Singapore’s SMEs are ranked amongst the lowest in Southeast Asia to adopt sustainable operations

A floating rig is under-construction at a ship building yard in Singapore. Source: AFP

Singapore SMEs still lack a sustainable mindset in SEA

  • Singapore’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have ranked amongst the lowest in Southeast Asia to adopt sustainable operations

Singapore has long made a name for embracing emerging technologies and is now the go-to hub for firms looking to springboard into the APAC region’s various markets. But despite outstripping their Southeast Asian neighbors across multiple tech-driven sectors ranging from finance to governance, Singapore’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) rank the lowest in the region when it comes to adopting sustainable operational practices.

Many of the entrepreneurs in Singapore that own SMEs already have an appreciation of the business value technology brings — 65% of SMEs have adopted digital solutions, and 38% have said they will continue to digitize more business processes in 2020.

But as Singapore SMEs improve their digital standing, green technology is not high on the list of advancements to be adopted for most SMEs, according to a new report from printing solutions specialist Epson.

The prohibitive cost of adopting sustainability-focused technologies is the main reason cited in the new report, entitled SMEs striving for Digital Transformation amidst many hurdles. The study points out that Singapore SMEs are the most familiar with the ‘digital transformation’ concept compared to the other territories in Southeast Asia (SEA), but that local businesses still lack a clear understanding on the available technologies that can help reduce the business’ environmental footprint.

Tan May Lin, Epson Singapore’s s director for the sales division as well as for regional brand and communications, believes the nation’s smaller to midsized businesses need to cultivate a different awareness rather than just being profit-driven.

“Singapore’s SMEs should approach sustainability with a different mindset compared to larger, multinational corporations (MNCs),” says Tan. “Day-to-day operations and profitability are key concerns for SMEs, as they often choose to prioritize revenue and growth over sustainable business practice.”

The Epson report noted that while 83% of Singapore SMEs have digital transformation strategies in place, 54% have said they were delaying their digitalization as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tan believes that longer-term planning can prepare SMEs to be more receptive towards sustainable ventures, especially when taking into account the various business advantages in the longer-term such as lower power consumption, reduced waste, or increased energy efficiencies.

“To make a significant change to a company’s environmental consumption and footprint, SMEs should commit to creating business environments that allow them to leverage innovation to facilitate meaningful change, whilst also delivering positive business outcomes,” said Tan, pointing out that Singapore SMEs can achieve such a goal by ensuring that sustainability is a key factor or criteria when making key business decisions.

In sustainability conversations, recycling is often the topic that is most widely discussed, but it is only part of the solution as stakeholders need to relook the whole resource chain to create a circular economy that emits zero waste, according to Tan.