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15 Dec 2020 Updated 16 Dec 2020

Singapore SMEs need to adopt standards: ESG

The Business Times Lynette Tan


 Choy Sauw Kook, seen here speaking at an ISO meeting in September 2019, is the ISO vice-president of technical management. She is only the second Singaporean to helm a principal role at the ISO.


THE demand for quality products and services will grow following the coronavirus pandemic, and Singapore's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will do well to adopt standards, lest they miss out on business opportunities, according to Enterprise Singapore (ESG) director-general of quality and excellence Choy Sauw Kook.

"Covid-19 made companies realise the importance of being resilient, to be able to continue to operate despite disruptions, and to be agile enough to pivot and diversify into new revenue streams," Ms Choy told The Business Times in an interview.

In the logistics industry, for example, firms that had adopted standards were able to continue operating smoothly during the "circuit breaker" period as they provided them with operational and administrative standard operating procedures and training requirements to follow.

In addition, adherence to standards assured their customers of transparency, at a time when concerns over supply chain disruptions flared up. Hence, "many large companies are looking to incorporate standards into their business models and will require the same of their vendors and partners," said Ms Choy.

"Our SMEs are already experiencing it," she added, pointing to the standard on e-commerce transactions - now being used by platforms such as Shopee and Carousell - as an example.

SMEs on those platforms, and even micro businesses, will have to adhere to the standards, she said.

Awareness of this need may be growing. According to ESG, unique page views for standards-related pages on its website increased 36.7 per cent on the year, for the period January to September.

"We encourage SMEs to really make use of standards to help them build quality and trust in their products and services," Ms Choy said.

She was speaking on the back of her reappointment in November as vice-president of technical management at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for another two-year term.

Standards developed by the ISO are recognised by the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, which aims to ensure that technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures are non-discriminatory and do not obstruct trade. The standards are also promoted to the WTO's members worldwide.

Singapore's participation and appointment at the ISO are thus significant in facilitating trade and levelling the playing field for homegrown firms.

Ms Choy is only the second Singaporean to helm a principal role at the ISO, even though the Republic has been part of the organisation since 1966. Former Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong was the first.

"Being involved in the international discourse on standards allows us to be able to contribute to the development of all these rules that are important to facilitate trade," she said.

"And being in the vice-president of technical management role, apart from looking at the technical level of things, also allows Singapore to be able to contribute at the strategic level of what ISO is doing as a global organisation," she added.

Over the years, some locally developed standards have become ISO standards.

Soon, two national standards for the bunkering sector - including the code of practice for bunker cargo delivery from oil terminal to bunker tanker using mass flow - will become ISO standards as well, said Ms Choy.

In her new term, the bulk of her time will be spent on developing standards in the areas of digital transformation and sustainability. Examples include the use of autonomous vehicles on public roads and sustainable financing.


Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.