Environmental, social, governance: why it’s essential for SMEs

Environmental, social, governance why it’s essential for SMEs Banner

Environmental, social, governance: why it’s essential for SMEs

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are taking centre stage in Singapore’s business landscape, propelled by a global push towards climate change mitigation, with governments worldwide committing to net-zero targets. This shift has placed increased pressure on businesses to adopt responsible practices, emphasising social equity, transparency and accountability. Furthermore, evolving regulations aimed at enhancing safety and legitimacy within the business environment underscore the critical importance of ESG engagement for companies of all sizes.

It’s not just large corporations that are expected to embed ESG principles in their business operations. In Singapore, small and medium-sized enterprises contribute to 48 per cent of Singapore’s GDP and employ 71 per cent of the workforce, highlighting the role SMEs have in driving sustainable and ethical business practices that contribute positively to the overall health of the economy. As such, SME owners and business leaders are pivotal in shaping a more sustainable, equitable and responsible business future.

In this article, we explore what environmental, social and governance is and why implementing robust ESG practices and processes is not just critical but a strategic advantage for SMEs. We also uncover related opportunities for organisations and provide insights on where business owners and leaders can find the necessary support to implement these ESG practices and policies.

Understanding environmental, social and governance and its relevance to SMEs

Environmental, social and governance is a set of practices adopted by companies to guide how they should conduct business ethically and sustainably. At a broad level, ESG covers the following elements:

  • Environmental responsibility focuses on a company’s impact on nature. For example, a small enterprise could adopt energy-efficient operations, reducing both environmental impact and operational costs.
  • Social accountability measures how a company manages relationships with employees, communities and suppliers. For SMEs, this could involve creating inclusive workplace policies, engaging in community development projects or ensuring fair trade practices with suppliers.
  • Governance concerns practices around a company’s leadership, ethics and transparency. Good governance in SMEs could include developing transparent reporting systems to build stakeholder trust.

Recognising that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to integrating ESG practices into business strategy and operations is crucial, as implementation will vary significantly across industries. For example, professional services firms may find greater leverage and opportunities for impact within social and governance, while a consumer goods manufacturer may prioritise environmental and social aspects more heavily.

Why do ESG and sustainability matter?

ESG is a response to a range of concerns, including climate change, rising social inequality and the changing nature of economies.

Investors and stakeholders are increasingly taking ESG into account in their decision-making. Society, customers and clients also expect the companies they interact with to be environmentally and socially responsible. Companies that have robust ESG strategies to manage risks can meet these expectations and compete successfully and strongly in the market.

In Singapore, implementing robust ESG practices offers SMEs the opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competition, attracting more investment, appealing to a larger customer base and ensuring long-term success.

For SMEs eyeing European markets, showcasing solid ESG practices is vital. Europe’s strict corporate social responsibility and sustainability regulations dictate that businesses adopt and visibly demonstrate their ESG commitment.

The Singapore Stock Exchange weighs in

In compliance with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) requires all issuers, including the many SMEs listed, to incorporate climate-related reporting in their sustainability reports. This requirement means companies will have to report on their social and environmental impacts and performance.

The date from which companies have to comply with this mandatory reporting depends on the relevant industry. For example, those in financial services, energy and agriculture are required to report under the TCFD framework from the financial year 2023. Building and transport industries will be required to report from 2024.

The Singapore Stock Exchange weighs in

Challenges and opportunities of ESG adoption

There’s no doubt that ESG is a priority for growing businesses and SMEs of all sizes, but implementing new policies and procedures into business operations can also increase pressure on owners, managers and staff. For small businesses particularly, implementing sustainability practices can be expensive. Busy small business owners, absorbed in the day-to-day running of their business, may not have the time to gain the knowledge needed to implement new practices effectively and give their employees the skills they need to focus on ESG issues.

Although ESG strategies can potentially yield long-term financial benefits, the immediate challenge for many SMEs lies in maintaining profitability in the short term. Balancing ESG objectives with business growth can be daunting, especially when faced with limited access to technical know-how, which stops many SMEs from even trying.

However, integrating ESG into everyday business practices does not have to be overwhelming. Beginning with small, manageable actions can set the foundation and lead to effective long-term change.

Some examples include:

  • Adopting energy-efficient practices, starting with something as simple as switching to energy-efficient light bulbs.
  • Seeking financial support from government bodies and initiatives designed to support businesses implementing ESG practices.
  • Forming partnerships with multinational companies, other SMEs and non-profit organisations to increase ESG knowledge and understanding through collaborative forums.
  • Engaging with a service provider experienced in facilitating ESG integration, to guide and support your business along this path.

Tina Thomas, Head of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) at BoardRoom Group, highlighted, “Small and medium-sized enterprises often lack the comprehensive knowledge required for initiating and executing effective ESG strategies. Additionally, they may encounter significant resource limitations. Nevertheless, this is precisely the juncture at which our expertise becomes invaluable. The ESG team at BoardRoom is adept at managing these processes efficiently and in a cost-effective manner, offering a seamless solution for businesses aiming to enhance their sustainability practices.”

The benefits of a robust ESG strategy

The benefits of a robust ESG strategy

These challenges shouldn’t stop SMEs from exploring the benefits of ESG adoption for cost savings, improved efficiency and risk reduction.

Here, we take a look at some of the benefits:

  • increased cost savings from ESG policies, such as a reduction in water and energy usage;
  • ESG risks and opportunities can be easily identified if supply chain processes are streamlined;
  • reduction in waste and the costs associated with waste management;
  • reduction in the risk of regulatory fines due to non-compliance;
  • an increase in shareholder value and attracting increased investment;
  • appealing to a broader range of potential customers;
  • an increase in employee morale, efficiency and health and safety outcomes as a result of prioritising employee wellbeing;
  • an ability to attract and retain talent and build a stronger employee brand;
  • access to new markets;
  • access to tax incentives and government grants; and
  • differentiation, which can offer many SMEs a competitive advantage.

Clients, customers, investors and regulators now expect businesses of all sizes to reduce their harmful impacts on the environment and people while increasing their resilience to the effects of climate change.

SMEs with ESG cost-saving and other strategies in place that align with their business purpose are much better placed to adapt and meet the challenges of the future while capitalising on opportunities today.

Practical steps towards ESG integration

Practical steps towards ESG integration

Integrating ESG into business practices, strategies and goals can be straightforward and varied based on the individual business. A business could initially take several broad steps; however, it’s crucial to define your company’s ESG goals from the outset clearly. This involves engaging stakeholders and establishing regular monitoring to identify areas for improvement.

Tina adds that a good way to start weaving ESG into day-to-day operations is by collecting and analysing data on the performance of the business. She says, “Step one is making sure there’s a process in place where you collect data on a regular basis, perhaps quarterly. Then, assess the data to expose trends, and set ESG KPIs against the data.”

Other key steps to consider include the following:

Adopting more environmentally friendly practices
Switching to renewable and more energy-efficient sources, reducing waste and implementing robust recycling programs. For instance, your business could replace conventional lighting with LED bulbs to reduce energy consumption.
Encouraging a culture of fairness, inclusion and diversity
Implementing diversity training and adopting equal opportunity hiring practices is a step towards creating a workplace culture that values diversity and fairness.
Innovating through technology
Being open to innovation and leveraging available technology to streamline processes, reduce waste and save costs. A simple example could be switching to cloud-based software to reduce paper usage and streamline operations.
Investing in employee development
Offering employee skills training and wellbeing programs such as mental health support services and professional development workshops.
Community engagement
Engaging with and supporting community groups and charities through staff volunteer initiatives or partnerships.
Establishing ethical policies
Creating well-defined policies and procedures such as a supplier code of conduct and data protection and privacy policies as standard.
Maintaining transparency
Keep business operations transparent. Your business could achieve this by publishing regular sustainability reports and ensuring clear communication with investors and stakeholders.
Managing ESG risks
Introducing organisational and managerial frameworks that identify and manage ESG risks, such as conducting regular environmental audits or ethical supply chain assessments.
Aligning with suppliers
Partner with suppliers who share your business’ goals and ESG values, like sourcing materials from sustainable providers.
Government support and partnerships
Take advantage of government support and incentives for sustainable practices and collaborate with skilled and knowledgeable consultants for ESG transition strategies.

Where to find support

The Government of Singapore offers a range of incentives and grants to help SMEs adopt ESG best practices. If you’re looking for ESG grants in Singapore or need guidance on where to start, here are some helpful resources:

  • Enterprise Singapore’s Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) helps SMEs develop projects to upgrade and innovate their businesses, explore opportunities for growth and expand internationally. Additionally, SMEs can engage with a Registered Management Consultant like Tina for support with integrating sustainability into their business.
  • The Enterprise Sustainability Programme (ESP) supports companies in Singapore to learn about and adopt sustainable, green practices.
  • The Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) gives SMEs a financial boost to adopt technical solutions to improve their productivity.
  • The Energy Efficiency Fund consists of five grants to support businesses in improving energy efficiency in their industrial facilities.
Discover the opportunities of ESG today

Discover the opportunities of ESG today

There’s no doubt that environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are becoming increasingly important for Singapore’s businesses to address. SMEs have a large role to play, and if they don’t already have ESG policies and practices in place, there is mounting pressure to do so.

Implementing ESG offers more than compliance for SMEs. It unlocks innovation, sustainability, and market leadership by fostering long-term business resilience and distinguishing your brand in today’s eco-conscious market. With Singapore’s supportive incentives and leveraging the expertise of business consultants, SMEs can seamlessly integrate ESG now more than ever before.

With a dedicated team of experienced ESG consultants in Singapore, BoardRoom can help your business maximise its positive impact and make the most of opportunities with ESG Access. BoardRoom also offers a range of other services, including company incorporation and corporate secretarial. Contact us to find out more today.

Contact BoardRoom for more information:

Tina Thomas_profile

Tina Thomas

Head of Environmental, Social and Governance

E: [email protected]

T: +65 6536 5355

Related Business Insights

Navigating the Forward Singapore Agenda: Insights into Budget 2024

Navigating the Forward Singapore Agenda Insights into Budget 2024 Banner

Navigating the Forward Singapore Agenda: Insights into Budget 2024

In our commitment to keeping you abreast of pivotal developments, we are pleased to present our commentary of Singapore’s Budget 2024, unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on 16 February 2024, themed “Building Our Shared Future Together”.

Reflecting on the fiscal year 2023, Singapore exceeded revenue expectations, primarily driven by higher Corporate Income Tax collections.

Against this positive backdrop, Budget 2024 is strategically positioned to propel the Forward Singapore agenda. Our detailed Singapore Budget 2024 Commentary delves into the key tax measures affecting both businesses and individuals.

Key tax measures for businesses

  • Singapore’s Implementation of Pillar Two of Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) 2.0 initiative
  • Introduction of the Refundable Investment Credit (RIC) Scheme
  • Introduction of Corporate Income Tax (CIT) Rebate and CIT Rebate Cash Grant
  • Enhancement of Tax Deduction for Renovation or Refurbishment (R&R) Expenditure
  • Extension and Revision of Tax Incentive Schemes for Qualifying Funds
  • Introduction of Alternative Basis of Tax for Three Maritime Sector Incentive (MSI) Sub-schemes
  • Introduction of Additional Concessionary Tax Rate (CTR) Tiers

Key tax measures for individuals

  • Introduction of Personal Income Tax Rebate
  • Increasing Annual Income Threshold for Dependent-Related Relief
  • Impending Lapse of Course Fees Relief (CFR)
  • Removal of Tax Relief for CPF top up qualifying for Matched Retirement Saving Scheme (MRSS)

Other key tax measures

  • Introduction of Overseas Emergency Humanitarian Assistance Tax Deduction Scheme (OHAS)
  • Withdrawal of Income Tax Concession on Royalty Income

As we collectively navigate the Forward Singapore agenda, understanding these fiscal changes becomes paramount. Download our commentary now to stay informed and ahead.

Should you have any questions on how to maximise your tax position with this latest announcement, please email our tax team at [email protected].

Related Business Insights

Navigating the recent tax changes in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, & China

Navigating the recent tax changes in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, & China


Navigating Tax Changes in the Year of the Dragon  

Happy Lunar New Year!  As we step into the Year of the Dragon, we are pleased to share key insights into Asia's tax landscape. This month, we take a closer look at the various tax changes across the region, and help you navigate your way through each of them. 

Our Regional Tax Team is committed to assist you in navigating these changes, to ensure your business is well-positioned for success throughout the Year of the Dragon and beyond. 


Thinking About Starting a Business in Singapore? Here's what you need to know

Singapore's economic stability makes it a magnet for businesses. There are endless opportunities for entrepreneurs, regardless of the industry. Our latest article,Startup companies in Singapore: where are the opportunities?, sheds light on the key insights for a successful set-up and discover how BoardRoom's expertise can help your company soar.



Fundamental Shift in Tax Landscape: Introduction of Section 10L in Singapore
Singapore has recently enacted Section 10L in the Income Tax Act, marking a fundamental shift in the tax landscape. Effective from 1 January 2024, gains from the sale of foreign assets will be treated as taxable income if the entity lacks adequate economic substance in Singapore or if the gains arise from the disposal of a foreign Intellectual Property Right (IPR). 

This move is a clear signal of Singapore's commitment to prevent international tax avoidance risks and attract substantial economic activities. We share more on this in our report. 



Capital Gains Tax: Unlocking Opportunities in Malaysia
Our spotlight shines on Malaysia's tax landscape, specifically the notable exemption on gains from the disposal of shares in unlisted Malaysian-incorporated companies. 

This tax exemption is a strategic move to encourage investment in unlisted Malaysian companies, potentially boosting capital inflows, supporting local businesses, and promoting economic growth in the Malaysian market. Find out what this means for you in our report. 


Hong Kong

Pillar Two of BEPS 2.0 Implementation: Hong Kong's Proactive Approach
The Hong Kong government is taking active steps towards aligning with global efforts to ensure multinational enterprises contribute their fair share of taxes. In line with Pillar Two of BEPS 2.0 framework, Hong Kong plans to adopt the global minimum tax rate of 15% and introduce a domestic minimum top-up tax starting from 2025.  

As part of a collaborative approach, a consultation process is currently underway to gather feedback on the proposed implementation, and the legislative amendments are expected to be introduced in the second half of 2024.  Our report takes a closer look at what this will mean for businesses operating in the region.



Foreign Trade and Investment: Navigating Policy Changes in China
As China remains a key player in the global economy, it is crucial to stay updated on all the various policy changes that will impact foreign trade and investments. With all the measures that China has made on their foreign-trade policies to help encourage investments, take a deep dive in our report to see how these policies will affect your business.



Copyright © 2024 Boardroom Pte Ltd.
All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is: [email protected]


Beyond Compliance: How ESG Factors Impact Corporate Sustainability

Beyond Compliance: How ESG Factors Impact Corporate Sustainability


2024, the year where future-ready companies will position sustainability at the core of their business strategies. ESG, once a complex and unfamiliar scape is now increasingly the focus of companies worldwide. The days where a company's performance is assessed by its financial bottom line is long gone. In today's world, investors and stakeholders place equal importance to how a company navigates environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, alongside traditional financial metrics.

But what factors affect your company's corporate sustainability initiatives and in turn, impacts profitability? We share more in our latest report.


Share These Insights 

If you found this content useful, forward it to your colleagues and friends so they can subscribe too.


Copyright © 2024 Boardroom Pte Ltd.
All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is: [email protected]


Malaysia’s Companies (Amendment) Bill 2024 and Accelerated Transfer Process from ACE to Main Market

Malaysia’s Companies (Amendment) Bill 2024 and Accelerated Transfer Process from ACE to Main Market


Dear {{Recipient.FirstName}},

As 2023 wrapped, the Malaysian business world saw some significant updates that were designed to benefit the companies that they affect. We take a closer look at these developments and share what you need to know about:

  1. Dewan Negara passing the Companies (Amendment) Bill 2023 on 13 December 2023 and, 
  2. The introduction of the accelerated transfer process by the Securities Commission Malaysia (SC).

Companies (Amendment) Bill 2023 passed by Dewan Negara on 13 December 2023

The Companies (Amendment) Bill 2023 was passed by Dewan Rakyat on 28 November 2023 and by Dewan Negara on 13 December 2023. Some key amendments to the Companies Act 2016 include the establishment of a framework for reporting the beneficial ownership of companies and the enhancement of existing provisions regarding the restructuring and corporate rescue mechanisms of companies. Learn about all the changes in our report.


Transfer of ACE Market Listed Corporation to the Main Market via the Accelerated Transfer Process

Aimed to enhance the stock market vibrancy, and reduce market friction, the Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) has recently introduced an accelerated transfer process for eligible ACE Market-listed companies. This move will facilitate the transition of ACE Market-listed companies to the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia.

In order to qualify, these companies must fulfil the profit requirements set for the Main Market listing. The regulatory framework governing this initiative came into effect on 1 January 2024, following amendments to the Equity Guidelines, as announced by the SC.

The introduction of the streamlined and expedited transfer process is designed to encourage ACE Market-listed companies to continually enhance their corporate values, fostering sustainable growth for shareholders. We share more on these changes in our report.

Please reach out to your respective client managers in BoardRoom or email us at [email protected] should you require further clarification. 


Copyright© 2024 Boardroom Pte Ltd.
All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is: [email protected]


The power of BPO in facilitating overseas business growth

The power of BPO in facilitating overseas business growth

The power of BPO in facilitating overseas business growth

Expanding a business overseas is a critical growth goal for many organisations. The appeal of new markets is enticing, but the challenges of moving into offshore territories can be overwhelming.

Understanding and complying with diverse, unfamiliar legal frameworks, tax structures and regulatory compliance standards in foreign territories is a complex process, and non-compliance can result in far-reaching consequences for any business. For owners, entrepreneurs and leaders keen to pursue overseas opportunities but needing an in-depth understanding of local issues, specialist business process outsourcing (BPO) services can be essential to safe and successful expansion.

Through a BPO partner, businesses gain insights into local compliance and strategic support in navigating the intricate process of establishing and growing your presence in new markets.

In this article, we explore what a BPO provider is, what they do for their clients, and how BPO can help clients navigate regulatory complexities when considering expansion into Asia.

What is BPO? Your key to successful international expansion

Running a business, especially one that is expanding globally, is complex and can be fraught with compliance risks. Missteps in unfamiliar areas can lead to significant consequences, demanding careful navigation, knowledge and skills. That is where business process outsourcing (BPO) comes in. BPO occurs when a business outsources critical backend functions to external entities.

However, it’s important to recognise that certain functions will come with an increased need to find a provider that specialises in regulatory compliance.

Some of these functions are:

When you engage an expert BPO service provider with specialised skills in regulatory compliance to outsource these critical functions to, your staff can concentrate on your business’s core competencies. By working with an expert provider and also being aware of how each function interplays with your company’s broader operations and expansion goals, risk can be mitigated, ensuring the integrity and continuity of your core business activities.

There are several fundamental advantages of partnering with a compliance focused BPO provider:

Access to specialised skills and local knowledge that may not be readily available within your organisation. This expertise ensures accuracy in compliance and allows easier navigation of in-country requirements and valuable insights into local markets.
Efficiently scale operations especially when expanding internationally, by tapping into vast pools of experienced professionals through the services provided.
Gain access to advanced technologies compliant with regulations, allowing optimisation of internal processes, guaranteeing streamlined operations, while mitigating the risk of non-compliance.
Benefit from a commitment to adapt to changing regulations while maintaining stringent compliance standards, mitigating risks, and ensuring continuous agility in navigating a dynamic regulatory environment.
Your key to successful international expansion

Navigating your expansion into Asia

Asia’s robust economic growth and diverse markets make it an increasingly attractive destination for business expansion. In this rapidly growing business environment, understanding the key factors crucial for successful business expansion is pivotal for tapping into the region’s unique opportunities.

Here are four important factors to look out for in selecting your BPO provider:

The complexity of local regulations

Business owners entering new markets in Asia must understand that the regulatory landscape in the region has evolved and continues to evolve rapidly. Hugo Walkinshaw, Group Chief Executive Officer of BoardRoom, has this advice for foreign investors entering Asia. “There’s some commonality among Commonwealth countries, but you cannot assume if you have a footprint in one country, you can easily take that elsewhere. We advise businesses to be aware that Asia’s not one place.”

Just as every country has a unique culture, language, time zone and climate, so too are its regulatory framework, laws, processes and ESG standards. Therefore, it is recommended you get advice from a BPO provider who has the experience in regulatory compliance and deep relationships with the regulators in the country you are planning to enter.

Owners and business leaders who fail to consider the complex regulations are putting their personal and business reputations at risk.

Compliance focused BPO provider

Leveraging technology in an evolving regulatory landscape

Technology is changing how businesses operate, and the regulations that govern technology are also evolving rapidly. This complexity is magnified in Asia due to the diverse legal and technological landscapes across different countries.

An example is data security, which has become increasingly complex in a rapidly-digitised world where data is valuable, and automation is commonplace. Businesses have a duty of care to themselves, their staff and their customers to protect data and information systems. A service provider with sound security systems in place is an essential layer of protection to your business, ensuring compliance with local data protection laws. This is especially crucial for functions like payroll, where sensitive employee data must be handled with care and accuracy across different legal frameworks.

Partnering with a compliance-focused service provider who understands these regulations and leverages the latest technology provides assurance that compliance requirements are consistently met.

Geopolitical and economic concerns

The Y2K scare, the 1997 Asian crisis, the 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis and COVID-19 – the past two decades have been punctuated by massive economic uncertainty and geopolitical volatility. These factors make for an increasingly complex environment for businesses. However, Hugo says economic opportunities in the region are still compelling.

A corporate services provider that offers an integrated suite of services across multiple countries can leverage regional expertise and serve as a single point of contact for businesses moving into Asia. Furthermore, businesses ought to seek a seasoned provider with a appropriate market presence that is aligned with your expansion goals. These providers will have first-hand experience navigating legislative changes and are better positioned to address the needs of businesses amidst volatile geopolitical and economic uncertainty.

Ensuring the right coverage

When choosing a BPO provider, it is important to understand their size and scale. What services do they provide, and which countries do they operate in?

Businesses entering Asia will find many providers that Hugo calls “single-service, single-country local players”. But these might not offer a comprehensive enough service for your business. Choosing a provider that operates in several countries with a range of services is often a better option, allowing your business to enter whichever country you decide to expand into.

Furthermore, a service provider with regional expertise and integrated services like corporate secretarial and tax advisory can also help optimise your business’s tax payouts. This starts at the incorporation stage with the advice on the most advantageous business structure. Different business structures have varying tax implications, and a knowledgeable service provider can navigate these intricacies to ensure that your business benefits from tax efficiency while remaining compliant.

Leveraging technology in an evolving regulatory landscape

BoardRoom: your compliance focused BPO partner

Successfully establishing a business in Asia requires a deep understanding of its laws and regulatory structures. Regulatory compliance-focused BPO service providers equipped with this expertise offer invaluable guidance to help businesses navigate the complexities of regional expansion. They take on the responsibility of a range of business processes, freeing up your time and resources to grow your business.

At BoardRoom, we have the regional expertise to help your business navigate the complex regulatory landscapes and technology integration in various Asian nations.

Our multi-service offering and our years of experience managing cross-border expansion means you get integrated, efficient solutions to help your business succeed:

Contact our team for your expansion needs now!

Related Business Insights