Five ways SMEs can reduce their carbon footprint

CHIEF OF STAFF FIVE: The climate crisis is here and no one is spared from its impact. That’s why governments around the world are scaling up efforts to prevent a climate catastrophe. Businesses are also putting their best foot forward and have increased involvement in protecting the environment over the past decades.


But you are mistaken if you believe that only large corporations are responsible for reducing their carbon footprint by cutting down greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Carbon footprint refers to the amount of GHGs released into the atmosphere due to human activities. Therefore, a company’s carbon footprint is the quantity of GHG emissions produced by its operations. While it is true that the world’s biggest companies can also be the biggest polluters, every organisation, no matter how small, can make a difference.

During the Asia-Pacific Climate Week 2021, the United Nations (UN) Climate Change and partners emphasised that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Southeast Asia form the backbone of Asian economies, and have a crucial role to play in tackling climate change in the region.

A 2020 report by the Asian Development Bank showed that SMEs account for an average of 97% of all enterprises, 69% of employment, and 41% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the ASEAN region.

Here are five ways to reduce SMEs carbon footprint and slow down global warming.

1. Find the right solution to the problem

Before companies can come up with eco-friendly solutions, it would be advisable to first quantify their carbon footprint. The baseline can be computed using proven methodologies like ISO 14064 and ISO 14067.

There are also several resources available on the internet that can help SMEs measure their environmental impact. The UN SME Climate Hub, a global initiative that empowers SMEs to halve their emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050, offers a three-step guide towards a more sustainable future.

However, precise quantification is not always necessary. Companies can still realise the effects of their operations without doing the math. They may simply identify their procedures, evaluate them, and think of more sustainable alternatives or remedies that can yield the same, if not better, results at a cheaper cost.

2. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

This may be a given, but the principle of the three R’s must be emphasised when talking about the environment. Business and HR leaders can ask themselves what can be reduced, reused, or recycled in every aspect of their business, from planning to purchasing supplies and carrying out operations.

What materials are commonly purchased and discarded? Are your products durable and can they last a long time? How much waste does your packaging generate? There’s probably more than you can think of! The next step is to then create an efficient waste management program.

3. Invest in green equipment and energy

The physical office or workplace is a good start in making an impact through informed purchasing choices.

Start by auditing your office purchases. Create a master list of supplies and equipment that your company uses and identify environment-friendly options and suppliers. There are organisations, such as the Asia Pacific Green Public Procurement Network, that help train HR leaders and procurement officers to purchase sustainable products.

SMEs can also do their own research and look for certified pro-environment and energy-efficient equipment and supplies.

Investing in renewable energy sources like solar panels to power computers, gadgets, and machines is also a smart move. Solar panels aren’t just good for the environment, they’re a boon for business too. They lower operating costs, boost green credentials, and help firms stay competitive. Indonesian startup Xurya helps companies switch to solar energy without a big upfront cost.

4. Implement carpooling or support green commuting

Business and HR leaders are becoming more aware of the impact of their employees’ transportation to work on air pollution.

Carbon emissions can be reduced through carpooling or providing shuttle services for employees to go to and leave work, instead of having them travel individually using their cars.

Moreover, SMEs are also encouraging employees to switch to green commuting, which can be in the form of walking, biking, or taking public transportation.

5. Consider carbon offsetting

Carbon offsetting is basically the act of neutralising CO2 emissions generated by a person or a company’s activities. This can be achieved by investing in projects that fight climate change to compensate for their environmental impact. These projects may include reforestation, renewable energy push, and livelihood support for marginalised communities, among others.

Online calculators, such as My Climate, allow companies to estimate their carbon emissions and the costs needed to offset them.

An example would be an employee from the Philippines who needs to go to Singapore for an important business trip. Based on the calculator, flying economy roundtrip between Manila and Singapore produces 0.855 tons of CO2, which would cost USD 24 (SGD 34) to offset.

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Chief of Staff Asia