Singapore Budget 2012 should provide results-based incentives to help companies reduce energy, water and waste

The Singapore Budget 2012 speech will be delivered by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, in Parliament next Friday. Singapore and the world is expected to face an economic slowdown over the next few years, thus this Singapore Budget is especially important in helping businesses prosper and not falter in the Year of the Dragon.

At Green Business Singapore, our top wish for this year’s Budget is to see the government help more companies reduce their environmental impacts and save on operating costs.

The government can consider results-based incentives to motivate more companies in reducing their environmental impacts, such as water and energy consumption, and waste disposal. The incentives would be based on how much energy, water or waste is reduced by the company, and could include rental or cash rebates, and tax deductions.

Existing government green incentives and funding are often technology-based or restricted to the implementation of a particular process, framework or methodology. In addition, the green incentives and funding usually apply to MNCs and large SMEs or manufacturing companies, and not to smaller SMEs or those in the service industry.

At the end of the day, we want companies of all sizes to reduce energy, water and waste so that they can reduce their operating costs and also do good for the environment. As long as the companies can achieve and verify actual reduction results, it does not really matter what company size they are, which sector they are in, or which technology or process they use. The government should reward any company that takes steps to reduce energy, water and waste, and recognise the company’s sustainability efforts.

For example, there are existing government funding for companies to implement energy efficient equipment or to retrofit equipment, but these technology implementations could be costly upfront and deter companies from doing so, even if there is government funding. There are other ways to reduce energy through non-technology-based initiatives such as increasing employee education, using design thinking, changing behaviour, gamification, or using social web and mobile apps. If companies can use these non-technological ways to reduce energy, then they should be rewarded too.

Another example is companies who are tenants in office buildings and business parks. If the company wishes to reduce its energy, water and waste, there are no existing government incentives. The company usually has to incur extra costs to install energy efficient lighting, water efficient taps, or implement a recycling programme. Although the company could save on its utility bill, it would help the company further if there are incentives to offset its upfront or recurring costs.

Incentives could be adjusted based on how much the company achieved in reducing its environmental impacts. For example, the more energy a company saves, the higher the incentive given to the company, and vice versa. In this way, the government would reward based on results and be technology, process, or industry-neutral. In addition, the government could become more productive by streamlining and consolidating existing incentives and funding programmes, and cause less confusion to the potential applicants. Companies of all sizes would also be motivated to achieve greater reductions.

Businesses need to reduce their operating costs in this time of economic uncertainty. The government can help by providing incentives that would reward companies based on the results of their actual reduction in energy, water and waste, and would benefit companies of all sizes and from all industry sectors.

Image: cut expenses 3 by lusi via stock.xchng

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