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The anti-straw and anti-plastic bag movements are just two of the latest influx of green practices taking the world by storm, especially when people are confronted with images or footage of sea animals trapped in plastic straw or dead from ingesting plastic in the ocean.
More and more individuals are advocating green practices in business, and companies are increasingly recognising its importance as well.
In Singapore, the public sector is taking the lead in going green – specifically, to reduce electricity and water consumption by 15 per cent and 5 percent, respectively, by 2020.
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which are nimble in responding to change, should take on the challenge too. Here’s why and how.
Going green and business growth are actually not mutually exclusive. Here is why implementing green practices in business is a good idea:
1. Fostering brand belief
With the current generation of millennials who are seeking meaning in the workplace and for their desired company to be doing good or being sustainable, SMEs cannot afford to ignore this integral part of their brand identity.
We’re talking about 1.2 million millennials in Singapore, representing more than 20 percent of our current population. Implementing green practices in business is a powerful way of fostering brand belief among millennials and the potential talent pool.
2. Improving profit margins
Every single dollar counts. With practices such as reducing energy and water usage, recycling and minimising waste by using less print-outs, companies are able to reduce costs and improve profitability in the long run.
SMEs can also consider adopting digital technologies for improved productivity. These might seem like small and inconsequential initiatives when viewed in isolation but can prove to benefit the company’s profits when everyone pulls their weight together.
Going green might sound like a daunting task to many SMEs, but in actual fact, leaders can start with initiatives on a small and manageable scale for a start. In addition to using recyclables and reinforcing good energy and water consumption habits, here are some examples of what businesses can do today that does not require huge initial investments or overhauling existing practices:
1. Switch to a green electricity plan
Consider getting a green electricity plan that would enable your company to have zero carbon footprint.
A few electricity retailers including Geneco are offering 100% carbon-neutral electricity, which means that for the amount of energy consumed, an equal amount of greenhouse gases is avoided or reduced through projects such as forestry or renewable energy projects, so there is a net-zero impact on the environment.
2. Join forces with like-minded companies
Partnering with like-minded companies that champion green causes is also a tangible way of going green. After all, when small acts of good are added together, they become greater than the sum of their parts!
For example, we have brought together like-minded companies that are committed to make Singapore a better and more sustainable place for our future generations in a campaign called #ChangeMakersSG.
As part of this partnership, we’ve recently organised an urban farm tour at Comcrop for about 200 of our customers to learn about sustainable farming. The event was widely received – a testament that people are interested to learn how they can bring sustainability practices into their homes and to their families.
The partnership and event do not have to be on a huge scale but can involve as many people as your current resources allow you. The idea is to start somewhere!
3. Get support
Last year, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) launched the Climate Action SG Grant, which helps organisations defray costs of organising programmes that support the Year of Climate Action.
Beyond green events, the government has also launched the ‘SMEs go digital’ programme since 2017 to support SMEs adopt digital and technological solutions. In this year’s Budget, the programme will be expanded to further boost technology adoption.
Research from YouGov found that 56% of Singaporeans believe businesses have a responsibility to ensure their supply chain does not harm the environment. Yet, that number falls to 46% among business owners and those holding senior management positions, suggesting a difference in views between those at the helm of Singapore brands and the wider public.
Incidentally, a poll of 30,000 consumers across 60 countries by Nielsen showed one overwhelming fact – consumers are willing to pay extra for sustainability. The case for sustainability will only get stronger.
Sustainability might not be on the priority list for most SMEs especially amidst concerns such as finance related anxieties, including cash flow management and growth opportunities beyond the local market.
But is it still relevant to SMEs? The simple answer is yes.
Going green does help your business, whether financially, with talent attraction and retention, and/ or creating new opportunities for partnerships. In the long-term view, it also helps attract customers who care about the environment.
Going green is achievable for SMEs. All in all, we need a mind-set change in becoming fully sustainable. If we can encourage our colleagues to inculcate simple, green practices into their daily work routines, it’s several steps in the right direction.
This article originally appeared in the Entrepreneur's Digest print edition #85 and has been edited for clarity, brevity and for the relevance of this website.
About the Author
Low Boon Tong | Executive Vice President of Retail | Geneco by YTL PowerSeraya
Boon Tong is Executive Vice President of Retail at Geneco. He brings with him more than 30 years of experience with the company and his current role includes managing the company’s electricity retail operations. As one of the pioneers in the de-regulation of the energy industry, Mr Low has grown the Energy Markets Group into an upstream revenue generator for the company.