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Hold companies accountable for errant practices to protect Singapore's global reputation

I read with dismay the report, "BreadTalk fined S$16,300 for repeatedly discharging illegal waste into sewers" (June 10). Based on the report, BreadTalk was caught for discharging waste into public sewers on multiple occasions.

A reader has called for greater accountability from Singapore firms that have strayed from the country’s values, such as integrity.

A reader has called for greater accountability from Singapore firms that have strayed from the country’s values, such as integrity.

I read with dismay the report, "BreadTalk fined S$16,300 for repeatedly discharging illegal waste into sewers" (June 10).

Based on the report, BreadTalk was caught for discharging waste into public sewers on multiple occasions.

In 2015, the bakery chain also came under fire after an employee was photographed pouring packaged soya milk into bottles labelled “freshly prepared”.

To be fair, BreadTalk is not the only Singapore firm guilty of errant practices over the years. Others — such as Keppel Corp, whose offshore and marine unit was embroiled in an international corruption scandal — have done worse.

These companies not only tarnish their reputation, but that of Singapore, too.

Owing to our Government’s leadership, Singapore is known for its integrity and emphasis on fighting corruption.

Singapore businesses and Singaporeans are the country’s ambassadors to the world.

I am sure many Singaporeans who have done business abroad will agree that they have an edge because of Singapore’s global reputation for honesty and reliability.

In Iloilo, a city in the Philippines where I holidayed recently, I noticed that the Filipinos strongly supported Singapore brands such as BreadTalk. The bakery’s outlet in SM City mall, for instance, was packed during my visit.

In recent years, the business practices of some companies in China led to food scandals that eroded trust among consumers.  

Many Chinese nationals, for instance, would rather buy foreign products, such as baby-milk powder, when they visit Hong Kong.

Do we want foreigners or Singaporeans to one day fear or mistrust Singapore products and companies?

We must not be numbed to practices such as those by BreadTalk, and let businesses pay a fine and move on.

BreadTalk’s recent offences raise the question of whether the Government should emulate China’s social-credit system for businesses.

For instance, companies can receive a set of points and be given demerit points whenever they err. Punishments can include imposing fines on company leaders or banning them from receiving government contracts for a period.

We must start this long-overdue conversation on how to better hold accountable companies that have strayed from the Singaporean values of integrity and honesty.

Our reputation was not built overnight and we must guard it relentlessly.

Related topics

Accountability business BreadTalk Keppel Corp

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