A Pathway to Sustainability; Indonesia’s Small businesses Aim to be Part of the Solution

September 27, 2022

Participants discusses a business study case and determine aspects to become a sustainable small business

Surabaya, Indonesia - The process of building a business —especially from the ground up— can be financially draining. But how do you keep a healthy portfolio with profit if we were to prioritize the need of the people and planet, as well as sustainability?

A recent UNDP Indonesia-supported workshop, involving Micro-Small Medium Enterprises owners, advocated the paradigm shift towards sustainability business model despite the recent global challenges that have spiked the cost of living and business operations.  

The three-day event, held in East Java’s Surabaya, took place on the sidelines of the Business 20 (B20) event (the official G20 dialogue forum with the global business community, among the most prominent Engagement Groups in the G20) in the province.

The workshop was led by UNDP Indonesia’s Response towards Resilience (RESTORE) Project which previously had trained 1,293 participants through online modules, in view of the pandemic mobility restrictions. The Surabaya workshop was the first off-line event after the pandemic showed signs of abating. Participants learnt about creating business profiles, finance, and also conducting a pitch deck for their businesses.

The discussion highlighted the massive contribution which the MSME can contribute to enforce sustainability business practices in Indonesia.  

"In 2021, MSME contributes as much as 57.84 percent to the overall economic activity in East Java. Micro-Small Medium Enterprises is the backbone. It is important that we pursue economic democracy to grow, develop, ignite innovation, increase the products’ quality to face the future challenges," Dr. Andromeda Komariyah, head of the office of Cooperatives and MSMEs in East Java Province, said. Furthermore, nationally, women-led MSMEs takes an account of more than half of MSMEs.

The workshop, which is part of the initiatives funded by the Japanese Supplementary Budget (JSB) gathered 30 small businesses with 60 participants, where the involvement of women entrepreneurs is significant.

Lia Krismoniyati and her team checked through the canvass model of sustainable business

In extracting best practices, participants shared their successes and failures as they worked towards striking a balance between People, Planet, and Profit. Here are some to the key take aways from the workshop that can put your business on a determined path to sustainability.

Are You the Chief of Everything?

Those who are the “master of all” in their business need to focus on being most efficient. “I do everything by myself. I shop to prepare my products, produce the food, send them, and I also have to market them, “said entrepreneur Ms. Sri Untari.

Keeping It Professional

Keeping it in the family can be a good idea if businesses can separate professional commitment with family’s interest. Family contribution sometimes comes other than a financial commitment.

A business woman, Ms. Fila Chandra Setiawati, the owner of Bafira All Purpose Flour Brand, shared an opportunity she had, noting that an aunt had invested in her business and advised that as her business grew, she benefited from expert advice, which is just as critical.

Running business with your partner still needs to be professional

Business Owners as Storytellers

Creating stories around one’s business might be a way to attract more customers.  Nonetheless when it comes to it, consumers are looking at the quality and the availability of the products. As entrepreneur Mr. Zhafran Basysyar, noted that while “creating a story is only appealing to certain market segments, it may not work with businesses that sell basic staples,”

Mr. Theo Zainuri, an entrepreneur who recovered from a serious addiction to drugs and uses his business to dispel misconceptions and stereotypes, is tapping into storytelling as a marketing strategy to promote the inclusive business concept which is at the heart of sustainability.

“Our products are controversial,” he said referring to his eyewear range named Opium.

“But this is how we share the story of the business that supports awareness for former drug addicts. This is the story that we want people to understand.”

Teo Zanuri raises awareness of his business through background stories via the Sadar Hati foundation

Yolanda Sulastro Hadi, a second generation entrepreneur hopes to make her parents’ business, Sambal Cuk!, more successful by enhancing her business skills through training programmes

Sieltje Kurniawan and Spouse, the next gen of Artisitica Jewelry, developed their own jewellery line using discarded glass

Entrepreneur Herliana displays her sambal products

Entrepreneur Kusyanti, has been actively promoting Batik from around East Java

Commitment to Sustainability Takes Time

Many of the entrepreneurs admitted struggling with issues of sustainability.

Ms. Dewi Meisari Haryanti, Chief Editor ukmindonesia.id and the trainer, encouraged participants to write down their commitments to sustainability effort and to analyze how it could be more sustainable and to develop a path to making it work.

As with anything in business, of course, it will take patience and perseverance.

Various batik patterns from Syafira Batik

Keen to try a local sambal flavour?

Robusta coffee with ginger

Home-made chocolate cookies and ice cream by “Sendok Kayu”

Jewellery made from glass and ceramics

Aromatherapy products by Pius Hermanto

Fritters flour mix proudly produced in East Java

Product innovation of shoes made by crochet

Product Innovation of Crunchy Brownie by Entrepreneur Ms. Putri Galuh

Cold drinks from Amorqyu