How SMEs in Singapore can make a difference in the fight against climate change
Climate change is at our doorstep. The urgency, as legendary Silicon Valley VC investor John Doerr puts it, is that “we are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change, and the last generation who can do something about it.”
In many ways, climate change, sustainability and ESG have become key priorities for the corporate world. To avoid greenwashing, Bennett Wong, a Principal Consultant at sustainability-focused PAIA Consulting (PAIA), thinks that “we need (business leaders) to care, rather than just take action for the sake of doing it.”
Joining the green army
In Singapore, individual SME business owners may question the impact of their actions on the grand scale of climate change. Compared to governments, oil majors, MNCs and other more influential organisations and individuals, SMEs, on their own, are unlikely to have the influence, financial might or the manpower to make major changes.
However, this mindset neglects the true “power of many”. When many small business leaders put in their best efforts, even the smallest actions can lead to some of the greatest outcomes.
In its work with business leaders, PAIA’s Bennett Wong shares that businesses need to “weave sustainability into their core value”. This will have a domino effect, encouraging employees, business partners and their community to become more environmentally friendly.
Hence, one of the first things PAIA does when working with businesses is to develop and design a tangible roadmap for companies to become sustainable. This helps businesses communicate their views and efforts better. When doing this, PAIA does not only speak to business owners, but also to other stakeholders such as employees and the communities around them. By involving them in the process, this reveals causes that the people closest to the business resonate with.
Knowing the resources available while going green
Bennett also agrees that while many business leaders wish to do better, a major barrier is that “So here are some resources to help you get started.” So here are some resources to help get you started.
Enterprise Sustainability Programme
One of the main support avenues for SMEs pushing for a greener future is from the government in Singapore. The Enterprise Sustainability Programme by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) helps SMEs build capabilities via sustainability training courses for the staff.
From March 2022, these subsidised courses, run by reputable partners such as the Singapore Environment Council and PwC Singapore, will cover topics such as decarbonisation, circular economy, sustainability reporting, carbon management and waste management.
To start taking action, SMEs can also leverage LowCarbonSG, a programme designed to enable businesses to start monitoring and reducing their carbon emissions. You will gain access to tools such as the Carbon and Emissions Recording Tool (CERT), carbon management workshops and onboard sustainable solutions that are eligible for government grants. Businesses that go through this process will be recognised on the LowCarbonSG website and will be able to use the LowCarbonSG logo in their communications materials.
MAS is also championing green financing in the international arena. Businesses here can tap on a variety of green funding support for their sustainability drive. By working with financial institutions such as OCBC, they can gain better access to sustainable financing like the Enterprise Financing Scheme-Green. Individual banks are also developing their own green financing schemes. For example, OCBC has collaborated with the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore (BCA) to provide a Building Energy Efficiency Assessment (BEEA) tool to predict the energy performance of buildings. Such a tool encourages more businesses to go green, and attain an energy efficiency that is comparable to buildings that have attained the Green Mark 2021 GoldPLUS certification.
For businesses developing innovative and sustainable products, services or solutions, there is funding support via the Enterprise Development Grant (EDG). SMEs can receive funding for projects that develop strategies to become more sustainable, better optimise resources and efficiency and adopt recognised sustainability accreditation.
Reporting outcomes of your sustainability journey
You may have requirements from your MNCs that you are supplying, the banks financing your operations or the government. Often, they are looking for disclosure of information and monitoring of your sustainability practices.
However, those most interested in your sustainability journey may actually be your employees, customers, and your community – as your actions impact them the most. Beyond reducing your impact on the environment, having a positive impact on your employees and the communities around you creates a multiplier effect. This is exactly why your sustainability roadmap needs to incorporate metrics that are not only important for partners, such as your multinational customers or the bank, but also those that your employees and communities care about. Ultimately, they will be the ones striving alongside you towards these sustainability goals.
This is where working with a sustainability consulting firm such as PAIA comes in. They can review your operations and then decide the metrics that are most meaningful to you and your stakeholders, as well as those that you are in the best position to change. You can also lean on such firms to facilitate your knowledge building and training, strategy development, monitoring, reporting and more.
Small actions, big differences
Embarking on this sustainability journey may seem like a daunting one. But collectively with the right partners and support, it can be easy for SMEs to take the first step to make a positive change. Do well, do good, SMEs. Going green cannot happen without you.
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