Corporate responsibility in South-East Asia is undergoing a period of dynamic evolution yet only 45% of large Singapore companies have produced a separate corporate responsibility (CR) report in the last 2 years compared with the global benchmark of 85%, according to a new report released today by global sustainability specialists Corporate Citizenship.
Titled Corporate Responsibility in Singapore – The new competitive advantage, the report examines the CR goals, motivations, engagements and reporting of some of Singapore’s largest companies and sets them alongside global best practice.
According to the report, ambitious Singaporean companies want to be global players, which means delivering global standards in all aspects of their business operations, whilst remaining true to their heritage and unique culture. Understanding global CR standards and best practice, businesses can ensure that they act as global citizens ensuring their strategies and programmes can create the most value for everyone involved.
Singapore has a strong track record with integrated reporting, with 95% of the largest 20 companies in the country combining non-financial performance on social and environmental issues with the annual report to shareholders. However, the study finds that producing stand-alone reports on CR for specialist audiences has advanced less rapidly compared with a global benchmark.
“Today we are witnessing a seismic shift in what responsible business practices mean in countries around the world, including Singapore,” said Karin Mortensen Laljani, Managing Director of Corporate Citizenship. “Pioneering businesses are taking the bold step of linking corporate responsibility to competitive advantage and finding that they have stronger and deeper relationships and enhanced reputations with their customers and key stakeholders,” added Ms Laljani.
The report also showed:
- Whilst 100% of the largest companies studied had embarked on community and social programmes, just 20% had set targets to monitor their progress.
- 85% of companies indicate that responsible business practices have reputational benefits for the business. But less than one in three cite examples of other commercial advantages such as cost savings, risk management or stronger innovation. The authors suggest that this could change in the coming years as more companies follow global best practice and identify the business benefits that stem from well-managed responsibility programmes.
The report is based upon a review of the largest 20 companies in Singapore, according to the Forbes Global 2000 list.
Asia could account for half of the world’s output and have an additional 3 billion people with high living standards by the middle of this ‘Asian Century’ according to the Asian Development Bank. If this is realised, the growth in the size and power of many companies in the regional will be profound. Businesses will have a key role to play in solving some of the significant issues facing the region such as climate change, poverty, governance, product safety, human rights and corruption.
“As the world’s centre of gravity shifts east, a massive and powerful new audience of consumers will have their own views on the responsibilities of companies so the future flows of knowledge will be two-way and Singapore companies will have a role in sharing those insights,” said Ms. Laljani.
“Commerce can be a powerful force for change; providing jobs, new skills and investment. Useful products and services can create real social value. For the companies powering the Asian century, success lies in demonstrating that they meet society’s needs in a way that creates value for all. By demonstrating a commitment to responsible business, they can provide the strongest foundations for the rest of the world and for the region,” added Ms Laljani.
Globally, the role of wealth creation and distribution is becoming increasingly shared between governments, businesses and other civic organisations and companies in the region have much to offer as many companies have a long history of playing an active role in society. Philanthropic donations are a common way of giving back to communities and many businesses have employee volunteering programmes and environmental initiatives.
The report, which seeks to shed some light on the significant trends among Singapore’s largest companies engaged in sustainability reporting today, was released yesteraday at a seminar organised by Corporate Citizenship to mark the official launch of the company in the region.
“Singapore – being an increasingly attractive destination for global companies to set up their regional hubs – has been our destination-of-choice for a long time, and we’re delighted this has now become a reality. We bring global experience and knowledge to the region from the pioneering work we have done for companies like Abbott, Ford and Unilever as well as Singapore-listed Golden Agri-Resources. Our Director for the region, Ms Junice Yeo will be based in Singapore and will be building the South East Asia team to support our clients in the region,” concluded Ms. Laljani.