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Generali and UNDP are building SME resilience in Asia

On March 6th in Kuala Lumpur, Generali reaffirmed its commitment to reducing the protection gap for vulnerable communities worldwide through access to insurance solutions and expanded its flagship SME EnterPRIZE project in Asia

Generali and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) brought together representatives from the Malaysian Ministry of Finance, Bank Negara Malaysia, the SME Association of Malaysia and the insurance and financial communities to present concrete solutions on how to boost small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) resilience against climate change and other risks.

Building on the partnership between Generali and UNDP’s Insurance and Risk Finance Facility, the event is part of a broader commitment to raise awareness, as well as to set the path for insurance to unlock security, sustainability, and greater resilience for SMEs in developing countries.

Generali is also expanding its flagship SME EnterPRIZE project in Asia, building on the engagement carried out over the past three years with thousands of SMEs from across Europe to celebrate and nurture a culture of sustainability.

The event featured:

Jaime Anchústegui Melgarejo, CEO International of Generali
, said: “The MSME community in Malaysia, Thailand and the broader Asia region are an indispensable part of the growth and development stories of these markets. However, they face very real and intensifying risks from climate change and other factors that are affecting business continuity and their ability to capture emerging opportunities. Insurance is at the heart of the solution for making SMEs and MSMEs more resilient and is the driving force behind Generali’s partnership with UNDP. Bringing SME EnterPRIZE to Asia, launching our SME Loss Prevention Framework and progressing our Insurance Innovation Challenge Fund are key milestones in our effort to support vulnerable businesses in Asia. I’m eager to continue our collaboration with UNDP and find new ways to make a lasting impact.”

Rob Leonardi, Regional Officer International – Asia, Generali, said: “MSMEs have long been a key driver of growth and innovation in Asia. Their contributions to the development of this region are indisputable, yet they are increasingly vulnerable to risks flowing from climate change, geopolitical tensions and market disruptions. Our partnership with UNDP recognises these challenges and is aimed at utilising insurance and risk finance solutions to increase coverage among MSMEs and boost their resilience. The various initiatives are all designed to meet businesses where they are in their journeys and ensure they have access to the solutions they need to thrive. I’m grateful for the hard work that has gone into this partnership so far, and I look forward to what more we can achieve together in the future.”

Lucia Silva, Generali Group Chief Sustainability Officer, said: “Promoting a culture of sustainability among SMEs and ensuring their financial resilience means supporting sustainable development and reducing the protection gap for vulnerable communities. This is why we have developed SME EnterPRIZE, our flagship initiative which supports SMEs in their transition to socially and environmentally sustainable business models. And today, it is with great pride that we see this project growing also in Asia, building on the engagement carried out with thousands of SMEs from across Europe over the past years. We firmly believe public-private partnerships and the direct involvement of SMEs themselves will be critical to achieve the goals that we share with UNDP: that is how we will remain on the right track to build a more inclusive and greener future, for people and the planet.”

Niloy Banerjee, Resident Representative, UNDP Malaysia said: “With SMEs making up 48.2% of national employment and 38.4% of GDP, the crucial role they play in the economic ecosystem is beyond doubt. Yet they remain most vulnerable to shocks, whether from natural disasters exacerbated by climate change, pandemics or other disruptions to the manufacturing or logistics continuum. We must rapidly support the building of resilience and staying power of SMEs against all foreseeable risks through holistic and innovative instruments and solutions. Insurance would be one of the most significant safety nets for SMEs.

Jan Kellett, Global and Corporate Lead on Insurance and Risk Finance, Head of the Insurance and Risk Finance Facility, UNDP, said: “In the ASEAN, where MSMEs make up 45% of regional GDP, their vulnerability to rapidly rising climate and other risks is not only a development challenge but an immense opportunity for public and private sectors to come to together and help businesses develop their capacity to understand and manage these risks.”

Building MSME Resilience in Southeast Asia

During the event, the “Building MSME Resilience in Southeast Asia” joint report was launched, focusing on selected value chains in Thailand and Malaysia. The report, which complements Generali’s SME EnterPRIZE White Paper, proposes an alternative approach to identifying the risks and needs of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), developing risk management and insurance services, and delivering these solutions to the MSME community.

The SME Loss Prevention Framework

Generali and UNDP have also presented their SME Loss Prevention Framework, a digital tool leveraging the power of data to raise the readiness and awareness of SMEs to the risks facing vulnerable communities, starting in Malaysia with the flood risk.

Hosted on a user-friendly online platform, this framework will also be developed as a mobile app and can be spread to other countries in Asia and in the world. SMEs can find advice on how to protect their activities in the face of climate challenges and other risks, while ensuring the resilience of such an important segment for developing countries also against unpredictable events like natural catastrophes.

The Insurance Innovation Challenge Fund Malaysia

Following the launch of the “Insurance Innovation Challenge Fund” in September last year, which aims to incentivise the development of innovative insurance products and services in Malaysia, the event also showcased five innovative solutions for insurance to enhance SME resilience against climate and other risks.

In the upcoming months, finalists will be announced, of which two winners will be awarded up to US $40,000 each, along with technical assistance to support the development of their ideas and the opportunity to leverage Generali and UNDP’s global presence.

Discover more in the event’s recording available here.

SME EnterPRIZE goes to Asia

On March 6th, follow the live streaming of Generali and UNDP’s event dedicated to building SME resilience in Asia

Generali is expanding its flagship SME EnterPRIZE project in Asia, building on the engagement carried out over the past three years with thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from across Europe to celebrate and nurture a culture of sustainability.

On March 6th, Generali and UNDP, the United Nations Development Programme, will come together in Kuala Lumpur with representatives from the Malaysian Ministry of Finance, Bank Negara Malaysia, SME Corp, SME Association as well as the insurance and financial community to present concrete solutions on how to boost SME resilience against climate change and other risks.

The event will feature:

  • The presentation of a joint research report titled “Building MSME Resilience in Southeast Asia”, with a focus on Malaysia and Thailand, detailing key risks and alternative approaches to insurance for MSMEs
  • The launch of the SME Loss Prevention Framework, a digital tool offering advice to Malaysian SMEs on how to protect their activity in the face of climate challenges and other risks
  • The showcase of innovative solutions for SME protection in Malaysia in the framework of the Insurance Innovation Challenge Fund Malaysia

The event will start at 10:30 AM (GMT+8) and the live streaming will be available at the following link:

SME EnterPRIZE: Generali boosts a culture of sustainability for Europe’s SMEs

Generali hosted the closing event of the third edition of SME EnterPRIZE, the Group’s flagship initiative crowing the 10 “Sustainability Heroes”, and unveiled the new edition of the White Paper developed in collaboration with SDA Bocconi, which also voices calls for more action from policymakers and financial institutions.

The ceremony saw the attendance of senior European policymakers – including Valdis Dombrovskis, the Executive Vice President of the European Commission for An Economy that Works for People and European Commissioner for Trade, Paolo Gentiloni, the European Commissioner for Economy, Martina Dlabajová, the Co-chair of the SME Intergroup, European Parliament, and Pina Picierno, the EU Parliament Vice-President – academic leaders, Generali’s senior leadership, as well as SMEs themselves.
This edition also hosted a message from Marcos Neto, the Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau of Policy and Programme Support. 

Europe’s SMEs call for more action from policymakers and financial institutions

This year’s edition of the White Paper developed in collaboration with SDA Bocconi – School of Management Sustainability Lab, built on the basis of discussions with over 1,000 SMEs from across Europe, has captured the challenges and opportunities that SMEs are facing and has suggested policy initiatives for Europe’s decision makers to implement.

The research confirmed the robust growth of SMEs engaged in a sustainable transformation and underlined the benefits of adopting sustainable business practices. It also voiced SMEs’ calls to policymakers and financial institutions for a clear legislative sustainability framework and a boost to increase resilience and innovation.

The full White Paper, which includes deep dives on each country taking part in Generali’s SME EnterPRIZE initiative, can be downloaded here.

Philippe Donnet, Generali Group CEO, said: “Much has happened since 2021, when Generali launched SME EnterPRIZE, its flagship project to promote a culture of sustainability among European small-and medium-sized enterprises and support them as they integrate it into their businesses. While these companies had to endure significant challenges related to the energy crisis, supply chain disruptions, the inflation and the economic and geopolitical uncertainties, the third White Paper issued by Generali and SDA Bocconi underlines that the number of European SMEs that are embracing sustainable business models keeps increasing, and that the business case for doing so remains very strong.

However, there are still substantial obstacles and barriers preventing more companies from following the same path. Therefore, it is key that policymakers act to reduce bureaucracy and raise awareness, while larger private enterprises must offer not only products or services but also their know-how. It is a complex process that will take time, and we are not there yet. But we must spare no effort – as it is in the interest of all of us to build a stronger, safer, more prosperous and sustainable Europe.”

Stefano Pogutz, Professor of Practice of Corporate Sustainability and Director full-time MBA program, SDA Bocconi, said: “Our research highlights that the approach of European SMEs to sustainability remains solid, even during the challenging past years. In 2023, 44% of European SMEs adopted a more formalized approach to sustainability or are in the process of adopting one, up 3% from the previous year, and up 10% from a similar 2020 pan-European investigation.  We consider these findings positive. Despite the challenges faced in recent years by SMEs, such as the pandemic and the recovery, the inflation and raw materials and energy costs increase, and the war in Ukraine, we observe a significant resilience.  Anyhow, for the sustainability transition to happen, we need to onboard the remaining companies, still undecided or reluctant to embrace the evolution. In order to do so, we must work on alleviating the barriers still faced by these companies, such as lack of institutional support or lack of resources, and, on the other hand, explain the benefits gained by SMEs that embraced the transition. 

Positive benefits, in fact, are obtained in all the areas: organizational, relational, market and competitive domains. Just a couple of examples: 76% of SMEs experienced either resource or energy efficiency increase. This goes straight to the bottom line, in terms of reduced costs. And 68% accessed new markets, with positive results in terms of revenues. In order to onboard undecided and laggards, we must explain and convince them, through these results, that sustainability is not just a cost, but an investment with positive returns.”

Celebrating the 2023 Sustainability Heroes

Generali’s third SME EnterPRIZE event in Brussels celebrated the ten “Sustainability Heroes”, companies drawn from the over 7,600 SMEs that participated in the areas of Environment and Social, and coming from the European countries that have joined the initiative: Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.

Generali Group General Manager, Marco Sesana said: “Our ‘Lifetime Partner 24: Driving Growth’ strategy has sustainability as its originator. It is a lens for how we see our business and our relationship with the communities that we are part of. As Europe’s leading insurer we have been raising awareness on the challenges that SMEs face for three years and have reached thousands of SMEs across Europe to find the most sustainable ways of working, highlighting businesses that are doing well by doing good. At the same time, we have championed research to understand the challenges and opportunities SMEs face. The three years of SME EnterPRIZE have underlined that there is still a strong commitment from SMEs to make their business more sustainable, despite a challenging environment. We will continue to support their journey to build an inclusive, green and sustainable European economy.”

  • Dorfplatz STAW (Austria), which offers co-working spaces and the chance to organise events, workshops, and cultural and social initiatives for the local community.
  • Humana Nova (Croatia), a social cooperative that offers employment opportunities to people with disabilities, involving them in the upcycling of clothing through repair and alteration, and the recovery of yarn from clothes that are no longer usable, to create new garments without resorting to virgin yarn.
  • Biopekárna Zemanka (Czech Republic), a bread and cake shop that uses residual raw materials from other food production, recyclable packaging, and electricity from renewable sources.
  • La Conciergerie Solidaire (France), which promotes employability and social integration by offering concierge services to companies, neighbourhood communities and other meeting places.
  • Pervormance International (Germany), which has designed a zero-emission cooling system suitable not only for buildings and vehicles but also for clothing, to prevent overheating for athletes, for health needs, and for workplace safety.
  • Sudár Birtok (Hungary), a family-run business specialising in the cultivation and processing of organic spices and herbs.
  • Planetek Italia (Italy), which offers solutions for the use of geospatial data while contributing to the sustainable development of the aerospace industry.
  • Miranda Bike (Portugal), an original equipment manufacturer that contributes to sustainable mobility by supplying customized components for bicycle manufacturers, using renewable electricity and recycled materials.
  • Lumar (Slovenia), a family-owned business with 30 years of experience in prefabricated wooden buildings and developing solutions for “passive houses” (i.e., energy-efficient buildings).
  • Maximiliana (Spain), which has developed smartphones with an operating system designed for use by elderly people that can be managed remotely by family members through a special app, allowing relatives to stay in touch and combat loneliness and isolation in the elderly.

Generali & SDA Bocconi Research: SMEs seek more public support to improve sustainability

NextGenerationEU funds have boosted more than half of the most sustainable businesses – which have proved to be more resilient to external shocks. However, as energy prices, inflation and war in Ukraine hinder efforts, SMEs ask policymakers for tax incentives, EU funds, and education initiatives to make their businesses more sustainable

Europe’s small and medium-sized enterprises are seeking a boost from policymakers in order to make their businesses more sustainable, according to research carried out by SDA Bocconi School of Management in partnership with Generali for the SME EnterPRIZE project, with the first findings anticipated on the UN’s Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprise Day falling on 27 June.

According to the survey, SMEs urged policymakers to offer tax incentives to promote sustainable products and services (73%, of all SMEs surveyed), subsidized funds from the European Union to finance the green transition (67%) and an advance for education and capacity building (63%).

The research, which was carried out by SDA Bocconi’s Sustainability Lab, reached the owners and managers of over 1,200 SMEs from 9 European countries.

Barriers to adopting sustainable business practices have increased

59 percent of SMEs surveyed identified energy price rises as negatively impacting their approach towards sustainability, while 58 percent cited inflation.

The percentage of European SMEs perceiving significant barriers as holding back their sustainable transition has also risen across a number of key areas. Over 50 percent of SMEs indicated that impact from a lack of institutional support from regulation and bureaucracy hindered their efforts, doubling compared to 2022. 49 percent of SMEs cited a lack of public incentives, up from 28 percent last year. SMEs also identified a lack of a clear legislative framework, and missing internal skills and competencies, as barriers, which have increased year-on-year.

Sustainable SMEs are more resilient to external shocks

The survey also found that 52 percent of businesses which have already implemented a sustainability plan said they felt a positive impact from the NextGenerationEU funds, compared to only 20 percent of those with no plan. Businesses with the most-developed sustainability plans – i.e., including employee welfare initiatives, community engagement, and environmental-related actions such as circular economy, energy efficiency, and decarbonization – have also proved more resilient to external shocks, such as inflation, energy price rises or the war in Ukraine. There was also a clear indication that companies with a sustainability focus benefited from a better environmental impact (82%), increased customer satisfaction (75%) and an enhanced reputation (64%).

Generali Group General Manager, Marco Sesana, said: “SMEs play a central role as the true engine of our economy. It is clear that new challenges and barriers are risking SMEs efforts to become more sustainable. At the same time, SMEs are identifying where, and how, they can be supported to overcome these barriers – indicating a key role to play for Europe’s policymakers. The importance of the sustainable transition is also highlighted in this research: SMEs which have adopted sustainable practices benefit from an improved performance in key business results and gain greater resilience from external shocks. With the third edition of SME EnterPRIZE, Generali reaffirms its commitment to promoting a culture of sustainability among SMEs.”

 Despite the challenges faced by businesses in recent years, our latest research highlights the resilience of European SMEs when it comes to embracing a more structured approach to sustainability. Our findings reveal that 43% of the SMEs in our sample have either adopted or are in the process of adopting a formalized sustainability strategy. This represents a 3% increase compared to our previous investigation in 2022 and a 10% increase from a similar analysis conducted in 2020,” said Francesco Perrini, Associate Dean for Sustainability and Scientific Director of the Sustainability Lab at SDA Bocconi School of Management, Full Professor of Management at the “Management & Technology” Department at Bocconi University.

What’s even more noteworthy is that the business case for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices is now clearer than ever. Our survey reaffirms that SMEs that have embraced an ESG approach are reaping benefits across all areas, surpassing the already positive results observed last year. For instance, 82% of the interviewed SMEs reported improvements in their environmental impact, while 74% noted enhanced operational efficiency. Additionally, 68% of the SMEs reported accessing new markets, indicating that sustainability credentials are increasingly crucial for SMEs seeking to enter and expand into new market segments.”

Snapshot of Europe’s SMEs –
German and Italian companies lead the way

Over half of German (55%) and Italian (51%) interviewed SMEs stated that they already implemented a plan to foster their sustainable transition or were soon to introduce one. This was followed by Portugal (49%) and Austria (44%). The European average of 43 percent was mirrored in Spain. Falling below the average was France, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Croatia.

The country with the largest amount of companies with no sustainability plan in action yet was Czech Republic (46%), followed by Croatia (44%) and France and Spain (41%, respectively). The European average was 37 percent, which was also exceeded by Spain, and Hungary. Austria stood at 37 percent, while a smaller number of “laggards” were found in Germany, at just 30 percent, and Italy and Portugal at 33 percent.

Year-on-year, the number of SMEs planning to, or having already implemented a plan, rose by 2 percentage points (p.p.) across Europe. The largest increase year-on-year was seen in Italy, which rose by 14 p.p., followed by Germany, at 8 p.p., and Hungary at 4 p.p.. All other countries saw a decrease, with France, Czech Republic and Spain recording a 3 p.p. drop. As there was no 2022 data record for Croatia and Portugal, their data is compared to 2020. Portugal rose by 13 p.p. while Croatia decreased by 6 p.p.

The European average of SMEs with no sustainability plan dropped by 6 p.p. to reach 37 percent. The situation in Italy got significantly better with a 23 p.p. improvement; in Germany, the number of “laggards” fell by 8 p.p. year-on-year with decreases also seen in Hungary, Austria, and Czech Republic. Spain rose by 2 p.p., while France was stable. Both Croatia (+30 p.p.) and Portugal (+26 p.p.) increased significantly compared to 2020.


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3rd edition of SME EnterPRIZE: Generali extends its search for Europe’s most sustainable SMEs

Generali is seeking to boost a culture of sustainability in SMEs and reinforce their sustainability, competitiveness, and innovation for a greener and more inclusive European economy. To achieve this goal, the Group collaborates with SDA Bocconi-School of Management and European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME

Generali’s SME EnterPRIZE, its flagship initiative to boost a culture of sustainability in Europe’s SMEs, is underway. Generali is searching for the most sustainable SMEs across Europe, looking to find best practices which can inspire other entrepreneurs and help society tackle our environmental and social challenges.

This year’s edition, the third one, will involve SMEs from ten EU countries: Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain.

In each country, Generali will work through its distribution network, local partners, and the member associations of European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME in all involved EU countries to discover local Sustainability Heroes who will be given special recognition at a dedicated event in Brussels this Autumn. The ‘Sustainability Heroes’ are entrepreneurs that have implemented notable sustainability initiatives in their business activities that can become an inspirational model for fellow entrepreneurs. The initiative highlights best practices across two categories: Environment and Social.

More information for SMEs on how to participate

In partnership with SDA Bocconi – School of Management, there will also be a dedicated White Paper and Research project to understand the challenges and opportunities Europe’s SMEs face in their sustainability journey. Generali has also established a strategic partnership with European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME, through their R&D project platform GreenerSME, aimed at further reinforcing sustainability, competitiveness, and innovation in European SMEs.

Generali believes that Europe’s SMEs are essential to meet the EU’s ambition to build a greener and more inclusive economy. Across the past two years, SME EnterPRIZE reached over 13,000 SMEs in its search for Sustainability Heroes, and, with this edition, will have interviewed more than 2,000 SMEs as part of the White Paper research project.

Philippe Donnet, Generali Group CEO, said: “We launched SME EnterPRIZE with the aim to promote a culture of sustainability among SMEs and support them as they embrace it, while at the same time, give public visibility to the most inspiring success stories. This is part of our effort to make Generali the Lifetime Partner to SME enterprises in Europe. In the previous two editions of our initiative, we have reached out to over 13,000 SMEs through our distribution networks, and looked at how institutions can help accelerate sustainability transition through policy choices – which is at the heart of SDA Bocconi’s research and White Paper. Our commitment to SME enterprises remains as strong and as meaningful as ever, since Europe’s sustainable future will depend on their success.”

If we are asked how to convince SMEs to embrace the sustainable transition, an excellent starting point would be the ESG ‘business case’”, said Francesco Perrini, Associate Dean for Sustainability at SDA Bocconi School of Management, Full Professor of Economics and Business Management, and Scientific Coordinator of the SME EnterPRIZE White Paper research project. “Our research confirms the positive link between sustainability-oriented social and environmental commitment and a range of corporate performance benefits. In other words, SMEs that invested early in sustainability – including in clean and renewable energies, energy efficiency, and saving, reuse or recycling of materials – are now better equipped than others in facing the complexities we are experiencing, seizing new competitive and market opportunities, and managing their risks more effectively.”

Stefan Moritz, Secretary General of European Entrepreneurs CEA-PME underlined that “countering climate change and promoting sustainable development is a priority for the majority of SMEs and Mid-Caps, and it will be even more in the coming years. Small and Medium-sized companies as well as Mid-Caps in this process towards a Green Economy need to be supported, assisted, encouraged, and not overloaded with bureaucratic or economic burdens that make it more and more difficult to cope with the challenges ahead of us. SME EnterPRIZE is a great positive example on how we can encourage more companies to follow the good examples of others. We as Europe’s Mittelstand are proud to be Generali’s partner in this.

Resilient, innovative, and responsible: the European sustainability Heroes

Generali presents a short film dedicated to the SME EnterPRIZE initiative to tell, through the voices of its protagonists, the search for the “Sustainability Heroes”, their stories and their commitment for a greener and more inclusive society. A journey across Europe that sees the Group standing by small and medium-sized enterprises in the sustainable transition. For people, planet and prosperity.

Nine “Sustainability Heroes”, ambassadors of virtuous practices in the fields of welfare, environment and community, an example and source of inspiration for the whole business landscape. These are the small and medium-sized enterprises selected among more than 6,600 companies participating to the 2022 edition of SME EnterPRIZE, Generali’s initiative to promote the culture of sustainability among SMEs in Europe, and coming from the 9 countries that joined the project: Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Through interviews with Lucia Silva, Generali Group Head of Sustainability & Social Responsibility, as well as with the entrepreneurs at the centre of the project’s 2022 edition, this short film guides us through their stories, innovative ideas, and commitment, showing how so many European companies have already embarked on the sustainability journey and how they can show other entrepreneurs the way towards a greener and more inclusive society.

Generali’s goal is to create an ecosystem of stakeholders – companies, institutions, research and academiato promote dialogue on sustainability and support the green transition of small and medium-sized companies, which represent 99% of the EU’s businesses, employing more than 100 million people and globally producing over half its GDP.

The sustainability transition will be challenging but possible for European SMEs. Even more than that, it is desirable, as shown by the success of business models adopting an approach that integrates sustainability and is based on careful planning, while identifying objectives and performance indicators. This is also what makes it possible to achieve better customer satisfaction, a better reputation, more efficiency and even increased market share.