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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Someone Shares My Views, 2.5 Years Later...

I wrote a post in June 2005 about the impracticality of wearing long-sleeved business shirts in Singapore: (referenced here)

And today, some 2.5 years later, some valient hero writes about it in the Straits Times Forum. Only now, there is more worldwide focus on climate changes and he's coming from the very practical way of looking at it from the energy conservation angle. Way to go Francis! (I don't know him). His article is reproduced here:

Energy conservation - do away with suits and ties

DESPITE numerous articles and discussions regarding the low temperature setting of air-conditioners in Singapore, we still observe waste of such energy.

Last week, at the opening event of the Energex 2007 conference in Suntec, various distinguished speakers highlighted the point of energy conservation. It was ironical that the room in which the participants were gathered was uncomfortably cold.

While I am sure that the National Environment Agency is trying to educate (why not enforce?) those in building and facilities management roles, I feel that changes are not happening fast enough. This issue is not new as Minister Lim Swee Say's inspiring speech on April 28, 2001, at an American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (Singapore Chapter) event already highlighted this challenge.

Perhaps the reluctance to change stems from the fact that Singapore has adopted the Western dress-code (for men) of the tie and long-sleeved shirt. Is this practical for our climate? I have not met a single person who was unhappy to remove his tie when the opportunity arose. Because we, in Singapore, have set a social decorum on 'business' dress-code, on top of the culture of 'giving face', we have created an impractical fashion in business.

It could be that the air-cons are set so cold to accommodate those in ties (and suits). Well, that looks like a problem that could be solved.

Boldly, I suggest two possibilities:

1. The Singapore Government sets a rule that it is absolutely acceptable if participants of their meetings (with vendors, corporate companies, international visitors and also internal) need only dress smart (that is, neat). Do away with ties and long-sleeved shirts, and I'm sure that the private commercial organisations will follow. Essentially, donning a suit and tie is voluntary, and at the wearer's own risk of discomfort. Is this too radical? Check out the Japanese government which introduced the 'no tie' summer look, breaking decades of tradition. They have removed the fear of 'not giving face'.

2. Create a new Singapore business dress-code. Each time I travel to the Philippines, I am always impressed with how the barong shirt is accepted as business attire. Yes, we have the batik shirt - but how many of us truly accept this as normal day-to-day business wear?
If we dress right, we eliminate another reason for setting low air-con temperatures unnecessarily. Coupled with the increased awareness and education programmes regarding energy conservation, I believe that Singapore will be seen as a nation that 'walks the talk'.

Francis Wong Tai Yin

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