Speech by MOS Low Yen Ling at the SME Centre Conference 2022

Speech by MOS Low Yen Ling at the SME Centre Conference 2022

Mr. Neil Parekh, Chairman, Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


1. A very good morning to all. I would like to start by thanking the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) for inviting me to this year’s SME Centre Conference. This is my third time taking part in this annual event. After two years of attending the conference virtually, I am delighted to be here at this conference in person.

2. The SME Centre Conference is an excellent platform for SMEs to exchange views and share ideas on how to grow, transform, and capture new opportunities. On this note, I would like to represent MTI (Ministry of Trade and Industry) and Enterprise Singapore to extend my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to all our 11 SME Centres, our hardworking Business Development Advisors and of course, my colleagues at Enterprise Singapore for their continued support for our SMEs throughout the pandemic. It has been a very difficult two and a half years. And of course, all the Chambers of Commerce, especially SICCI for making today’s conference possible.

Companies will need to embrace sustainability to remain competitive

3. In the last two and a half years, our SMEs have shown great tenacity and resilience in adapting and transforming, and many rose to the occasion. Our SMEs, micro enterprises included, found new opportunities to pivot and grow even amid the crisis. There is a Chinese saying 危机中总有奇迹; there are always opportunities amidst a crisis. When talking about micro enterprises, a topic very close to my heart, for instance, are shopkeepers in the heartlands who have digitalised and gone online. Three years ago, would you have imagined, that more than 88 per cent of HDB shops would offer e-payments. But today, 88 per cent, close to 90 percent, of our HDB shops offer e-payments, and over 65 per cent of them have digitalised, either through e-commerce or digital solutions. And I think some of you would have seen the shopkeepers selling their products and services via ”live” stream.

4. As we move into the post-pandemic era, SMEs would do well by spotting new opportunities in the green economy. You would all agree that the green economy presents opportunities not only to big organisations, but also to smaller SMEs. Indeed, the green economy is a new area which beckons with a bright horizon. Climate change concerns are spurring governments, businesses and consumers to place greater emphasis on reducing carbon footprint and becoming more sustainable. This has opened up fresh possibilities for growth. To expand your revenue stream, to introduce new products, and to capture a wider consumer base.

5. To that end, in February last year, we launched the Singapore Green Plan. The Singapore Green Plan 2030 has set concrete and ambitious targets to help Singapore move towards a greener future. It will open doors to promising new areas, for example, green finance, carbon services and sustainable tourism. The theme for this year’s event – “Navigating the Future of Sustainability”, is therefore very apt and timely.

6. We hope our SMEs will tap on sustainability as a new avenue of growth. Let me elaborate on why it is compelling for enterprises, big and small, to come on board. Using a word we are all familiar with - “eco”, or the letters E, C and O.

a. “E” is for “environment”. I think we would agree, that the weather we experienced in August alone, the first two weeks of August, was very hot. And the third and fourth week of August, the heavy downpour, reminded us of the year-end season. It was unprecedented. As the world seeks to protect our environment from further damage and climate change, SMEs can take the chance to also get into the act and make sustainability part of your business practices, part of your business model and your revenue model.

b. “C” stands for “competitive advantage”. To me, going sustainable is not adding cost. We should see it as a competitive advantage. Going green can be a competitive advantage for your company as an early mover in this emerging sector.

c. “O” in ‘eco’ stands for “opportunity”. Getting into the sustainable space will throw open new growth opportunities for you, your staff and your company in the green economy.

7. Each of you here today plays a pivotal role in Singapore’s green transition and how we can make this green transformation work for Singapore. We want to assure you that the Singapore Government, not just MTI but whole of government, including MSE, MOT etc, we are all very committed to the Singapore Green Plan 2030. The Government will spare no effort to support and help our SMEs stay competitive and relevant as we move towards the green economy.

The Government will support SMEs as we navigate the future of sustainability

8. To this end, the Government has launched a robust range of support schemes and measures to help our SMEs embrace sustainability and be part of this emerging green future. We do so because we recognise that SMEs need an extra boost to get started. To help them embark on their sustainability journey, Enterprise Singapore has launched the Enterprise Sustainability Programme (ESP). I remember joining Minister Gan Kim Yong on 1 October last year, where he launched the $180 million ESP which provides targeted support for companies.

a. For instance, SMEs that are new or in the early stages of their green journey can start by building your awareness and knowledge of sustainable practices. For example, you can attend subsidised training courses organised for local companies by Enterprise Singapore in partnership with Global Compact Network Singapore, PwC Singapore, and the Singapore Environment Council. We have worked with them to curate courses to help our SMEs.

b. In the area of funding, which is very important, SMEs can also tap on additional support, such as the Enterprise Financing Scheme – Green, to access financing for capability-building projects or new sustainable solutions.

9. I am happy to share that since the launch of the ESP in October last year, more than 300 local SMEs have participated in awareness and education programmes. More than 40 sustainability-related projects are being developed, with the support of Enterprise Singapore. This is a very well thought-through and curated support scheme. To me, level 1 is to support our enterprises. We also support our TACs (Trade Associations and Chambers), for sectoraal-focused areas. We also take an ecosystem approach to focus on certification, financing and training.

10. It is not just the big SMEs that are well-equipped to come on board. No matter your size, and whether you think you are ready to, do approach the SME Centre that is in your vicinity. We have 11 centres and very committed business development advisors. One company which has benefitted from the ESP is Yeap Transport. Yeap Transport is a local private bus operator. Yeap Transport has undertaken a climate strategy and footprint study to measure its scope 1,2 and 3 carbon emissions. It has also developed a sustainability roadmap to help the company achieve net zero carbon emissions, for example, by turning its bus fleet electric.

11. As our SMEs go green with more sustainable practices, we are also giving them a helping hand. The recently launched Energy Efficiency Grant provides SMEs from the food services, food manufacturing and retail sectors funding support to adopt energy-efficient equipment for their business, which can reduce their overall running costs. I addressed this in a parliamentary question at the August Parliament Sitting; we have chosen to start off with food services, food manufacturing and retail, because looking at their expenses, energy costs actually comprise a significant proportion of that. And we want to help bring business costs down, and help them to embrace and adopt energy efficient equipment. Eligible companies can start applying for the Energy Efficiency Grant from tomorrow, 1 September.

12. I am happy to announce that as part of ESP, Enterprise Singapore is collaborating with Schneider Electric on a decarbonisation programme for SMEs. This initiative will link SMEs with experts who will help them set decarbonisation targets, access energy efficiency services, and take actionable steps to reduce energy use and emissions. All very practical issues and problem statements to solve. We hope that through this SME Kickstarter Decarbonisation Programme, SMEs will not only actively monitor their energy consumption but also use energy-efficient solutions to reduce business costs and become more sustainable in the long run.

SME Centres will continue to support the growth and transformation of all enterprises

13. Helping our SMEs continue to grow and flourish is a network of 11 dedicated SME Centres located all over Singapore. Besides providing business advisory services, these Centres also focus on boosting the capabilities and skills of our SMEs including micro enterprises. In 2021, the SME Centres assisted over 28,000 SMEs to improve and meet their business needs despite the challenges of COVID-19 . There was a lot of focus on helping our micro enterprises and SMEs to adopt sustainability standards and implementing sustainability projects through the ESP.

14. Furthermore, under the Partners for Business Growth (PBG) pilot programme, more than 100 SMEs were supported in their growth journey as they set new goals and implemented new projects, including those involving sustainability.

15. I would like to highlight two SMEs that have successfully incorporated sustainability as part of their PBG programme. One of them is Long Pun Enterprise. Long Pun Enterprise is a 40-year-old plastics and products manufacturer in the construction industry. With the help of Business Development Advisors (BDAs) from the SME Centre@SMF, Long Pun incorporated sustainability into its business strategy. This has led the company to expand its product range into providing clean energy solutions like energy storage systems and flexible solar panels to the construction and landscape industry.

16. Another company that grew its sustainable offerings with the help of the PBG, is Sheldon Global, the home and lifestyle company behind local brands such as HOUZE and Table Matters. With the advice of BDAs from the SME Centre@SICCI, Sheldon Global automated its e-commerce workflow and used Robotic Processing Automation to enlarge its sales capacity. As business leaders, you would know that if you can enlarge your sales capacity, it means that you are well placed to grow your top line and bottom line. The company has created a new line of eco-friendly homeware called ecoHOUZE, which is well-received by consumers.

17. On behalf of MTI, congratulations to Long Pun and Sheldon Global, on your green progress! A big thank you to our 11 SME Centres and our hardworking BDAs who work alongside our SMEs to enable them to overcome the adversity in the last two and a half years, and to grow and expand their business. We plan to launch the official PBG programme in 2023. Meanwhile, I encourage SMEs to sign up for PBG - to explore and capture the exciting potential of the green economy.

18. I want to assure you, that the Government is committed to seeing our SMEs grow in Singapore and beyond. Who says that our small HDB shops and micro enterprises will only cater to business in the domestic market? I cited in Parliament in March Heng Foh Tong, which is a traditional shop that sells herbal tea. They have come on board e-commerce, and now they are selling their products to 10 countries. Whether it is digitalisation or sustainability, these are two very important growing trends that we must seize at the moment to help our SMEs grow their top line and bottom line, and at the same time, to also future proof their capabilities and their talent pool.


19. At the exhibition today, you can take the chance to learn more about how companies are pursuing sustainability practices and benefitting from their green moves. I hope you will be inspired to embrace sustainability practices and make them part and parcel of your business model, and your revenue model.

20. As more borders continue to re-open in the post-pandemic era, the windows of opportunity are really widening as well. This is why in Singapore, we have beenvery committed to reopening our economy since March. As I came in, I was so happy to see all the ballrooms being taken up. Tourism is coming back, and now we are back to more than 55% of our traffic volume for Changi compared to post-COVID level, and I think it bodes well for our business sector. We can capitalise on the momentum and emerge better and stronger. SMEs should seize the chance to build new capabilities and future-proof your companies and your teams, in the new economy, and you will be able to endure and thrive in the post-COVID world

21. As PM Lee urged in his National Day Rally speech last week to “seize the window of opportunity” and secure Singapore’s place in the post-COVID-19 world, let’s continue on our sustainable journey together and turn Singapore into a city of green possibilities for future generations.

22. Thank you and I wish you all a productive and constructive conference today.

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