There are 3 famous values of living; Be good, Do good, and Feel good. I could even add a fourth that says Look good! These are basic principles of life that I live by, because I think that more often than not, it does not hurt to be a nice person.
As a small business owner myself, I am constantly looking for ways that I can give back to my community. Being in Singapore’s Instagram thrift shop community, we focus a lot on environmental issues and unethical production of clothing. Hence, our entire business is actually already helping our environment and community!
However, if your business does not revolve around solving social issues or environmental sustainability, here are some ways you can give back to the community using your business.
1: Purchase from other local brands/small businesses
Support your fellow local businesses by purchasing from them! For example, you can buy ingredients/materials for your products or purchase furniture for your shopfront.
Owners of local furniture brands (from left): Mr Jonathan Hee from Meykrs; Ms Tan Li Ling from Wheniwasfour; Ms Pamela Ting from Scene Shang; and Mr Gustavo Maggio from Outofstock.
Source: Home and Decor
Supporting local businesses, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic will be extremely helpful for their company, and will be beneficial to yours too.
Apart from purchasing from local businesses for your business, you can also support the local food and beverage industry by ordering your food from them as a normal customer! Try to avoid using third-party delivery services if possible, to maximise the revenue that the restaurant receives.
Acai from Singaporean brand JUJU. They have a store in Botanic Gardens and sell their products online as well.
Western cuisine from Crossings Cafe, a social enterprise that donates all profits to charitable causes and supports the disadvantaged community by providing them with employment opportunities.
You can also support your local co-operatives such as buying food items from NTUC FairPrice, electrical servicing from Agape Energy Efficiency, or getting financial aid from credit co-operatives. Credit co-operatives such as AUPE offer speedy loans to members. This may help you with your own business’ finances!
NTUC FairPrice’s housebrand items are typically cheaper than other brand’s products in store.
Agape Energy Efficiency’s air conditioner servicing.
Source: Agape Energy Efficiency
AUPE has a renovation loan that you can apply for to renovate your home/shopfront!
Source: AUPE Credit Co-operative
If possible, support your local charities, non-profit organizations, co-operatives and social enterprises! Your support will reap even more benefits for the community since these organizations are primarily meant to help them.
2: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Firstly, REDUCE. Some examples include reducing consumption of single-use plastics, water, electricity, and more. As a business, it is likely that you will be purchasing your inventory in large quantities from suppliers. Some of these items may be wrapped with unnecessary packaging. Start reducing the amount of packaging waste by informing your suppliers beforehand that you do not want additional packaging materials.
Styrofoam sheets, bubble wrap and polymailers
It will be beneficial to the environment if we all try to use alternative forms of packaging such as paper or other biodegradable materials. I personally use paper envelopes to mail my products out to customers. The only plastic I use is bubble wrap, which I obtain from the packaging of my products from suppliers.
Local brand Telobag manufactures multi-purpose bags made from Cassava starch, that is biodegradable in 180 days, can be dissolved in hot water and is even edible! If a Telobag is discarded into the ocean and is ingested by sea animals, it is not harmful to them at all unlike normal plastics. Telobags are also non-toxic when incinerated.
Telobag’s products include polymailers for shipping items, trash bags, plastic bags, pet waste bags and more. They are a great alternative to plastics, and are at a reasonable price point. Their size 36 polymailers only cost $13 for 25 pieces!
Polymailers from Telobag
Secondly, REUSE. Like I mentioned earlier, I try my best to salvage bubble wrap and other packaging materials that I receive whenever I purchase my items. I then reuse these to package my own customers’ orders, so as to not waste any of the plastic.
Packing customers’ orders in a reusable cloth bag and with reused bubble wrap.
This practice can also be carried over to daily life, by reusing various items such as plastic bottles to water plants or reusing plastic bags to store waste.
Watering my plants with an old plastic bottle
Props used for photoshoots can also be reused in future projects, returned to the store (if in mint condition), or given away to someone in need.
For more ways to reuse everyday items, visit SCOOP’s article on 3 types of items you can reuse at home here.
Lastly, RECYCLE. I am sure we have all seen the recycling bins around Singapore, but do you know how to properly dispose of your recyclable trash into these bins? You are actually supposed to ensure that everything you throw into the recycling bin is clean!
No food, no liquids, no tissue paper.
Rinse any item that still has food or liquid remnants to prevent contamination of other items in the recycling bin. Doing this also ensures that the items can actually be recycled instead of discarded for contamination.
Electronic waste should not be discarded in this recycling bin. Instead, there are specific e-waste collection points which can be found here.
For more information on Singapore’s recycling bins, visit this link!
If your business handles food, there may be leftover food that gets thrown away from time to time. To reduce food wastage, you can donate these leftover foods to various food banks in Singapore. These food banks then donate the food to disadvantaged communities in Singapore, such as low-income families, people with disabilities and injured migrant workers. Check out how the youth are going about this green effort in their schools!
Free Food For All volunteers packing food for their beneficiaries
Source: Free Food For All
Sometimes, my clothing business leaves me with some clothes that I am unable to sell off even after offering discounts. How do I handle all these excess inventory? I donate them!
Unsold items from my shop and my closet
I donate my unwanted clothes to The Salvation Army most frequently, however there are other thrift shops and organizations that accept clothing donations as well. A list of places to donate used clothing, children’s toys and furniture can be found here.
If you find yourself still struggling to adapt to start your recycling habits, it might be you are not too sure about the recycling standard that every household can adopt.
3: Volunteer your time and skills
Typical company bonding activities may include art jamming and escape rooms, but why not do something more meaningful? Volunteering for a social cause that you and your employees care about can bring all of you closer, understand each other better and of course, benefit the cause that you are volunteering for.
I visit schools and orphanages in Thailand to celebrate birthdays and have fun with the children. You can do something similar for disadvantaged groups in Singapore or overseas as well!
A social enterprise you can volunteer at is NTUC Health, by helping out at their senior day care and activity centres. Corporate organizations exploring Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can also partner with NTUC Health for this!
Elderlies making terrariums at NTUC Health
Source: NTUC Health
If you have skills like carpentry work, help build some furniture for a charitable organization! Computer programming? Help them improve their website! You can also partner with organizations to host workshops and share about your experience or other skills you may have, to inspire the beneficiaries there. Teaching others a valuable skill can actually empower and help them!
Those are 3 ways you can help the community with your small business and even as an individual. I hope that this article has inspired you to do good with what you have!
This article is brought to you by Loh Jae Yee. Jae Yee is a third-year student in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. She is currently interning with SNCF from March 2021 to August 2021. She is also constantly experimenting with fashion and making her own clothes and jewelry!