QBE Blog: Singapore SMEs should embrace ESG to improve safety & health

QBE Blog: Singapore SMEs should embrace ESG to improve safety & health

QBE Blog: Singapore SMEs should embrace ESG to improve safety & health

Singapore SMEs’ lack of investment in environmental and social (ESG) initiatives, such as employee well-being, is linked to a rise in the deterioration of workplace safety and health (WSH) performance in recent years.

51% of SMEs experienced a workplace incident in 2022, a 27% increase from 2020, according to a recent survey by QBE*. 2022’s record of the highest number of workplace fatalities over a four-year period in Singapore shows there is plenty of room for improvement from business owners and managers.

ESG can include employee health, wellness and investing in resilience through education and training. A workplace can help create a more resilient culture through the likes of fair pay, volunteering in the local community, energy conservation, recycling, and having good employee benefits including insurance.

While an encouraging 76% say ESG issues are relevant to their business, only 52% of SMEs say they conduct ESG initiatives at least once a year, with 23% less than once every four years.

Cost remains the biggest barrier preventing SMEs from focusing more on ESG issues. In addition, many SMEs expressed concerns that their employees don’t have the relevant skills, and others complain that ESG issues take up too much time.

It is going to take patience and a cultural reset to try and improve these figures. Investment, planning and engaging with employees today can save a business money in the future.

WSH insurance requirements

On 23 May, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced that the Heightened Safety Period (HSP) implemented on 1 September 2022 will end on 31 May 2023, without further extension. While the HSP has served its purpose as an urgent call on employers to prioritise safety and bring down workplace fatalities, the major injuries rate has not improved. Implementing appropriate WSH measures remains as critical as before.

The onus remains on SMEs to educate themselves about WSH insurance requirements and provide employees with WSH insurance coverage beyond mandated levels. Employee accidents and illness can lead to business interruptions and loss of income, harm a company’s reputation, and impact workplace culture.

Through active risk management, SMEs can strengthen areas such as labour conditions (reducing WSH incidents), brand and reputation, customer loyalty and create a more sustainable workplace culture. These can all help improve overall business performance and build resilience for the future.

SMEs will benefit from talking to an insurance partner like QBE, to discuss their options for mitigating business risks, particularly when it impacts human life and overall employee well-being, one of the key tenets of business sustainability.

My team and I remain at your disposal to discuss any issues raised in this blog or to help address any insurance concerns.

You can read more about the survey results here

Best wishes,
Ronak Shah, Chief Executive Officer, QBE Singapore

*Commissioned by QBE Singapore, the SME Survey draws on the responses of 416 SMEs from a wide range of industries in October 2022

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