What SMEs can do for Earth Day 2024

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As UOB FinLab celebrates Earth Day 2024, we remain resilient in our commitment to assist in scaling SMEs through sustainability initiatives and innovations. This year’s Earth Day theme is “Planet vs. Plastics”, emphasising the four goals of instilling widespread pollution awareness, phasing out single-use plastics, calling for policies to end fast fashion, and investing in innovative technologies.

Prior to this year’s Earth Day goals, we have long advocated for greener developments in the corporate sector and we believe that such progress will not only heal our planet, but it can also extend the longevity of the enterprises that engage in it.

In our sustainability-focused programmes such as the Sustainability Innovation Programme (SIP) and the GreenTech Accelerator (GTA), we have always maintained a consistent set of values and resources to imbue into our participants. These values include having a hyper-awareness about their current sustainable impact (ie their ‘green positions), as well as the collaborative network required to transform sustainable ideas into reality.

Elevating green awareness

Before implementing any green strategy, being informed is a must. SMEs can strive to achieve the goals of Earth Day 2024 by educating themselves on the pollution impact of plastics, as well as the factors that contribute to such pollution.

For example, estimates put 220 million tonnes of plastic waste to be generated in 2024, a 7.11% increase since 2021. Such plastic pollution further exacerbates climate change because its production and disposal increases greenhouse gas emissions. UOB FinLab understands the magnitude and complexity of plastic pollution, which is why we make concerted efforts to support SMEs in innovating or sustainably transforming to entities that can minimise plastic production, consumption, and waste.

Once SMEs gain a macro understanding of the climatic effects of plastic pollution, it is time to implement sustainable change. We understand the difficulty and inertia of kickstarting a sustainable journey, which is why we urge SMEs to utilise a Sustainability Compass to generate tailored reports based on their sectors and sustainability preparedness. With these reports, SMEs can further educate themselves on the regulations, standards and certifications that impact their sectors, and are recommended sustainable financing solutions to kickstart their sustainability initiatives.

Implementing strategy

After assessing their sustainability preparedness (i.e. green positions), SMEs can strategise clear, actionable steps to achieve their green goals. Here, UOB FinLab believes in the power of mentorship and guidance from relevant industry experts.

In our Sustainability Innovation Programme, we invited numerous industry professionals and SME participants to share their insights and experiences in the sustainability sector. Following these discussions, SMEs were better equipped to map out their sustainability activities, which may be to green their own operations, innovate green solutions/technology for end users, or both.

Taking green innovations further, our GreenTech Accelerator similarly conducted key mentorships from UOB’s vast 25,000-strong network of industry professionals. The programme aided SMEs in exploring potential options for launching solutions aimed at waste minimisation, renewable energy, enhanced carbon reporting and more – all of which have a positive influence on the environment.

An example of greentech that aligns with this year’s Earth Day theme is innovating bioplastic packaging made from renewable sources, which minimises plastic use and polluting disposals. This also just happens to be the primary offering of Alterpacks, a Singapore-based startup and alumni of our inaugural GreenTech Accelerator.

Alterpacks innovates new forms of packaging using grains such as malt and barley that are leftover and discarded during food manufacturers’ production processes. Since the innovation recycles organic waste to create new materials, they essentially oppose plastic packaging – helping to minimise plastic pollution, which is the emphasis of Earth Day 2024.

Embracing collaboration

As revolutionary as these green innovations can be in combating plastic pollution, it takes a village of innovators, funders, mentors, and talent to effect meaningful and sustainable change.

Hence, in the spirit of Earth Day 2024, we want to emphasise the value of collective action towards healing our planet. Our SIP and GTA programmes always stress the need for building a diversified and professional network that can assist SMEs in attaining their sustainable goals in all aspects – from expert knowledge to financial resources, pilot testing infrastructure, public sector partners, and more.

When SMEs, the backbones of many global economies, are properly supported with the greatest available resources, they can make transformative progress towards minimising pollution and protecting our environment. With this belief, we look forward to continuing our efforts to empower SMEs in accelerating their sustainable journeys.

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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