A view of the Singapore skyline from Merlion Park. (File photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)
SINGAPORE: A new programme to help local businesses build up capabilities in the area of sustainability and seize opportunities in the green economy was launched on Friday (Oct 1).
Enterprise Singapore will set aside up to S$180 million for the Enterprise Sustainability Programme, which was first announced in Budget 2021.
At least 6,000 firms are set to benefit from the new initiative over the next four years.
Announcing the launch on Friday, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said concerns about climate change have driven governments, corporates and consumers to place a greater emphasis on reducing carbon footprint and establishing more sustainable practices.
Singapore has since announced the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a national roadmap to ensure Singapore remains a green and liveable home, and tap sustainability as a new avenue of growth.
Mr Gan noted that more companies are now keen to incorporate sustainability into their business strategy and practices.
“Enterprise Singapore has seen companies ranging from the maritime to lifestyle and services sectors, looking for support to embark on various sustainability efforts,” he told reporters at an online press conference.
“Indeed, more can be done to build up and strengthen Singapore’s sustainability ecosystem. In particular, we need to help enterprises to build knowledge and capabilities in sustainability.”
In this area, the new Enterprise Sustainability Programme will provide support for companies at different stages of the sustainability journey.
For those that are just starting out, there will be subsidised training workshops to help them build awareness and basic knowledge, access relevant tools and resources, as well as develop a capability building plan for the long run.
Enterprise Singapore will work with partners, such as PwC Singapore and the Singapore Environment Council, to develop these workshops which are expected to start from the first quarter of next year, said Mr Gan.
For firms that wish to go further, the new scheme will support projects in strategy development, resource optimisation and standards adoption.
Enterprises will also get help in developing innovative sustainable products, as well as services and solutions to capture opportunities in the green economy.
On a sectoral level, there will be “customised approaches” under the new Enterprise Sustainability Programme to help each sector with their unique needs.
Mr Gan said Enterprise Singapore will be joining hands with the Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs), such as the Singapore Furniture Industry Council and the Singapore Contractors Association. The Singapore Business Federation is also looking to facilitate cross-sector collaboration with Enterprise Singapore.
“I encourage companies who are interested in exploring sustainability initiatives to work closely with their TACs,” he added.
Lastly, the new programme aims to create “a vibrant and conducive” sustainability ecosystem, the minister said.
A new Enterprise Financing Scheme – Green will be launched to improve access to green financing and more details will be announced soon.
Enterprise Singapore will also work with the Singapore Standards Council and Singapore Accreditation Council to develop green standards and accreditation programmes in areas such as low carbon technologies and sustainable food production.
Separately, the Enterprise Development Grant, which offsets costs for projects that help businesses grow and transform by up to 80 per cent, will also be enhanced to support new areas in sustainability, Enterprise Singapore said in a press release.
Speaking at the same virtual press conference, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling said authorities recognise that firms already face intense pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Pressure in terms of growing their top line and bottom line. In some sectors, they could be facing some rising costs due to supply chain issues … so we want to support our local companies as they come on board the sustainability journey.”
Being sustainable can give companies a competitive advantage, said Ms Low, while pointing to studies that showed such enterprises benefiting in “very tangible ways” like improved reputation, better sales and profitability, as well as better employee engagement.
“Many of our local companies serve many big global players, especially in developed markets like US and Europe,” added Ms Low.
“Increasingly, such global players in the developed economies will impose sustainability requirements so being sustainable will provide our local companies with the competitive edge … to capture new consumers and markets not just locally, but also globally.”
The push towards sustainability will also create new job opportunities for Singaporeans, she said.
Home-grown furniture maker Koda is an early-mover when it comes to incorporating sustainability into its business, noted Ms Low who visited the company on Friday morning.
Koda purchases its materials from sustainable sources to ensure that its furniture has the least negative impact on the environment. It also uses green packaging by replacing foam with cardboard, and adopts the approach of reduce, reuse and recycling of waste generated in its factories.
The company’s sustainability efforts, which started around a decade ago, have been “market and consumer-driven”, said executive director Ernie Koh.
Certain markets that the company exports its furniture to, such as the US and Europe, have sustainability-related regulatory policies and consumers that are “more savvy”, he added.
“So when we sell to them, they need us to accommodate to what they need. It is demand-driven. As a result, it makes sense for us to embrace sustainability as part of our business.
Koda plans to do more, such as using solar panels to harvest electricity for its factories and adopt Industry 4.0 for a more sustainable manufacturing process.
“At the moment, we use material as one of our sustainability (efforts) but eventually we will have to (concentrate) on our processes … The value chain becomes very important,” Mr Koh told CNA.
“We not only concentrate on what we do, but we concentrate on our partners, be it material suppliers and sub-contractors … (when) the entire ecosystem and value chain is involved, then the dynamics of sustainability will be achieved.”
Mr Koh said the new Government initiative will be useful in promoting the local ecosystem and more importantly, generate consumer awareness.
“In the context of Singapore, I think today’s sustainable journey is still not consumer-led. We need a little bit of legislation from the Government (and) we need a lot of education (for consumers) with regards to this sustainability topic,” he added.
“We want SMEs to embrace (sustainability) and the only way to do so is to get market awareness up. The Enterprise Sustainability Programme will create this environment to be able to create a demand.”
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