SDGs for SMEs, simplified
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) – what is it and how is Environmental Social Governance (ESG) related to SDG? Simply put, SDG is a universal set of sustainable goals while ESG represents the methods and processes to realise these goals. Adopted by the United Nations in 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a global framework comprising 17 SDGs. It can be viewed as an action plan for the people, planet and prosperity.
From social to economic and environmental, SDGs call for innovative and collaborative efforts from all countries, regardless of their development, and all sectors of society. There are no hard and fast rules to categorise these goals. More importantly, brands should identify goals across categories.
Against the backdrop of ambitious goals of climate change and social empowerment, it is not uncommon for SMEs to cast doubt on the significance of their contributions. This is where the fundamental difference in SDGs comes into play – value chain mapping. Sustainability issues cannot be carried out in isolation. In fact, partnerships is solidified as SDG 17. With 2030 as the milestone, we are in the “Decade of Action”.
We are all familiar with the term, “greenwashing”. With the rise of SDGs enters “rainbow washing”. It is next to impossible for a company to tackle all 17 goals. As experienced marketers know, spreading the budget too thinly across multiple channels is not a wise move. The same goes for sustainable development. The last thing that a brand would want is to be called out for rainbow washing despite its efforts trying to get all bases covered.
The key is to strategise.
Be productive, not aimlessly busy.
The Green Plan is Singapore’s commitment towards the 2030 Agenda and by extension, SDGs. As an important-dependent yet developed country, her efforts are geared towards bolstering resiliency and self-sufficiency.
99% of enterprises in Singapore are SMEs, with Food Services (17%), Retail (15%), Wholesale Trade (14%), and Manufacturing (12%) forming close to half the community. These are the industries that have a high impact on SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.
Zooming in on SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, in April 2022, the Singapore Government announced the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to manage packaging waste. This will be implemented no later than 2025. In the next quarter, Singapore announces a new recycling scheme – targeted at both consumers and manufacturers – to kick off the EPR Scheme. This month, an EPR guide is released to ease manufacturers into the transition.
“The guide is a good starting point for setting the direction on a set of standards that can be applied across sectors. Industry adoption is crucial, though this would mean a rethink and redesign of the product and packaging supply chain.” – Singapore Environment Council’s executive director Jen Teo
As Singapore progresses into a Zero Waste Nation, businesses and brands in Singapore will have to pivot and advance the circular economy, and the time to do so is now.
Source: SDG Compass
There are two approaches to realising the goals – 1) minimising negative impacts and 2) maximising positive impacts. Identify areas which could use your brand’s core competence as well as areas that are negatively impacted by your brand activities.
Involve key stakeholders – both internal and external – to build a full picture of the business environment and your impact. With this understanding, assess your company’s capabilities and opportunities to define relevant SDGs.
“Your first task should be to conduct an assessment on the current, potential, positive and negative impacts that your business activities have on the SDGs throughout the value chain.” – SDG Compass
With an emphasis on partnership, businesses are to consider the cumulative impact of the entire value chain. Take the measurement of carbon emissions for instance. It is categorised into Scope 1/2 (direct emissions owned or controlled) and Scope 3 (indirect emissions that occur upstream and downstream). A manufacturer should take into account Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions.
For instance, the power sector contributes close to 40% of overall emissions in Singapore. How can the chief offenders mitigate the impact?
In Senoko Energy’s case, it gets itself ready by incorporating the ESG framework into the brand DNA. #TakeCharge, a master campaign was launched to orchestrate a concerted effort in initiating change and effecting changes along the value chain. Recognising the importance of a phased approach, Senoko Energy started with targeted B2B marketing by tapping on its circle of influence to call for change. With the groundwork set, the campaign officially kicked off with #CycleForChange, which injected purpose into the cycling boom, rallying everyday businesses and consumers to take charge of everyday actions as a collective.
The Singapore healthy food chain is home to Southeast Asia’s first Net Zero certified F&B store. With 80% of SaladStop’s ingredients sourced locally or regionally, the brand started its Net Zero journey two years ago with a carbon footprint assessment of its supply chain.
“Everyone’s value and supply chains touch someone else’s. A company’s high carbon footprint may not be a direct fault of theirs, but because of the suppliers or vendors they work with, it becomes their problem.” – SaladStop!’s appointed climate-tech software company
Beyond ingredients and packaging, SaladStop! worked on minimising its operating carbon emissions, forging partnerships to reduce and recycle food waste for its first Net Zero store. With these efforts, the store’s carbon footprint is at about 23% of a typical restaurant. With a successful first step, the Group moves towards Net Zero capability across all new and existing outlets under its direct management by 2030.
Is there really a need for SMEs to adopt SDGs? 193 countries, including Singapore, have committed to the shared goal. Rather than treating SDGs and ESG as a form of compliance, reframe that into a strategy. One that puts the business on track for growth and expansion.
“Companies that help advance the SDGs will be likely to build resilience to costs or requirements imposed by future legislation.” – SDG Compass
- Map your value chain.
- Identify areas of impact and potential.
- Define goals – A combination of long, impactful goals and interim goals. Goals should specific, measurable and time-bound.
- Announcement of commitment – It could be as simple as through your branded channels.
- Embed sustainability across business functions.
- Communicate, regularly – Be transparent about the efforts made, progress achieved, and the challenges faced.