New $180 million ESG scheme to help 6,000 Singapore companies go green

Ms Low Yen Ling and Mr Gan Kim Yong during a virtual media interview at Commune’s showroom, which is the retail arm of furniture company Koda, at Millenia Walk, on Oct 1, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - A new programme was launched on Friday (Oct 1) to help local companies develop sustainability capabilities so they can better seize opportunities in the green economy.

Enterprise Singapore (ESG) will set aside up to $180 million for the programme, which is expected to benefit at least 6,000 enterprises over the next four years.

The Enterprise Sustainability Programme was first announced in the Budget this year and will help firms go green by providing training workshops, project support and financing.

This is especially important as concerns on climate change are driving governments, companies and consumers to place a greater emphasis on reducing their carbon footprint and establishing more sustainable practices, said Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong.

"Enterprises play a critical role and are increasingly looking to incorporate sustainability into their business strategy and practices. In fact, many are keen to get started," he added.

Mr Gan was speaking to the media during a virtual briefing with Ms Low Yen Ling, Minister of State for Trade and Industry.

He noted: "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 as they are at different stages of the journey and face diverse challenges."

Under the programme, ESG aims to develop firms' capabilities in sustainability by providing subsidised training workshops so companies can access resources.

Partners will include PwC Singapore, Global Compact Network Singapore and the Singapore Environment Council.

ESG will also support projects that optimise resources and adopt green standards, as well as firms that develop innovative sustainable products and solutions.

Sector-specific initiatives will also be supported through partnerships with industry players like trade associations and chambers, such as the Singapore Furniture Industries Council and the Singapore Contractors Association.

To foster a conducive ecosystem, ESG will launch the Enterprise Financing Scheme - Green, so funding can be easily accessed by firms developing technologies and solutions to reduce waste, resource use, or greenhouse gas emissions.

Ms Low said: "The feedback from local companies... is that being sustainable has given them a competitive edge."

She noted that studies have shown that enterprises which have embraced sustainability have benefited from an improved reputation, better sales, profitability and employee engagement.

"With the push towards sustainability, new job roles will also be created, providing more job and upskilling opportunities for Singaporeans," she said.

On Friday, Ms Low visited Commune's showroom, which is the retail arm of furniture company Koda.

Koda buys materials from sustainable sources so its furniture has the least negative environmental impact. It is also working to improve its manufacturing processes, such as by installing solar power systems in manufacturing facilities and harvesting rainwater.

Ms Low Yen Ling (centre) touring Commune's showroom at Millenia Walk on Oct 1, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Koda executive director Ernie Koh said: "The approach towards sustainability for my company is that it has to be economically viable. In other words, it will financially benefit your business if you embrace sustainability as part of your business strategy."

He noted that, as a consumer-driven business, Koda knows it is vital to be green as consumers are now more knowledgeable and educated in the area of sustainability. Corporate customers also have environmental, social and governance requirements that Koda has to meet.

"If the economic environment embraces sustainability, there will be a demand for sustainable products and this will drive the sustainable economy," he said.

Koda executive director Ernie Koh at Commune's showroom in Millenia Walk, on Oct 1, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Logistics firm iHub has also gone green by using digital tools to optimise the routes vehicles take, ensuring that they are not left idling. Next year, it will also work to replace diesel-powered vans with electric ones.

Managing director Koh San Joo acknowledged that new digital processes can be challenging for staff and incur initial costs, but said the end result would be a leaner, more efficient and low-cost way of working. This is where the new programme can help, he said.

"The industry needs help with resources to work on its road map towards sustainability and to design this into companies' business processes."

Digital services firm Evercomm, which provides customers with tech solutions to help them decarbonise, said it has engaged more than 200 local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) this year.

Chief executive and co-founder Ted Chen said: "Traditionally, only larger organisations can afford to participate in being sustainable.

"By defraying costs and helping with resources and standards, the new programme makes sustainability more inclusive and affordable to SMEs."

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