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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: 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.

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.

SME EnterPRIZE: Generali celebrates 9 Sustainability Heroes in Brussels

The second edition of Generali’s SME EnterPRIZE, a flagship initiative designed to promote a culture of sustainability among European SMEs, was brought to a close on October 26th, 2022, in Brussels after a one yearlong search for Europe’s most sustainable SMEs.

SMEs collectively represent more than half of Europe’s GDP and 99% of companies in the EU, they are the bedrock of the European economy and are essential drivers of sustainable transition. However, with businesses under strain, now is the time for Europe to double down on keeping on a sustainable path. That means keeping environmental and societal goals, and SMEs, at the heart of major policy initiatives, from the Capital Markets Union, to the EU recovery plan, to the recently announced SME Relief Package and upcoming energy market reforms.

Europe has been a positive and guiding force in the sustainable transformation. The current energy crisis and the potential economic downturn represent a concrete risk for Europe’s geopolitical positioning, for its economic resilience, and for its green transition. In this new complex scenario, more should be done,” said Andrea Sironi, Chairman of Assicurazioni Generali. “As Europe seeks to support SMEs through major policy initiatives, we shouldn’t lose sight of SMEs’ sustainability journey. Supporting them means supporting Europe in achieving its sustainability goals”, he concluded.

Generali crowned the 9 ‘Sustainability Heroes’ drawn from over 6,600 small and medium-sized businesses from across Europe, at an event featuring senior policymakers (including Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for Economy, and Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice), Generali Group local CEOs and top management, leading academics and thought leaders, as well as SMEs themselves.

Generali, together with an expert scientific committee with members from academia, business and think-tanks assessed applicants on the grounds of their social, environmental and community commitments, including the implementation of notable sustainability initiatives in their business activities. The aim is that they can become an inspirational model for fellow entrepreneurs and be ambassadors of sustainability.

The event also saw the presentation of a dedicated White Paper produced by SDA Bocconi – School of Management Sustainability Lab. The research, which interviewed over 1,000 European SMEs, highlighted that while more of Europe’s SMEs had implemented sustainable business models, others were falling behind – a worrying polarisation. It also explained that while NRRP plans were boosting efforts from small and medium businesses on their sustainability journey, barriers to progress – such as access to sustainable finance – remain.

The research explores the progress small and medium-sized businesses have made in implementing sustainable business models, the challenges they face, and what the wider policy-making and financial communities can do to create a greener and more inclusive economy.

Generali Group CEO Philippe Donnet commented: “It is a very challenging time for many small and medium-sized businesses that have had to face crises impacting the entire world over recent years. Europe has made great strides in putting environmental goals and social commitments at the heart of the economy. We must continue to push forward, now more than ever. We have to keep SMEs front and center in all major policy initiatives in order to meet the EU’s green and economic ambitions that are at the heart of building a sustainable and resilient future for all.”

Generali Group General Manager, Marco Sesana stated: “This project is part of our ‘Lifetime Partner 24: Driving Growth’ strategy. Our commitment as a responsible insurer is to foster the sustainable transition and SME EnterPRIZE is a flagship project to help achieve this goal. Today in Brussels, at the heart of the European Union – we have brought together experts, policymakers and the SMEs themselves for a discussion on the road ahead while celebrating success. We simply cannot achieve the inclusive and green future that all of us in Europe share, without SMEs.”

The 2022 ‘Sustainability Heroes’ – “doing well by doing good”

Drawn from the over 6,600 SMEs that participated, Generali has recognized the “Sustainability Heroes”: companies selected in the areas of welfare, environment and community, and coming from the nine European countries that have joined the 2022 initiative: Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Generali Group Head of Sustainability and Social Responsibility Lucia Silva commented: “To build a more inclusive and greener future, SMEs will be essential. As a responsible insurer, Generali is actively engaged in fostering the sustainable transition and SME EnterPRIZE is our flagship initiative to achieve this goal. The companies that we have recognised today are shining examples that show there’s a way to do business that can contribute to commercial success while being better for the environment and the community. They’re doing well by doing good.”

  • R.U.S.Z GmbH (Austria), offers repair services for electrical and electronic equipment in Vienna, and lobbies for the recycling industry and for the sustainable production and consumption of such goods. The committee praised R.U.S.Z. for being “an important initiative, as electrical waste is a significant concern.”
  • Callidus Group ltd (Croatia), an IT services and consulting company with a specialism in sustainability projects, in particular a project to optimize the electric grid transmission, reducing the need for new high voltage lines and enabling the connection of new renewable energy sources to the grid. The committee praised Callidus Group’s “innovative use of digital technologies in the energy sector, leading to smart grids and savings in the use of energy and materials used to construct energy grids.”
  • Sady sv. Prokopa s.r.o (Czechia), (Orchards of St Prokopa) a fruit farm near Temelin that focuses on ecological farming practices and offers employment to people with disabilities in the neighbourhood. The committee called the company “an amazing local farm project, which is sustainable and replicable.”
  • Cycle Terre (France), a company that helps limit the carbon impact of the construction sector with eco-responsible materials made from excavated soil. The committee awarded the company extra points “for making use of the vast available resource, normally regarded as waste.”
  •  Mint Future GmbH (Germany), a platform that connects electric-car drivers to greenhouse gas emissions trading, allowing them to market their CO2 savings to high carbon-dioxide emitters, and reinvest in climate-protection projects. The committee called it “a transformative idea, as many electric vehicle owners either do not know they are owed this compensation or know how to re-invest it in sustainability projects.” 
  • Manual Divat Kft. (Hungary), a family-run glove making business committed to slow fashion and circular economy. The committee singled out the project’s focus on “donating waste leather cuts to be used for other items, and branding their gloves so consumers can track the product lifecycle.” 
  • Agrimad srl (Italy), a Calabrian producer of local specialties, which has made itself self-sufficient in green energy and has put in place initiatives to support the local community. The company, which operates under the Madeo family name, was singled out for “offering employment opportunities in a region where emigration is high”, and its “focus on youth employment and community involvement.” 
  • ALGAplus (Portugal), a seaweed farm with an innovative and environmentally responsible approach to cultivating their produce, itself a sustainable resource with applications across sectors such as food, cosmetics, biomaterials and packaging. The committee said about the initiative that “the potential for contributing to a more sustainable future is deemed to be great.” 
  • Nuevos Sistemas Tecnológicos S.L. (Spain), developers of the NaviLens project, which helps visually-impaired people to find their way around in unfamiliar environments, using their mobile device to detect and communicate information from dedicated QR codes. The committee called it a “ground-breaking innovation to make our societies more inclusive.”

Watch the recording of the event.

The 2022 Sustainability Heroes – “doing well by doing good”

Drawn from the over 6,600 SMEs that participated, Generali has recognized the “Sustainability Heroes”: companies selected in the areas of welfare, environment and community, and coming from the nine European countries that have joined the 2022 initiative: Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

 “To build a more inclusive and greener future, SMEs will be essential. As a responsible insurer, Generali is actively engaged in fostering the sustainable transition and SME EnterPRIZE is our flagship initiative to achieve this goal.
The companies that we have recognised today are shining examples that show there’s a way to do business that can contribute to commercial success while being better for the environment and the community.They’re doing well by doing good.”

Lucia Silva, Generali Group Head of Sustainability and Social Responsibility

SME EnterPRIZE’s Vodcasts

How can we promote a culture of sustainability and responsible business models among European SMEs? Where do we stand, and what can be done to boost their sustainable transition?

We are answering these questions thanks to the contributions by members of our Scientific Committee: from the concepts of impact investing and clusters to Sustainable Development Goals and the findings of Bocconi University’s White Paper, their voices guide us through some of the key issues to be addressed to promote more environmentally and socially responsible businesses in our continent.

Discover our vodcasts