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Experts have warned about the human-initiated threat of climate change for years. In the last few years, that message has been received by more people. Recent extreme climate events have also added immediacy and newsworthiness to the cause.
As Eco-Business noted in a report, transitioning to a low carbon economy is gaining momentum in Southeast Asia, but investments in renewable energy and storage, clean energy public transport systems, and energy efficient technologies and innovations are most needed.
Businesses in the region are joining the population in taking the threat more seriously by looking for ways to evaluate and improve the environmental impact caused by their business, be it from products to process; in response to changing customer preferences among other factors. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are particularly aware of how these changing preferences can affect their business.
According to an Epson survey conducted amongst SMEs in six of the largest Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) nations by GDP, almost 30 percent of respondents ranked managing customer experience as their top business challenge. About half of the respondents in the Philippines considered this to be a top concern.
Recognising the increasing importance of environmental concerns among their customers, close to 70 percent of the corporate SMEs polled by Epson said they consider the impact on the environment when choosing an office printer. Thai SMEs in the study showed the most consideration of the environment when making office printer purchases.
Studies are also finding that more consumers are placing greater importance on a company’s environmental sustainability practices. A Futerra survey indicated that customers in the West look to companies to help them be more sustainable.
In Asia, evidence suggests that customers may be ready to pay more for sustainable products. It is clear that regardless of the product or service, SMEs must be more proactive in considering the environmental impact of their business to meet customer expectations.
Singaporean businesses have been slow in taking this threat seriously. In a recent report ranking Asia’s largest companies on environmental sustainability, Singapore was ranked the second worst performer in the areas of emissions, resource use and innovation – ahead of only China.
All companies must look for ways to evaluate and improve the environmental impact of every aspect of their business. The country recorded 45.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2016. In order to reduce those numbers, the public and private sectors need to work together.
Companies that are unable to meet customers’ demands for products that are sustainably sourced or demonstrate sustainable practices across the supply chain may start to lose out in the competition for customers.
As companies in Southeast Asia proceed with digital transformation initiatives to modernise their business, they could also look into improving the business’s environmental footprint through these transformation projects.
Having such a mindset could influence a business in choosing the type of everyday technologies that are used for business operations. This includes products such as printers and projectors, which are becoming more efficient than ever with heat-free technology that reduces power consumption, without compromising on speed or quality.
The Epson survey determined that over 60 percent of SMEs in the region do not move forward with updating existing technologies due to cost. However, upgrading existing technologies can reduce an organisation’s environmental footprint, while also providing for a lower total cost of ownership. For example, newer heat-free inkjet printers have become faster and more energy efficient as compared to laser printers, which require a lot of electricity and heat.
Additionally, high capacity ink tank printers today reduce resource consumption, carbon dioxide emissions and cut waste. Similarly, with the adoption of interactive projectors, companies are able to lower their carbon footprint by reducing the amount of travelling needed for meetings.
Newer laser projectors are also equipped with brighter, longer-lasting light sources as compared to standard projectors with bulbs, thus lowering the total cost of ownership.
In order to truly make a notable change to a company’s environmental consumption and footprint, SMEs in Southeast Asia need to commit to creating business environments that will allow them to leverage innovation to facilitate meaningful change while delivering positive business outcomes.
As the backbone of the ASEAN economy, SMEs stand to impact the environment significantly as the regional economy continues to grow.
For manufacturers, this means ensuring that company products are environmentally conscious, and that supply chain and production processes make efficient use of energy and water. Transportation and logistics are also key contributors to global warming, and hence, need to be carefully considered by SMEs when importing components and exporting finished goods.
It is clear today that a commitment to environmental change has to be far more than just an altruistic gesture. By choosing digital technologies that impact the environment to a minimal extent, SMEs are able to demonstrate awareness of environmental issues that matter most to consumers.
Environmental consciousness in product design and production processes, end-of-life recycling, service delivery and supply chain logistics will also enable organisations to tread more lightly on the earth. However small it may be, individual SMEs across ASEAN need to play their part in reducing the region’s environmental footprint.
This article originally appeared in the Entrepreneur's Digest print edition #91 and has been edited for clarity, brevity and for the relevance of this website.
About the Author
Tan May Lin | Director of Sales, Marketing and Customer Service of Epson Sales Division | Epson Singapore
Ms Tan May Lin heads Epson Singapore and is responsible for managing its sales, marketing and customer service operations in the country. With more than 20 years of experience, 12 of which was spent in a senior management position, May Lin’s strengths lie in business development, sales, marketing and business management. Her strong understanding of the business and its markets are critical factors to her success.