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4 Ways Asia SMEs Can Drive Sustainability at Home

By Dennis Velasco | November 5, 2021

Small businesses play a critical role in driving growth and innovation throughout Asia Pacific and globally. Here’s how they can contribute to local economic sustainability.

In a time when Gen Z believes that social responsibility is shared and sustainability is a cause worth fighting for, the spotlight is on how businesses can do their part to make a positive long-term contribution to the future of our planet.

But who has the opportunity to make the biggest impact? Governments and large corporations have their part to play, but it’s the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who are playing a critical role in driving growth and innovation throughout Asia Pacific. After all, SMEs account for over 97% of all businesses in the APAC region.

The value of SMEs in future-proofing our planet

E-commerce has seen rapid expansion amidst the current health and economic crises. Consumer shopping behavior has shifted online due to lockdowns and travel restrictions.

So far, around 70% of SMEs in the Asia Pacific have digitalized their businesses faster than expected to meet the rising demand of consumers. As SMEs continue to become digitally mature, they’re vital to driving economic recovery.

But SMEs have a social responsibility to not just contribute to the economy, but to think about the local community and environment as well. SMEs can practice sustainability by doing business in a socially responsible manner that reflects local and global social, environmental, and economic concerns. Going paperless, reducing waste, and committing to lower carbon footprint are just some of the ways to operate greener and more responsibly.

Need more tips? Check out these simple sustainability shifts that SMEs can incorporate into their businesses:

1. Save resources, go digital

It is estimated that a digital economy will contribute 1 trillion USD to Asia’s GDP in the next ten years. SMEs can lower operating expenses by bringing their business online. A fully digital business means that your store is open online 24/7, without the added costs of maintaining a physical store. Even a hybrid store could significantly reduce operating costs. Businesses can save on resources because transactions would be online and mostly paperless.

That said, one key challenge for being sustainable when selling products online is order fulfillment. Businesses need to rethink how they can be eco-efficient with their packaging without sacrificing the safety and integrity of their products upon delivery.

The good news is that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel! Green technologies are already available such as biodegradable packaging and reusable pouches, paperless and mobile shipment booking, and the option to engage shipping providers such as FedEx, which is committed to achieve carbon neutrality in its global operations y 2040.

2. Give back to the community

SMEs can enhance their brand by creating meaningful relationships and making an impact. We’ve seen this during the pandemic. Despite their struggles, small businesses stepped up to support their local communities - organizing food drives for front-liners and vulnerable groups, giving supplies to community groceries, and providing free services for those in need.

Businesses can also start a social-impact conversation with their customers and invite them to join their cause. Many citizens are looking for ways to contribute but aren’t sure where to start. You as a business can lead by example: providing practical steps and a platform where your customers can help.

3. Create job opportunities for locals

Many businesses were forced to shut down during the pandemic, resulting in millions of jobs lost - especially in hard-hit industries like tourism, retail and construction.

The unemployment rate in APAC is at 4.1%, with Southern Asia and Eastern Asia having a higher unemployment rate compared to South-Eastern Asia and the Pacific. Women, migrants, and daily wage workers were hit the hardest.

SMEs can contribute to the local communities where they operate by creating job opportunities for locals and unemployed youths and minorities, who are often disadvantaged in the job market. Typically, SMEs can direct the course of their recruitment process more easily than larger corporations, meaning they can make an impact quicker.

At Prosperna, from a recruitment perspective, we look for alignment on purpose and values first. And then we look at what a candidate can bring to the table. We hire based on who the person could become, instead of their work experience or educational background.

4. Pioneer innovation and forward-thinking

Small businesses understand the value of emphasizing convenience and eliminating inconveniences. It’s no surprise to hear startups from developing markets finding better and more sustainable solutions to bring greater efficiencies .

One stellar example is the rise of the fintech industry. APAC has over 1,230 fintech apps and a total of 2.7 billion installs between Q1 2019 and Q1 2021. Their innovative solutions to help those who are tech-literate but do not have access to traditional banking resulted in a more convenient and affordable way of doing financial transactions.

5. Stewardship is key to sustainability

Learn what other businesses are doing and see what you can adapt for your own.

FedEx, for example, has significantly reduced its carbon footprint using a Reduce, Replace, and Revolutionize approach. From automating air waybills to offering online shipment forms to modernizing aircraft to reduce emissions: the quest to find innovative and sustainable solutions never stops. FedEx has introduced a number of measures to fulfil its ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2040, including testing last-mile delivery solutions such as RoxoTM, the SameDay Bot®, and partnering with autonomous technology companies such as Neolix in China to embrace sustainable and intelligent logistics solutions.

Remember – whether your business is big or small, it takes a collective effort from governments, businesses, and individuals to create a better future for all and the generations to come. It’s everyone’s responsibility to rethink how we can fulfill our needs and expand the economy while simultaneously protecting our planet.

For more info on sustainability tips and best practices, visit the sustainability section here.
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About the Author
the author bio

Dennis Velasco

CEO & Founder, Prosperna

Featured on CNN Philippines', "The Final Pitch", Dennis is a technology evangelist on a mission to empower 100,000 Philippine SMEs with a simple, affordable e-commerce software platform, Prosperna.

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