How businesses in Singapore are going green
March 23, 2012 by Julian Abraham CHUA
The adoption of green practices among entrepreneurs could become the new black in 2012. With natural resources dwindling, the quest for more sustainable business practices that generate profits will remain a pressing issue for years to come.
In addition, as more consumers are willing to spend more on green products, the boon to an organization’s profitability can be substantial. As such, companies know that taking the plunge into green business practices is necessary to add to their company’s overall value.
Green Future Solutions, a Singapore-based business that promotes environmental awareness and action, provides consultancy services to help SMEs reduce costs, increase revenue, and become more sustainable.
Its founder and director, Eugene Tay, sees ways for businesses to reduce the environmental impact of their products throughout its life cycle by exploring the demand for green products and services and being proactive to meet this need, which would help them gain a competitive advantage and increase revenue.
“Business owners will be in a better position to build up their reputation and enhance their brand as a sustainable company. The business can then market its environmental practices or the environmental benefits of its products or services,” he said.
Marketing green products and services as sustainable businesses
Green Cleaners, a leading eco friendly cleaning service in Singapore, is one company that is actively marketing itself as a green business. They specialize in providing green cleaning services to offices and bespoke facilities such as kindergartens, hotels, spas, gyms and health studios.
Colin Pudsey, its founder who moved to Singapore from Australia, started the company in early 2009 after his sinuses and asthma became worse due to long office hours. Suspecting the cause might have been the potent and toxic chemicals used to clean his floors, he tried looking around for a less harmful cleaning service, but couldn’t find one.
He expects a boom in the green cleaning business: “This industry trend is fast becoming mainstream and an expected option in certain areas of the cleaning industry.”
“The U.S.’s well-known previous Vice-President, Al Gore, has created a dynasty around the importance of “green” and saving the environment citing starting a green business as one of the top business start-up options to consider.”
Started two and a half years ago, Green Cleaners now sells their own range of green cleaning products. They also have a franchising program to meet increasing demand across Asia.
They are also helping their clients to promote environmental responsibility as a savvy marketing tool through their Green Stamp certification of approval, which Colin says “has proved to be an excellent value added service.”
Government support and incentives
For economies to progress, governments see a need for industries and companies to tap into renewable energy and become sustainable businesses. The Singapore government has schemes and funding to encourage firms to take the leap and adopt green practices.
Vaidehi Shah, projects manager from the Singapore Environment Council, believes government funding and incentives plays an important role in helping companies in various industries go green, and points out that Building and Construction, Manufacturing, Research, and Transport industries stand to gain the most from government incentives.
Some schemes that help businesses include the Water Efficiency Fund (WEF), which encourages companies to manage their water demand more efficiently, and the Energy Efficiency Improvement Assistance Scheme (EASe), a co-funding scheme administered by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to encourage companies in the manufacturing and building sectors to carry out energy appraisals and identify potential areas for energy efficiency improvement.
She says of these eco-shifts: “Businesses are becoming increasingly concerned with greening the whole value chain – beyond the manufacturing process, they’re also becoming mindful of peripheral issues such as transport, packaging, waste management, and even corporate philanthropy.”
Adopting green labels and certifications
Green labels and certifications are becoming more important in the eyes of companies and consumers. With more consumer awareness comes greater impetus within the business environment to seek out certification and external validation for their green efforts, and display eco-labels that distinguish them from other competitors.
One such certification is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), an internationally recognized mark of excellence that provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.
Colin of Green Cleaners believes the push for such certifications has resulted in more firms engaging the services of his company: “LEED certification not only covers the design and construction stages of a new building but operations too. This means there are points to be earned for things like the how the building is cleaned!”
Similiarly, the BCA Green Mark Scheme was launched in January 2005 to encourage the construction of environment-friendly buildings in Singapore. This benchmarking scheme incorporates internationally recognized best practices in environmental design and performance that has a positive effect on corporate image, leasing and resale value of buildings.
According to Vaidehi of SEC, her organization has the Singapore Green Labelling Scheme, Eco-Office Certification and Singapore Environmental Achievement Awards, and these are examples of local certification and awards programmes that reward strong business commitment to environmental excellence.
She also feels companies are genuinely encouraging behavioural change amongst their workers, to achieve soft changes in their corporate image:
“Environmental volunteering, allowing flexible work hours and telecommuting to reduce car-use and putting up reminders within the office to conserve water, electricity and paper are just some examples. SEC’s Project Eco Office is cognizant of the importance of this, and places heavy emphasis on green behaviour in their certification criteria.”
Monitor and manage environmental risks and impacts
Environmental monitoring and managing such risks and impacts has its benefits and there is a growing awareness among companies to give back as climate change and environmental disasters impact everyone.
The Body Shop is an ideal example of a company engaging in green practices. A well-known advocate of social and environmental responsibility, they are moving towards a hub-based distribution system, consolidating shipping to make less frequent deliveries and merging different types of orders. This improves efficiency and reduces the amount of air freights needed, lessening the company’s carbon footprint.
Eugene of Green Future believes companies can reduce the use of fuel, materials and chemicals and at the same time increase the efficiency and productivity of their operations by finding ways to reduce consumption and disposal so that businesses save on utilities bills and waste disposal fees.
“There are many opportunities to reduce unnecessary wastage and inefficient practices in the business, and reduce costs.”
Photo: Tanaka Juuyoh
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About The Author
Julian Abraham CHUA -
Julian Abraham Chua is an NYP graduate from School of Business Management (SBM). His passion for writing was ignited when he completed an overseas UK writing course and started contributing to the portal while he was still a student on the campus. He has since written for various magazines and publications including Straits Times, SG Entrepreneurs, Spin Asia, TimeOut Singapore, NTUC lifestyle, Campus magazine and SPCA newsletter. Besides writing, he cooks, plays soccer, cycles and plays keyboard in a metal band.Read other posts by Julian Abraham CHUA