Ethics, sustainability and brand reputation in Asia Pacific

Ethics, sustainability and brand reputation in Asia Pacific

At Ethical Corporation we are continually hearing how a serious commitment to governance, ethics and sustainability creates long-term benefits for shareholders. It’s been a while since the researches and financial institutions finally managed to show return on investments in monetary terms.

Forward-thinking brands spotted the trend and opportunity and deployed the marketing, branding executives to develop appealing communications strategies with sustainability embedded at the heart. Why? Because customers and consumers care about responsible business. Sustainability is a differentiator, it can create a USP and it’s a matter of communications and PR teams knowing how to leverage it best.

When we take a look at Asian brands a bit of more work needs to be done in the space. CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and sustainability is still somewhat a sidestream not part of mainstream business. Charitable giving and philanthropy are often disconnected from the company’s core strategy.

Yet there are some gems – a few regional and international brands with operations in Asia Pacific picked and pioneered the idea.

Surprisingly, troublemaking palm oil industry can teach a few lessons. Golden Agri Resources, after undergoing a series of NGO campaigning attacks, completely rethought their communications strategy. It turned into a transparent dialogue with NGOs, civil society organisation, and other key stakeholders, with welcoming their constructive feedback and input. Yes, going through a crisis the company completely reshaped its communications strategy, and now CSR commitments and transparency have become a critical differentiator in winning new and securing existing customers.

Not all brands had to go through the crisis though – some saw the opportunity straight away, e.g. a carpet tile manufacturer Interface.

Interface’s journey towards using sustainability as a catalyst for business innovation started with chairman and founder Ray Anderson, whose “spear in the chest moment” prompted him to revolutionise the way that Interface did business – starting with lowering the environmental footprint and closing the loop on materials and increasing engagement. The result was lower costs, improved efficiency, better quality, more customers and a committed staff. The business case for change and innovation was therefore clear and powerful. Interface’s Asian operations were not an exception from the global corporate values. All their marketing and sales teams know that such ethical values are a DNA of their corporate reputation.

Other brands that feature green or ethical aspects of their product and services on a primary spot of their corporate communications strategy include RICOH, MTR, City Developments Limited, Standard Chartered, SingTel, Adidas Group, GSK.

Further details about advanced regional Asian brands with strong commitments to sustainability can be found here.

Follow Elina Yumasheva on Twitter at @ElinaYumasheva

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