WHY DID YOUR COMPANY DECIDE TO EMBARK ON SUSTAINABILITY?
My direct answer to the question would be that I did not embark on sustainability - but I do see sustainability as an outcome of Greenology's work in urban greening and technology.
I started Greenology back in 2008, out of my passion for plants and the belief that they would vastly improve urban ecology and peoples' lives. Within the context of such work, sustainability manifests as a physical space that is designed for a balance between our needs for urban living and the natural ecosystems that co-exist within the same urban space.
COULD YOU SHARE YOUR SUSTAINABILITY INITIATIVES?
The day my idea for Greenology sprouted, it was clear as day that the business should not be void of social meaning. One of our longest partnership is with Apex Harmony Lodge, Singapore's first purpose-built home for people with dementia. We run horticulture sessions four times a week as part of Apex's work therapy programme for its residents. Most of the resources that go into running the programme return to the supply chain for our greenwalls, so the social and cultural impacts to such initiatives outweigh the costs involved.
We also work with schools and associations to provide training and work experience for youths with special needs. On the same front, I am currently in talks with partners such as Minds to re-look into employment infrastructure and opportunities for the horticulture and agriculture industries. As both industries evolve to become more tech-driven, it will lose out if talent now is not appropriately prepared for the future workforce.
HOW HAS THE JOURNEY BEEN SO FAR?
The journey has been fulfilling yet challenging at various stages. My greatest fulfilment comes from being able to play a positive impact when it comes to environment and society at large. Being able to convert greying landscape into nature- thriving habitats and bringing nature into indoor environments and connecting people back with nature are the greatest joy for me.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTIONS ON SUSTAINABILITY?
Many times, people are concerned with reaching the final destination or tend to be obsessed with scale of impact, whereas it all starts with making the leap and taking the small steps in the right direction. Once you have started the journey, the rest will unfold as you progress.
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While taking baby steps is important, it is not to say that we should be taking on meaningless initiatives. I have come across offices that implement one-day recycling or "turn-off-the-lights" programmes as part of their environmental CSR programme, without addressing wider issues like the impact of their supply-chain processes, or evaluating their energy consumption patterns. In other words, as business leaders, we should avoid the trap of conflating meaningful forms of "sustainability work" with green tokenism.
COULD YOU SHARE ADVICE ON HOW SMES CAN TAKE STEPS TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS?
Sustainability starts at the leadership level, and involves the change of corporate culture at large. Someone within the organisation must take the baton and champion the sustainable initiative throughout the organisation. This may be challenging at the start but rewarding as the journey unfolds.
I think SMEs should start with looking at their day-to-day processes. For Greenology, I always make it a point for my staff to re-use materials that we tear down after events and exhibitions. All our plants go back to the nursery and live on to be re-used for the next event. This does not sound like rocket science, but we may be surprised by how "wasteful" companies can become when they are not mindful or become careless.