Sustainability Innovation Programme 2023 Highlights

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Programme Highlights

The FinLab recently wrapped up its third iteration of the Sustainability Innovation Programme, a two-week initiative that helps SMEs sustainably transform their business operations for the better.

This year, most of the participants hailed from the services of consultancy, education, and building and construction sectors, with most occupying a decision-making or sustainability position within their respective companies. SMEs accounted for most attendees, followed by some tech companies.

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Held at the National Gallery on 28th March, the opening ceremony saw UOB’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Eric Lim, delivering a keynote address, and was followed by Managing Director, Head of Marketing, Group Wholesale Banking and Global Markets, UOB, Gan Ai Im’s session on the UOB’s Sustainability Compass – a tool that helps businesses track their sustainability journeys with confidence.

Sustainability has been a hot-button topic for quite some time and is undeniably beneficial to SMEs. Apart from translating to long-term cost savings, sustainability practices allow SMEs to stay competitive. Moreover, companies that prioritise sustainability can access a host of government and state-backed initiatives and funding programs, as part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030.

Despite these positives, sustainability has taken somewhat of a backseat with the local SMEs who attended the programme. Over half (58%) had not started their sustainability journey, while 59% had a limited understanding of green topics or concepts.

The FinLab hoped this event would empower SMEs by educating them on various aspects of sustainability, such as energy efficiency, sustainable finance, sustainable packaging, carbon management, and ESG reporting.

Here are just some of the key takeaways from this year’s programme:

Key Takeaways

Treating sustainability as a thing of the present

During a panel session moderated by Melissa Moi (Head of Sustainable Business, UOB), panellists shared more about how SMEs can smoothly transition to “net-zero”, actioning out steps to reduce carbon footprint and transition into a sustainable future.

An overarching theme of the session was that sustainability planning should not be postponed for a future date — rather, SMEs and businesses should focus on it now, so they can achieve their net zero goals.

And while this may seem like a daunting task for SMEs, help is available in the form of grants, subsidies, and emerging technologies for their business processes.

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Participants listens eagerly as Feng Ni Teo, Vice President, Sector Solutions Group, UOB shares about the U-Energy Programme

Some action is better than none

While sustainability awareness and education are gradually catching on (18% of attendees shared that they adequately knew about the topic of sustainability), there is still much work left to be done. 39% of the programme participants stated that they had only recently kickstarted their sustainability journey, though a small portion (13%) admitted that they had lost momentum along the way. However, they viewed the programme as a stepping stone and reminder to get back on track.

SMEs that are part of the supply chain for larger companies, have been quicker to recognise the imperative of sustainability. Over one quarter (26%) of participants said they are on track to realising their sustainability goal. On the flip side, some attendees still needed some convincing regarding the need to adopt sustainability, and credit the programme with helping to change their ways of thinking.

Since the programme wrapped up, the majority of the participants (82%) said they walked away with better knowledge and understanding of sustainability and have taken major steps to embark on a sustainability journey after attending the programme (75%).

In fact, 65% of participants stated they kickstarted their ESG programmes as a result of attending the Sustainability Innovation Programme, with some even eager to take up UOB’s Carbon Management Solution and Sustainability Compass in the near future.

As conversations about sustainability continue to gather steam, it is heartening to see more and more SMEs step up to play their part in protecting the environment. On our end, we are committed to mentoring and educating more SMEs towards achieving their sustainability goals.

Read more about the Sustainability Innovation Programme 2023 here.

Online programme

Start Smart Programme

Designed for business owners to enhance their digital capabilities through practical learning, this programme takes businesses to the next level.

Online programme

Start Smart Programme

Designed for business owners to enhance their digital capabilities through practical learning, this programme takes businesses to the next level.

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