ITC Shares

How data helps small business manage resources efficiently

21 December 2023
Ana Batalhone and Cherika Hardjakusumah, International Trade Centre

In today's data-driven world, data has become the new gold, offering a potential for businesses to address resource inefficiencies


Over the past six years, we have worked closely with over 250 small businesses in 15 countries coaching them on resource efficiency and witnessing their challenges firsthand.

One thing that stood out: small businesses struggle to monitor and measure their resource consumption, making it challenging for them to assess and track their environmental performance. They often remain unaware of their resource inefficiency, whether due to limited awareness or access to relevant tools.

For example, water consumption, electricity and energy consumption are not easily monitored or controlled without reliable data.

Small businesses are at a disadvantage compared to larger firms as they are less likely to have a resource management system, which limits their ability to reduce operational costs. If these inefficiencies accumulate over time, they result in higher costs and missed opportunities for growth.

Apparel production facilities in Ethiopia
© ITC/ Yonas Tadesse

The challenges in data collection and management

During our consultations with small businesses, we identified two main challenges related to data collection linked to environmental performance.

First, small businesses in developing countries lack reliable and accessible data collection tools specifically tailored to their needs. They also emphasized the importance of user-friendliness and accessibility in their local language.

Second, managing the collected data can be overwhelming for small businesses, as they often lack access to IT systems or professionals who can efficiently manage and leverage the data for informed decisions.

This further emphasizes the need for simplified and accessible solutions tailored to the capabilities of small businesses.

Data collection systems can help small businesses in establishing baselines, benchmarks and improvement targets. They help monitor and manage environmental impacts by tracking factors such as wastewater pollution levels.

The system also facilitates the production of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reports, which assess how businesses manage their impact and allow for performance comparison. Additionally, it can also be used for internal purposes to make informed business decisions.

The Green Performance Toolkit - designed with and for small business

Recognizing the pressing need to address these challenges, ITC developed the Green Performance Toolkit, which is a free online tool for small businesses to help them become resource efficient and start their journey in the low-carbon transition.

This toolkit specifically targets the apparel/textiles and agro-processing sectors in developing countries, acknowledging their unique needs. Small businesses can use it to assess and track their performance across eight areas, namely Environmental Management System, Energy, Water, Waste, Wastewater, Air Emissions, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Chemicals/Soil.

The toolkit offers numerous benefits to businesses, including identifying inefficiencies in resource consumption and waste management, providing a high-level view of environmental stewardship, and a structured framework for consistent monitoring and tracking of sustainability progress.

It also helps identify cost-saving opportunities and prepares businesses for obtaining environmental standards and certifications.

When developing the toolkit, we conducted extensive testing directly with small businesses. Throughout this process, we collected feedback and made adjustments based on these valuable insights.

Our main goal while developing the tool was to make sure that it caters to the needs of different small business types. Whether an export-ready medium enterprise interested in generating reports to be used as part of their ESG reports or a micro-enterprise wanting to track their energy consumption over time, all types of small businesses can benefit from using the tool.   

ITCShares Green Performance
Piloting activity in Malaysia

At COP28: Small businesses take stage and climate action

After a series of pilots in Bangladesh, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, and Saint Lucia, the Green Performance Toolkit was  launched at COP28.  

During the launch, we sat together with business support organizations, entrepreneurs and development cooperation agencies to discuss ways to resource efficiency. The event highlighted the crucial need to empower more small businesses with the necessary resources and tools to drive change and scale their solutions, and how ecosystem enablers can play a key role in this regard.

By enhancing their environmental performance, companies not only take climate action but also strengthen their competitiveness, resilience and sustainability in the long run.

At COP28 in Dubai