UOB Thailand Launches 2024 Sustainability Programme for SMEs

Aimed at enabling Thai SMEs to transition to environmentally sustainable practices, UOB Thailand's innovative programme offers strategic support through workshops, partnerships, and digital tools.

Building on the achievements of its Sustainability Innovation Programme 2023, UOB Thailand has now unveiled its Sustainability Innovation Programme (SIP) 2024. This initiative aims to assist small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across all sectors in Thailand to integrate sustainability into their operations, utilising UOB FinLab’s extensive network of public and private leaders, mentors, and SMEs.

The programme, run by the UOB FinLab, comprises three modules and is organised in partnership with industry leaders such as Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), PwC Thailand, Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organisation (TGO), Chulalongkorn University, and Sustainism. Scheduled on May 29-30, 2024, in Bangkok, Thailand, it will offer workshops and masterclasses tailored for over 200 selected Thai SME businesses. These sessions will equip participants with the latest insights on sustainability regulations, measurement tools, Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) metrics, best practices, and actionable steps to initiate their journey towards sustainability.

The Urgency of Sustainability

Based on the UOB Business Outlook Study 2024, which surveyed over 500 small and media enterprises in Thailand, integrating ESG practices in Thailand ranks among the top five business priorities for the next one to three years. Thai businesses recognise sustainability adoption as crucial for enhancing reputation (56%), attracting investors (50%), and fostering collaborations with large corporations (42%). However, approximately three out of ten businesses have expressed the need for enhanced support when it comes to engaging with industry peers and receiving guidance on implementing ESG standards and adopting decarbonization best practices.

Banlang Wongthawatchai, Head of Digital Engagement and FinTech Innovation, UOB Thailand, said, “Due to the rapidly changing global landscape, sustainability has become a crucial consideration for modern entrepreneurs to ensure the longevity, survival, and growth of their businesses amidst climate concerns and evolving times. This is especially vital for SMEs, which serve as the backbone of the economy. As sustainability becomes more imperative, UOB Thailand is at the forefront of promoting sustainable entrepreneurship in various industries.”

“UOB Thailand and UOB FinLab recognise the importance and necessity of supporting SMEs in driving sustainable business growth across various dimensions for long-term success. Thus, they have expanded the Sustainability Innovation Programme (SIP) from the previous year, which only focused only travel sector, to support SMEs in all industries this year. This initiative, in collaboration with government and private partners, aims to provide SMEs with the necessary guidance to embark on the path towards sustainability, leveraging digital tools and GreenTech to advance their businesses towards sustainability,” he added.

Mr. Banlang further said that “In Europe, 40-60% of businesses come from SMEs. Relying solely on large corporations is not be a good solution for Thailand Business Ecosystem. SMEs of all sizes are crucial puzzle pieces in the Thai economy. Moreover, while Thailand has abundant innovators, business opportunities are scarce. How can we turn these innovations into viable businesses and establish sustainable models?”

However, challenges hindering businesses from transitioning to Net Zero include high cost implications (54%), industries' lack of serious efforts towards Net Zero (42%), unclear strategies towards achieving Net Zero (40%), lack of financial support for Net Zero initiatives (38%), and concerns about the impact of Net Zero on their customers (31%).

The Three-Module Programme to Sustainability

The Sustainability Innovation Programme (SIP) 2024 which comprises three modules, including 1) Educate Module, 2) Evaluate Module, and 3) Execute Module, will offer participants insights into business transformation for sustainable practices, operational process digitalization for enhanced efficiency, and funding opportunities for digital and green technology adoption. Utilising tools such as Carbonwize, an automated carbon management platform, enables businesses to measure emissions, plan for reductions and get access to green financing such as carbon credits and green loan. Carbonwize makes it possible for SMEs to navigate to low-carbon transition and driving sustainable tourism forward.

Kiatchai Maitriwong, Director of Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organisation (Public Organisation) or TGO, revealed that, “TGO is a public and key supportive agency responsible for driving greenhouse gas mitigation in Thailand towards low-carbon economy and society with core value of Innovation (I), Agility and Mobility (AM), Trusted (T), Global (G), and Openness (O). In order to drive ambition for carbon neutrality, we have TGO Service Platforms, including Carbon Footprint Portfolio Reporting Standards, T-VER Credit Certifier and many more.

Mr. Kiatchat further explained that, “In today's business environment, sustainability is not just an option; it's a necessity. Investing in sustainability not only sets businesses apart and adds value but also aligns with legal requirements as regulations demand greener practices. Sustainability enhances resilience and differentiation, even if it entails slightly higher costs, as customers prioritise quality, especially concerning health. Additionally, it fosters added value, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship, benefiting both society and the environment.”

“Businesses must compete not just for profits, but also in reducing carbon emissions. Survival now means sustainability. Investing in sustainability is akin to purchasing comprehensive car insurance; although it may come with a higher price tag initially, its long-term benefits outweigh the costs and provide peace of mind for investors,” Mr. Kiatchai explained.

Currently, Thailand Carbon Neutral Network (TCNN) has 607 organisations. 112 of them are climate action leading organisations which are actively committed to carbon neutrality and net zero.

Success Stories and Looking Forward

Neera Retreat Hotel, a participant in the SIP 2023, stands out as an exemplary SME dedicated to sustainability in all aspects of its operations. Located near Wat Rai Khing in Nakhon Pathom province, the hotel prioritises health-conscious dining, utilises a strong network, incorporates new technologies, and forges partnerships with suppliers committed to sustainability.

Similarly, KMP Partners (currently KMP Corporation) showcases the success of the SIP 2023 initiative. Initially a consultancy and material trading company serving construction contractors, KMP Partners expanded its focus following the implementation of the Buy Big Lot system. Currently, the company is enhancing its materials for sustainability and implementing a transport management system to reduce transportation routes, thus mitigating air pollution emissions.

Another notable example is Carbonwize, a developer of a carbon management platform, offering comprehensive solutions from measurement to offsetting. With features like seamless data integration and emission control, the platform enables businesses to gain real-time insights into their carbon footprint and implement strategies for effective carbon reduction and offsetting.

Pitiphat Mongkolariyanun, Chief Executive Officer of KMP Corporation, mentioned that “In light of the current pressing issue of PM 2.5 pollution, I am eager to contribute to alleviating this nationwide concern. Monetary wealth loses its significance in the face of poor air quality.

SMEs in Thailand possess potential but lack the key to unlock new opportunities. This programme presents a chance to foster new business models, particularly in upskilling for emerging industries. For businesses seeking a new S-Curve, the Sustainability Innovation Programme 2024 serves as an auspicious starting point. With skilled mentors offering insights into novel business models and fostering fresh networks, KMP, therefore, comes up with the vision of driving innovation, advancing ecosystems, and creating sustainable value for all stakeholders.

Our corporate culture centres on technology, entrepreneurship, customer-centricity, honesty, and sustainability. Following our participation in the 2023 programme, KMP Ecosystem has embraced a sharing economy model, enhancing customer service through process improvements like E-signature and E-tax adoption, refining supply chains with carbon tracking systems and EV platforms, promoting a hybrid workplace, facilitating green financing, and introducing eco-friendly products like Shell Bitumen FreshAir.

“Originating as a small construction material trader in one small district called Lang Suan in Chumphon Province, our journey with this initiative has enriched us with knowledge, networks, and the drive to enhance business systems through digitalization,” Mr. Pitiphat amplified.

The Path Ahead for Thai SMEs

Apart from the SIP initiative, there's also the six-month GreenTech Accelerator (GTA) 2024 programme by UOB FinLab. GTA aims to assist solution providers in addressing real challenges faced by SMEs in ASEAN by collaboratively developing solutions for partnerships and pilot projects, thereby initiating their green transformation journey. In a demonstration of UOB FinLab's dedication to fostering innovative solutions for sustainability, GTA 2024 will provide funding of up to SGD 100,000 for greentech companies to pilot inventive, pertinent, and feasible solutions with enterprises.

The three-module programme, scheduled on 29-30 May 2024, is open to all Thai SME owners or decision-makers across all industries interested in embracing sustainable practices. Applications for the programme are open starting today until May 25, 2024, through

Source: https://go.uob.com/fb-register