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UN report: CEOs in ASEAN committed to sustainability

T.C. Seow | Sept. 24, 2013
The global CEO study on sustainability, by UN Global Compact and Accenture, identifies approaches that combine high performance in market leadership and sustainability.

A majority (56 percent) of chief executives in member countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) report that sustainability issues will be very important to their future success, according to 2013 United Nations Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability. This figure is also above the global average of 45 percent.

ASEAN CEOs (55 percent) are also more positive than their global counterparts (33 percent) in assessing the business contribution to global sustainability challenges.

The survey also shows that while CEOs globally are struggling to quantify the business value of sustainability, over half (64 percent) of ASEAN CEOs believe they will be able to set out the strategy to profit from sustainability over the next five years, and 51 percent have already done so.

Amid evidence that ASEAN CEOs are strongly committed to embedding sustainability throughout their organisations, the vast majority now call for action to incentivise and reward sustainability leaders and unlock the full potential of the private sector.

Business leaders' views on the private sector's progress in addressing global sustainability challenges are detailed in the survey of 1,000 CEOs in 103 countries, including ASEAN. It is the latest triennial global poll by the UN Global Compact and Accenture, and the largest such study of top executives ever conducted on sustainability.

The study also includes in depth interviews with 75 CEOs and an analysis of those companies that successfully combine sustainability leadership with market leading business performance.

While 76 percent of ASEAN CEOs believe that it will lead to competitive advantage in their industry, they point to a number of barriers:

  • A lack of financial resources is the leading barrier to advancing sustainability, cited by 54 percent of ASEAN CEOs, which is consistent with the belief of the CEOs globally.
  • Forty-six percent of ASEAN CEOs say that difficult operating environment has made it challenging to embed sustainability into core business, a figure significantly higher than the global average of 30 percent.
  • The third key challenge is the range of competing strategic priorities close to home such as education, employment and climate change that create obstacles to embedding sustainability at scale within their companies.

CEOs around the world are demanding greater collaboration between business, governments and policymakers, according to the survey. In ASEAN, an overwhelming majority of CEOs believe that government efforts to provide an enabling environment (87 percent) as well as clearer policy and market signals to support green growth (95 percent) will be integral to the private sector's ability to advance sustainability.

When asked which policy tools should be prioritised, CEOs globally tend to call for harder measures, but ASEAN CEOs indicate a stronger preference than their global counterparts. Seventy-four percent of ASEAN respondents (vs. 55 percent globally) point to regulation and standards and 53 percent (vs. 43 percent globally) call for governments to adjust subsidies and incentives.


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