Asia’s Commitment to the Three Pillars of Sustainability: Environmental, Social and Governance

10 initiatives from Asia companies rated tops in the Asian Sustainability Rating™

Issue: Nov 2010

In a world of inter-connectivity, sustainability is the key to a future worth living

If this generation has a buzzword, it has to be “sustainability”. But what is “sustainability” and why is it so important? Simply put, as in the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations (March 20, 1987), sustainability is the “sustainable development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” And nowhere is this more important than in Asia which houses 60 per cent of the world’s population and two of the world’s fastest growing economies – India and China. Companies in Asia recognise this and have been increasingly incorporating sustainability into business.

And the awards some have earned bear this out. Most recently, the Asian Sustainability Rating™ (ASR™) gave several companies the thumbs up. The ASR™ is the environment, social and governance or ESG benchmarking tool developed by Responsible Research and CSR Asia. Companies were scored across the same environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors based on publicly available information only. In order that the results are as unbiased as possible, there was no questionnaire or engagement of the companies in the rating methodology. In September 2010, ASR™ released its findings which covered 542 companies and includes the largest listed companies in 10 Asian countries.

South Korean Country Side
The unspoilt beauty of Korea’s landscape can be savoured thanks to SK Telecom’s efforts

Recycling and Going Wireless

Coming up tops on the 2010 ASR™ list is South Korea’s top mobile communication company, SK Telecom. Among its many initiatives, SK Telecom is big on recycling. Its eco-office campaign launched in 2008 reduced the total amount of waste generated in 2009 by 16.4 per cent and increased its recycling rate by 13.2 per cent thanks to scrupulous separation of recyclables from waste. It offers subsidies to customers to return their old handsets when they switch mobile phone operators or change handsets so that they can be reused.

Last year, 2.6 million handsets were retrieved, up by 42 per cent from the year before. 1.38 million of them were then exported to China and Russia. This year, SK Telecom will participate in the joint handset retrieval campaign organised by the Ministry of Environment, expand joint campaigns with various partners and provide 240,000 used handsets for free to the Seoul Metropolitan Government for its urban mining project.

IT equipment also gets a second lease on life. In 2009, they donated some 900 idle desktop PCs and 500 LCD monitors to four social welfare facilities.

To preserve the natural beauty of the Korean landscape and city skylines, SK Telecom builds eco-friendly, wireless stations or shares base stations as much as possible to reduce the need for more wireless stations and minimise costs.

Six Battery Road
In 2010, CapitaLand won the Green Mark Platinum Award conferred by the Building & Construction Authority Singapore for Six Battery Road

Loving the Earth and Caring for the People

One of the companies leading the pack in the real estate sector is CapitaLand, which is committed to building green buildings in all the countries that it operates.

CapitaLand’s properties are well thought out and designed with eco-friendly features such as rainwater harvesting systems, green zones with conserved trees, solar-powered lighting, use of geothermal energy, ample ventilation that reduces the need for artificial air-conditioning. CapitaLand also developed its own Environmental Tracking System (ETS) to monitor and help cut down energy and water usage. Many of CapitaLand’s buildings have won green accolades. For example, its iconic office property, Six Battery Road, became the first operating office building in Singapore to win the highest Green Mark accolade, the Green Mark Platinum Award accorded by the Building Construction Authority of Singapore. One of the unique features in this building is a wind turbine that powers lighting and reduces carbon footprint.

“Green for Hope” project
Primary school kids are taught the importance of recycling and helping their peers through the “Green for Hope” project

Despite being in a brick and mortar industry, CapitaLand is very much a company with a soul. It is heavily involved in community work in the countries it has presence in. One of its initiatives that has garnered the support of almost all primary schools in Singapore is its “Green for Hope” project. This project effectively combines corporate philanthropy with the green cause. Through this initiative, 170 primary schools collect recyclable waste to raise funds for underprivileged students. For every kilogram of recyclable waste they collected, CapitaLand’s philanthropic arm, CapitaLand Hope Foundation would donate S$2 to help meet the basic needs of needy pupils. This project is now into its third year. With its implementation, it has helped to raise the recycling rates in Singapore Primary Schools by a whopping 75%.

For its sustainability efforts, CapitaLand has garnered numerous awards including listing in the Dow Jones Sustainability Asia Pacific Index 2010/2011 for the third consecutive year, 35 Green Mark Awards and 2 LEED Gold Awards, amongst others.

Sustainable Partnership

Established in 1984, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories is an emerging global pharmaceutical company, which came in 4th on the Environment & Social Governance Index in India. And it is one company that firmly believes in practising what it preaches right down to whom it partners.

An ardent advocate of human rights, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories ensures that all its business partners ensure minimum wages, provident fund, ESI/group insurance and do not employ child labour. It only deals with companies who are environmentally sensitive and audits its business partners compliances to the green cause through data captured in its business partners audit machinery with weightage given to those who make the mark.

Its products, processes and plants are designed to have a sensible environmental footprint. For example, to reduce its carbon footprint, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories tries to minimise travel. It now re-routes supplies from the east coast of the US instead of going by the longer route through Chennai, their supplies now go through Mumbai. It also encourages its business partners to move closer to its operations.

Sustainable Policies and Government Regulations

On the country front, governments have also expressed increasing commitment to a sustainable Asia. At the governmental level, South Korea has put in place new energy policies that include the search for new and renewable sources of energy, the promotion of energy conservation and improvement of energy efficiency. It has even announced a national renewable energy plan that calls for an 11.5% growth in sustainable energy by 2030.

In India, the government is planning to impose regulations to boost corporate philanthropy and social responsibility, going as far as dictating what percentage of company’s profits should be spent on corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Sarawak Longhouses
Keeping these longhouses and the way of life in tact for Sarawak’s indigenous people have been a highly positive step towards a sustainable future

Sustainable Tourism & Sustainable Transport

In South East Asia, Malaysia is also working towards a sustainable future in its efforts to be a developed country by 2020. One area it has been particularly successful is in the area of tourism. Sarawak’s indigenous population continues to live in longhouses in the fashion of their forefathers centuries ago. Tour operators are careful to ensure that the lives of these people remain undisturbed. In addition, they pay certain longhouses an annual stipend in exchange for letting them bring visitors. The money goes towards the upkeeping of the longhouses, medical expenses as well as travel and education costs for the children.

And following in earnest is Thailand with its plans for a sustainable transportation system. In August this year, it hosted an international forum, the Fifth Regional Environmentally Sustainable Transport Forum that looked into building partnership and funding mechanisms, urban and regional rail development, Bus Rapid Transit, fuel efficiency and sustainable freight transport. In view of the fact that urban population in the region is likely to increase from 1.6 billion to 2.7 billion by 2030, mobility and vehicle usage are likely to be affected. Hence such international dialogue and sharing of information and ideas is vital.

With an eye on the future and feet firmly planted in the realities of today, countries and companies of Asia are doing their part to create a sustainable future not only for the region, but for the world at large.

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