UK-based sustainability consultancy Corporate Citizenship has expanded its global footprint to Asia with the opening of a Singapore office on Wednesday, marking the company’s first foray into the region.
The firm, well known for advising global firms such as food giant Unilever and agriculture firm Golden-Agri Resources, also launched a new report providing a snapshot on the state of corporate responsibility in Singapore.
The study, titled ‘Corporate Responsibility in Singapore - The new competitive advantage’, found that Singapore has a strong track record with integrated reporting, with 95 per cent of the largest 20 companies in the country combining non-financial performance on social and environmental issues with the annual report to shareholders.
However, it lags behind in producing stand-alone reports on corporate responsibility. Such reports specifically outline a company’s social and environmental impact and outline its practices, goals, and progress toward achieving certain commitments.
Only 45 per cent of large Singapore companies have produced a separate corporate responsibility report in the last two years compared with a global benchmark of 85 per cent.
Pioneering businesses are taking the bold step of linking corporate responsibility to competitive advantage
Karin Mortensen Laljani, Corporate Citizenship managing director
Speaking at the launch held at the British High Commissioner’s Residence Eden Hall on Nassim Road, Corporate Citizenship managing director Karin Mortensen Laljani noted that “pioneering businesses are taking the bold step of linking corporate responsibility to competitive advantage”.
Companies are finding that they have stronger relationships and enhanced reputations with their customers and key stakeholders as a result, she added.
The study also found that while all the 20 companies studied had embarked on community and social programmes, just 20 per cent had set targets to monitor their progress.
A clear majority - 85 per cent - of companies indicated 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.
Corporate Citizenship’s study, which looked at the largest 20 companies in Singapore according to the Forbes Global 2000 list, examined reporting practices of these companies and compared them with global best practices.
Ms Laljani told Eco-Business separately that large corporates in Southeast Asia are starting to realize that they need to look more than just the maximization of short-term profit to the longevity of their businesses.
As these companies grow, they need to start looking at their supply chain and issues surrounding measuring and reporting their business impact.
This is where Corporate Citizenship, which was set up in 1997 and has offices in London and New York, can help, she said.
“We believe the time is right for us to come out here. Singapore has been our destination-of-choice for a long time, and we’re delighted this has now become a reality.”
Corporate Citizenship, she added, brings global experience and knowledge to the region from work it has done for companies like Unilever, Abbott and Ford and Golden-Agri Resources.
For example, it helped Golden-Agri set up the framework for its sustainability reporting, advising on best practice and standards, such as the Global Reporting Initiative, as well as the practical challenges of collecting, verifying and benchmarking the data presented to stakeholders.
This helps shareholders and the wider public understand the business, its total value chain, the nature of the sustainability challenges it faces and how it is responding to them.
Ms Laljani said one challenge she forsees in Asia is helping companies understand that sustainability is not a constraint.
“It is not. It’s a huge opportunity and it prompts businesses to think differently about what they do and how they do it,” she said.Ms Laljani said one challenge she forsees in Asia is helping companies understand that sustainability is not a constraint.
She also noted that the majority of companies in Asia are not setting targets to improve their business impact and do not have mechanisms in place to measure it.
This is why doing a sustainability report is important, as it helps a firm anaylse what its major impacts are and also help it to define its “social and core purpose”.
“What needs to happen is for corporations to ask: how can we restore something we take from the planet? How can we give back more than we take? This has to move higher up the agenda,” she said
Corporate Citizenship has appointed Ms Junice Yeo, who previously worked on the bilateral Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city project, as director for the region. She will be building the Southeast Asia team as well as provide support to Corporate Citizenship’s clients.
The firm has worked with more than 300 companies to date, worked on more than 140 sustainability reports and published more than 40 research papers on sustainability.
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