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Look beyond the bottom line for growth, Asian corporates urged

Asian businesses should look beyond traditional measures of success and integrate sustainability into their thinking, experts said at an event that recognised the best in sustainability reporting.

Corporate leaders in Asia must look at the impact of their businesses on the environment and society, not just on their balance sheets. Sustainability has to be integrated with business strategy and execution.

This was the challenge set out by former Prime Minister of The Netherlands, Professor Jan Peter Balkenende, who since July 2016 has been external senior advisor at accounting firm Ernst & Young. He has been a strong advocate for businesses to not only focus on revenue but be conscious of their impact on the environment. 

“There are huge opportunities in the new economy to come from integrating the values of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It calls for a change in mindset and re-inventing the mainstream. Asia has a key role to play in this cultural change,” he said.

He was speaking at the Singapore Institute of Directors (SID) Conference at the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre earlier this week. “The Sustainability Imperative” was the theme.

Asian corporates, with particular focus on those listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX), were urged to take bolder measures on sustainability, with more stringent sustainability reporting as one action they could take.

It calls for a change in mindset and re-inventing the mainstream. Asia has a key role to play in this cultural change.

Professor Jan Peter Balkenende, external senior advisor, Ernst & Young

SID chairman Willie Cheng said the introduction of sustainability reporting on a “comply or explain” basis by SGX reflects pressure felt globally to integrate sustainability into their businesses.

“Through this conference, we hope to take sustainability to the next level, and help companies appreciate the importance of acting on sustainability and make a good report in the process, and not see the SGX requirement as an additional burden,” he said. 

To illustrate the steps on how this could be achieved, companies with exemplary sustainability reporting were recognised with awards at the conference. These were companies that have already embarked on sustainability reporting in 2016 or earlier, ahead of the SGX’s “comply or explain” rule on sustainability reporting that comes into effect after December 31, 2017.

The winners in the three categories are: Singapore O&G Limited (Best Inaugural Sustainability Report – Catalist), United Overseas Bank Limited (Best Inaugural Sustainability Report - Mainboard), and City Developments Limited (Best Sustainability Report for Established Reporters — Mainboard and Catalist).

Singapore O&G is a leading group of specialist medical practitioners dedicated to women’s and children’s health and wellness, with a long track record in the obstetrics and gynaecology field in Singapore.

It is one of the few companies in Singapore which already adopted  the recently-introduced Global Reporting Initiatives (GRI) Standards even before they officially come into effect from July 1, 2018. 

Meanwhile, United Overseas Bank Limited (UOB) highlighted in its sustainability report how the bank creates sustainable value by aligning its long-term business strategies with the interests of its stakeholders. UOB’s sustainability approach has sought to address its environmental, social and governance priorities, opportunities, risks and with its align them with its values of honour, enterprise, unity and commitment.

Real estate company City Developments Limited (CDL) is the first property developer in Singapore to adopt the latest GRI Standards. Its report included a new sustainability blueprint – CDL Future Value 2030 — that encapsulates CDL’s long-term goals that support nine SDGs relevant to its business.

All Singapore listed companies were invited to submit their sustainability reports for the financial year ended between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016 to be eligible for the awards. 

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