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How to free manufacturing firms from the pitfalls of greenwashing

An EnterpriseSG official said standardisation and green courses will enhance businesses’ sustainability goals.

Unconsciously or not, companies are exaggerating their sustainability credentials and overcommitting to sustainability goals. This is called greenwashing—and the government has started to address this with laws, securities regulations, and consumer protection legislation.

According to Choy Sauw Kook, director-general of quality and excellence at Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG), to avoid greenwashing accusations, businesses need to enhance their foundational understanding of sustainability and capacity to integrate green goals in their business before creating commitments to sustainability. This is where EnterpriseSG’s Enterprise Sustainability Programme (ESP) comes in.

As of the end of September 2022, business leaders from over 140 firms benefited from the ESP Sustainability Courses. 

“For businesses who are ready to embark on sustainability efforts, they can also tap on ESP to defray the costs of sustainability capability building projects, including the adoption of relevant standards,” Choy told Singapore Business Review.

“With this support, businesses can overcome their resource constraints, start efforts to improve their sustainability performance, and deliver on promised goals,” she also pointed out.

ESP courses

Choy said new thematic courses for enterprises to deep dive into sustainability topics are also underway under EnterpriseSG’s course offerings. Such topics include decarbonisation and sustainable financing.

She said a series of sustainability playbooks with industry and knowledge partners will be launched.

“The series will include a foundational playbook (jointly developed with SkillsFuture Singapore and the Singapore Business Federation) to introduce key sustainability concepts, as well as sectoral and thematic playbooks that will provide more insights into sector-specific opportunities and key sustainability topics such as decarbonisation and sustainability reporting,” explained Choy.

This playbook also provides support to assist businesses in defraying costs to enforce sustainability projects such as “adoption of sustainability standards, sustainability strategy development, resource optimisation, and sustainable product development.” 

Secure certifications

Another way to do this is businesses can use certification to elevate trust in their products and services, which will enhance transparency and sustainability credentials. 

For example, Choy said, businesses may consider adopting eco-labels that will verify and communicate the environmental performance of their products and services.

Venturer Timberwork, a timber builder, made such a move after securing a Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) to inform its customers about the enhanced wood supply chain transparency. According to the PEFC website, having a PEFC stamp means the material being used can be tracked from forests down to the supply chain and the final product. Aside from making sure that the material comes from a certified forest, it also protects workers’ rights. 

Venturer also worked with Double Helix Tracking Technologies, a Certification Body accredited by the Singapore Accreditation Council, to determine the timber used in construction projects in Singapore and abroad. 

“Accreditation assures the integrity of certificates by ensuring the Certification Body’s processes are consistent and aligned to international practices, thereby instilling confidence in stakeholders and promoting differentiated services to customers,” said Choy.

Quickest way for the green shift

Choy also said the “quickest and surest ways” for companies to move to a greener future is adopting standards, which provide clear guidelines and requirements to manage carbon emission, waste, and energy as well as water usage. 

During the Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific 2022, Choy also tackled sustainability standards that can help the manufacturing industry move to a lower carbon future.

“Beyond resource management and optimisation, standards can also support businesses in driving innovation and growth in the sustainability space, in areas ranging from waste management to renewable energy,” Choy added.

An example of this is adopting the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC), which is a way to prove compliance with sustainability requirements for biofuel, Choy said. Biofuel, a more sustainable fuel source, can help firms comply with the international shipping industry’s shift to lower-carbon fuel.

Choy said the Equatorial Marine Fuel Management Services (EMF) adopted the ISCC which allowed it to transport and supply biofuels to its clients.

“EMF has established itself as a leading oil trading and marine logistics company that provides marine fuel to ships owned by MNCs from Europe, America, and Asia,” added Choy.

With regards to the biofuels space, EnterpriseSG and Singapore Standards Council also developed a provisional national standard on specifications of marine biofuel in October 2022.

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