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ERIA Holds Webinar on Sustainability Practices for MSMEs in a COVID-19 World and Beyond

Editor(s)/Author(s) : - 24 September 2020
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Jakarta, 24 September 2020: ERIA hosted the MSMEs Talk #5- Sustainability Practices for MSMEs in a COVID-19 World and Beyond. This webinar concluded the first part of the MSMEs series organized under ERIA’s Strategy and Partnership Programme, funded by Australia. The webinar was held on the 24th of September 2020 and attracted more than 190 participants from the Asia-Pacific region. 

In her opening remarks, Dr Giulia Ajmone Marsan, ERIA’s Director of Strategy and Partnership, emphasized the increased recognition of the need to apply sustainability practices in ASEAN across a broad range of stakeholders. She also highlighted the crucial roles that the private sector – both larger firms and MSMEs - has to play to adopt and develop sustainability practices to provide a better future.

Four speakers participated in the webinar: 

  • Aivonne Chong, Founder & Managing Director, Brown Bag Wines (Singapore)
  • Priyanka Chetry, CEO, Grocerdel (Cambodia)
  • Venkatachalam Anbumozhi, Senior Energy Economist, ERIA
  • Jootae Kim, Professor, Dankook University, Korea

 The main messages arising from the discussion were:

  • MSMEs need to think holistically and in a multi-dimensional way when developing sustainability practices: environmental, human, social, and economic sustainability;
  • The importance of business-led initiatives to promote actions for the circular economy to make economic models both economic and environmentally sound and sustainable;
  • Digitalization, technology, and innovation play an essential role in leveraging the adoption and promotion of sustainability practices in business sectors. 

Ms Chong highlighted the importance of applying a holistic and sustainable approach to a range of practices from business models to products and services. She also noted that the businesses can be change-makers to promote better sustainable development. Ms Chong also explained how her sustainable business has grown considerably during the pandemic, as customers started to pay more attention to environmentally sustainable practices.

Ms Chetry highlighted the importance of raising the awareness of sustainability across the entire production chain: from the employee to the vendor, and to the customers. Using the example of her own company, she explained how employees, vendors, and customers are satisfied when they know how they contribute to plastic reduction efforts embedded in the business model of her company. She also noted the importance of innovation in implementing better sustainability practices for a better future. 

Prof Kim highlighted the importance of integrating green business models as part of the development of MSMEs. Technological advances are important to scale up green tech adoption.  He mentioned that there is a growing attention to this topic in Korea and the Korean government is supporting MSMEs to adopt green technologies via a new policy called the 'Green New Deal'.

Dr Anbumozhi explained how MSMEs are part of the socio-economic fabric and play an important role to promote sustainability. MSMEs can operate in different contexts: in clusters, as part of global value chains, or predominantly in domestic markets. Depending on these characteristics the way they can ‘go green’ may differ. He also highlighted the importance of the circular economy framework to move from a linear economic model to a circular one. Dr Anbumozhi mentioned the important role that the private sector has to play in the development of ASEAN smart cities. However, he also mentioned some of the challenges that exist for MSMEs to become greener, in particular, access to finance is critical for MSMEs. In many cases, the banking sector is not ready to finance green innovations. There is an opportunity for city governments, through smart city development, to develop new financial instruments to support the green transition.

During the Q&A session, themes that emerged included: (i) the increasing role of the MSMEs to define sustainability in a broad way that includes practices protecting the environment, reinvigorating the local economy, and fostering social inclusion  (ii) the emerging trend for potential business sectors to adopt shared sustainability values (ii) the adoption of circular business models.

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