Waste as a bank region-wide, we’ve come to understand that food is an incredibly personal choice that evokes emotions and passions. Nobody likes being told how and what to eat, yet our consumption habits must be addressed as part of the wider environmental issue. We also knew though, that because of the significance of food in our everyday lives, it is one of the most immediate and personal ways individuals are empowered to enact change for our climate. So how should we encourage better food choices without, quite simply, turning people off?
For this, we looked at why food is such a big topic on social media. Across all platforms, why and what were people actually consuming in food content?
It was the novel look at exotic dishes not accessible to users. It was the wonderland of senses evoked through vicarious eating. It was the admiration of skill and genius in making one of humanity’s most basic needs sensational. Food was joy, and content on food was an extension of that joy.
So we looked at the food we loved. There was a clear thread in our hawker and heritage food – many dishes were borne out of necessity, scarcity and resourcefulness, and had rich stories of the region’s history embedded in every ingredient and flavour.
Through the story of Chee Cheong Fan at Chef Leung’s authentic hand-milled rice noodle rolls, we learned how old rice gets a new lease of life in the silky sheets of noodles cradling fresh ingredients – more so as the stall orders only what it can sell for the day and closes when everything they intended to use has been sold.
With Aziz Jaffar Muslim Food’s Beef Rendang, we better understood the rich flavours that were gifted to us as part of the need to preserve food, as the original, drier version of Rendang was prepared for the long sea voyages of the Minangkabau people in Indonesia.
And with Joo Siah Bak Kut Teh’s “breakfast of champions”, we find out how the goodness of bone broth was harnessed by labourers of the past who were seeking a nutritious and energising meal to fuel their backbreaking days, using what meat cuts were available and affordable to them.
The first two hawkers are located at Chinatown Complex Food Centre, which was also part of DBS’ “Adopt-A-Hawker-Centre” Programme helping hawkers impacted by Covid-19 with group buys and better online discoverability. Featuring them in the series allowed us to further extend our support for their businesses.
To front the series, we worked with hawker champion KF Seetoh, also known as the founder of Makansutra, and MasterChef ex-contestant turned hawker, Aaron Wong. Both Seetoh and Aaron are cultural and environmental activists, with Seetoh wearing the large title of ‘godfather of hawkers’, and Aaron a recognised ocean ambassador.
We also turned the stories into articles, using the food recommendations as a hook for users to learn more about the dishes’ zero food waste practices and invited users to share which of their favourite Singapore heritage foods that can inspire a more sustainable, zero waste future.
Creating the content was only the first step – in distributing the branded series More taste, Less waste, we had a multi-pronged approach that covered social media and programmatic platforms. Recognising that certain platforms are prioritising vertical video content, we set out to create multiple adaptations in varying lengths for both landscape and vertical viewing, while ensuring the messages of conscious consumption still came through. To engage with a wider set of users, we also created supporting articles for the videos.
In tapping on Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and YouTube for social media, and Outbrain, DV360 and Taboola for programmatic placements the three episodes generated 14.9 million video views and 6.42 million engagements.
On our posts we see users tagging their friends, rallying them to try the hawker stalls featured on More taste, Less waste, while praising how the hawkers have sustainable practices. Through the social media contest, comments were streaming in on the local dishes that hold culinary wisdom towards zero food waste – citing chicken rice for using the whole chicken, rojak in using up leftover fruits and vegetables, and even pig’s organ soup! The answers showed that people were embracing and connecting how our comfort foods have much to teach us in living and eating sustainably.