Towards a Zero Waste Singapore: Go Green by Re-Engineering your Outcomes

To achieve our vision of a zero waste Singapore, we need to consume less and conserve more. Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

- The Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) had designated 2019 as the Year Towards Zero Waste Singapore.

- With increasing population, urbanisation and economic growth, we are faced with new challenges to manage increasing amounts of waste.

- Just like we are fast moving towards becoming a cashless society, going paperless, especially when it comes to submitting claims and expenses, can help in reducing waste - of time, space, effort and resources.

Did you know that, even though we have a vision of a zero waste Singapore, our recycling rates in the category of paper/cardboard waste stands at a national average of 50% (Waste management and recycling statistics for 2017, NEA), which is lower than the 61% overall average recycling rate across all?

Though the absolute generation of paper/cardboard waste of 1.14M tonnes in 2017 is reducing over time since 2008, we can do a lot more in our offices to contribute towards green initiatives.

A Zero Waste Singapore: It Starts With Going Paperless

Minimising waste at the office by reducing paper and cardboard can be most impactful when implemented by the upper management. This can be done through a few tricks that are just as easy to communicate.

Aside from the green initiative, these transformations will additionally create company-wide changes in employee behaviour by reducing everyone's time, effort and costs.

“Please Glue your Taxi Receipt to your Expense Claim Form”

You’ve probably been through gluing a faded carbon receipt only to have it rejected by your finance manager. Organisations still follow this rule on paper submissions via stacks of templatised payment vouchers that you can easily purchase from bookstores.

Transportation claims are a necessary evil when you have staff who do not own a car in order to perform their job. Increasingly there are drivers who choose not to drive and have options in shared transport services.

Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

Consider switching to digital taxi service companies like Comfort, Grab, Go-Jek that have highly detailed reporting. You can trace the pickup and destination points down to postal code and number of stops in between, which is excellent for mining data-points in geo-targeting, employee effectiveness, and mapping running costs incurred to respective clients. If you are using a sales management tool, you can even pipe transport claims into your tool to understand the cost effectiveness of attracting and maintaining the client.

Post-billing options are open to large companies on credit lines. However, they do require a large deposit to ascertain credibility and this is not the best option as that will mean tying up cash with them.

So, the simplest no-brainer way is to set up your company credit card to every one of your employees’ transport booking service accounts. There is no downtime, and it is transparent to the end users with nothing added for them. Bear in mind that companies should set up time band rules to prevent the abuse of transport claims during non-work hours.

With a simple switch, you have obliterated the process where claimants paste, photocopy, seek approval, and accounts payable to make payment to claimant. A 5-min a week per person redundant task that is crucial for operations is immediately cut down to zero. After all, the point of a claim is to get paid, not complicate the workweek, and reduce the company’s paper footprint.

“What client is this Starbucks receipt for?”

All B2B companies will have entertainment claims from sales and client servicing teams. Or office costs of courier, drinks, stationery, stamps, etc. Submitting such claims follow the similar pain of taxi claims. However, expense claim software begins to move into the realm of accounting and finance software.

Once you stop people from submitting paper and going through mobile, you immediately reduce a lot of waste and make this an incredibly efficient and paperless process.

Our vision of a Zero Waste Singapore can only be achieved through our collective efforts. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Your team benefits from increased convenience as they are 24/7 available to do their claims, with no down time. Your overall organisation benefits from reduced transaction costs and the cost of communicating between your approving manager and the cashier for getting a simple claim settled.

A world of freedom starts to open up to employees once you embark on this. They simply take a picture of the receipt and upload it into their mobile app after selecting the client project numbers.

Hence there is no requirement for the accountant to check back on any employee, and it is completely paperless without the need to bring that piece of carbon paper to make a claim.

Approvals done by managers are all online and submitted to the accountant immediately and seamlessly. Since all the data you need is already captured at the source (i.e. the claimant ensures all form fields are completed), reporting and data-mining is a simple Excel pull once a month, which then becomes an easy exercise for any finance team.

“When was your Last Raise? Let me Check your Employee File.”

When I was an employee, I had to sign my employment papers and a physical HR file was then set up for me to collect photocopies of my certifications, identification card, promotions, salary increments, and certainly my bi-annual performance reviews. The HR departments for any company is full of sensitive information behind locked cabinets.

Like expense claim tools, there is a similar arsenal of HR related software that increases the company’s ability to store all this information paperlessly.

Simple software covers uses such as 360 feedback, employee scheduling, goals, contracts, performance appraisals, salary reviews, promotions and salary increments. Employee contracts are signed digitally and emailed; employee handbooks and organisational policies are also easily updated into the tool.

In this world where Managing Directors and Finance departments are also HR managers, it helps that a non-HR expert is guided in making sure that all pertinent legal and compliant documents are kept within a single platform.

Certainly, you can choose to Dropbox all of your employees’ information. However, there are readily available tools that combine both document management with payroll processing, which is an important aspect of digitally transforming the way you do business. Payroll software automatically writes compliance into salary calculations that are required by IRAS or CPF Board.

Focusing on the outcome and not on the process is a fundamental step towards a zero waste Singapore. Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

Focus On The Outcome and not the Process

Waste can take in many forms; paper/cardboard, or time-waste, or a waste of mind-space. Focusing on the outcome and not on the process is a fundamental change in the way questions are asked.

If you look back at areas of change above, you will see that they are about moving forward the action (i.e. the outcome), whereas sticking pieces of paper on more paper was about who was the approving manager (i.e. the process).

The green initiative is another way of addressing waste in the machinery of managing any business. In the end, any green initiatives and changes made to your business is the by-product of re-engineering. When optimising paperless outcomes carry with it added intangible benefits, it will be worth the effort, as the means to the end justifies itself.

About the Author

Frieda Lee | Director |