As a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) owner, you may have heard the term “sustainable practices”, but what does it really mean for your business? Sustainable practices for SMEs encompass a range of strategies that focus on reducing environmental impact, conserving resources, and promoting social responsibility. In simpler terms, it’s about conducting business in a way that meets current targets but also won’t compromise the ability of future generations to meet their targets. In Singapore, this means adopting practices that align with the country’s commitment to sustainability and the aim of achieving its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It involves incorporating environmentally friendly technologies, minimising waste and energy consumption, whilst implementing social initiatives that benefit the community.
7 Tips to Boost Sustainable Practices for SMEs
For Singapore SMEs aiming for long-term success, adopting sustainable practices is key. Here are some strategies to consider:
1. Assess your current practices
Before embarking on your sustainability journey, it’s important to assess your current practices. Conduct a comprehensive review of your operations, including energy usage, waste generation, and supply chain management. This will help you identify areas where improvements can be made and set realistic sustainability goals.
2. Reduce Carbon Emissions
To minimise greenhouse gas emissions, reduce energy consumption by implementing energy-efficient equipment, optimising lighting systems, and using smart energy management solutions. Educate employees on energy-saving practices and encourage them to switch off lights and equipment when not in use. Transitioning to renewable energy sources is crucial for sustainability. Consider installing solar panels on-site or purchase renewable energy from utility providers. This not only reduces your carbon footprint but also offers long-term cost savings and inspires others in your industry to follow suit.
3. Implement Waste Reduction Strategies
You should keep resources in use for as long as possible by repairing, reusing, and recycling materials to ensure that you comply with the National Environment Agency’s guidelines for waste recycling. You can then conduct an audit to understand your waste generation and disposal methods and if they align with Singapore’s waste management regulations. Encourage employees to minimise single-use plastics and adopt eco-friendly practices, such as using reusable water bottles and lunch containers. You can also consider digitalising processes to reduce paper usage or find the nearest reverse vending machines to recycle used plastic bottles and cans.
4. Source Sustainable Materials and Products
When sourcing sustainable materials and products, explore suppliers that provide eco-friendly alternatives, including recycled materials or products with reduced environmental impact. In Singapore, consider certifications such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for sustainable wood products or Cradle to Cradle (C2C) for sustainable manufacturing.
5. Engage Employees in Sustainability Efforts
Encourage your employees to actively contribute their ideas and suggestions for improving sustainability practices within the company. Consider implementing an employee training program focused on sustainability to educate and empower your staff to take ownership of sustainability initiatives. Additionally, emphasize the importance of eco-friendly transportation methods and encourage employees to adopt them, such as cycling or using public transportation.
6. Innovate and Redesign Offerings
Innovation and sustainability go hand in hand. Embrace a mindset of continuous improvement and explore innovative ways to incorporate sustainable elements into your offerings. This can involve using eco-friendly materials, optimising resource usage, or developing products that promote a circular economy.
7. Think Long-Term
By incorporating sustainability, you reap long-term cost savings and attract environmentally and socially conscious investors and customers. Setting measurable sustainability targets, like reducing carbon emissions or achieving zero waste can help align with regulation and future-proof your business.
Take Advantage of Sustainability Grants and Funding
The Singapore government offers various grants and funding programs to support SMEs in their sustainability efforts. Familiarise yourself with these opportunities and leverage them to accelerate your initiatives. One such program is the Innovating for Sustainability Programme (ISP) by ESC and Design Sojourn. You could tap on the Enterprise Sustainability Programme through ISP, and enjoy financial support up to 70% for SMEs and 50% for non-SMEs.