Miriam Dalli wants business prosperity and sustainability to go hand in hand

Enterprises and lobbyists agree that businesses could benefit from greener and more sustainable business models

Sustainable Development Minister Miriam Dalli (Photo: Malta Gov)
Sustainable Development Minister Miriam Dalli (Photo: Malta Gov)

Profit and environmental impact are two sides of the same coin, Minister Miriam Dalli said on Tuesday, adding that she's hopeful that enterprises will soon start seeing.

Addressing a conference titled 'Enterprises for a Sustainable Maltese Economy', Dalli said that a smooth transition towards a carbon-neutral economy requires years of strong investment that is planned well ahead.

“Decarbonisation of the economy by 2050 might seem far away, but we need to plan ahead and we want to make sure that we are investing ahead in the right areas," she said.

Dalli added that she is fully committed to driving an agenda that enables public and private capital to flow towards greener investments and greener Maltese enterprises.

Kurt Farrugia, CEO of Malta Enterprise, remarked that a lot of incentives and support measures have been provided to industries with the aim of improving the quality of investment and the quality of jobs in Malta.

“We are encouraging businesses to transit to a greener and more carbon neutral operation,” said Farrugia.

He mentioned the €1 million soft loan scheme being offered to businesses for sustainable investments. Additionally, cash grants of up to €50,000 and additional 20% in tax credits will be used to assist SMEs in digitising their business and reducing their carbon footprint.

“We are giving tools and direction but it is now up to chambers and enterpises to take measures so that we could arrive at the common goal of improving the quality of life of citizens while growing in a sustainable manner,” added Farrugia.

Marthese Portelli, CEO of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, said that the Chamber ingrains sustainability in all its activities. “Sustainability is about doing something today to improve prospects for tomorrow.”

Portelli emphasised that the disbursement of funds needs to be effective and must reach out to all businesses, making it easier for all enterprises and businesses to apply for such funds. She also suggested a pro rata disbursement of funds for those enterprises that link sustainability with digitisation.

Portelli tackled the issue of private lending institutions and said that it should be easier for businesses to get funding for digitalisation projects, rather than investing solely into real estate.

Abigail Mamo, Director of Business First and CEO of the Chamber of SMEs, said that the business mentality of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” is outdated. She added that businesses should understand that every small change towards sustainability provides a return.

"The absolute majority of Maltese businesses are SMEs, and smaller enterprises can also benefit from success stories on sustainability," added Mamo. She also remarked that more could be done with regards to green loans from private lending institutions.

Olaf Zahra, Chief Technology Officer of Toly, stated that customers nowadays expect more sustainability and that businesses should focus on the environment and not just on their return on investment.

"Consumers' desires, legislation, company internal values: these all contribute to a drive towards greater sustainability," said Zahra.

Former European Commissioner for Oceans and Fisheries Karmenu Vella pleaded for a shift in mentality towards the blue economy, which he said offers a lot of environmental benefits and economic opportunities.

“The ocean is the main carbon sink, absorbing 90% of the planet's temperature. It is also the main climate regulator […] In spite of all the benefits, the ocean has until recently been totally neglected,” said Vella.

Vella mentioned that a lot of mistakes were made on land through depleted resources. The same mistakes cannot be repeated on the ocean, he said.