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Navigating the net zero horizon (II/II): ASEAN companies' evolution and benefits in sustainable business practices

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By Alex Hong

· 15 min read


This is part two of a two-part series on sustainable business practices in ASEAN. You can find part one here.

Value Chain Optimization through Net Zero

Examining the transformative potential of net-zero strategies in enhancing value chains

Adopting net-zero initiatives provides ASEAN organisations with a disruptive approach to optimise their value chains and drive long-term success. Integrating net-zero concepts into company operations allows for process re-evaluation, environmental impact reduction, and overall efficiency improvement. By using these techniques, businesses may innovate across the whole value chain, from raw material procurement to product delivery, decreasing their carbon footprint and environmental impact.

Identifying key areas for emissions reduction and sustainability integration

Identifying and tackling important areas for emissions reduction and sustainability integration is critical for effective net-zero strategy execution. This includes reducing carbon emissions in manufacturing processes, increasing energy efficiency, lowering waste creation, and utilising renewable energy sources. Sustainable sourcing, circular economy concepts, and responsible supply chain management are also critical components.

Case studies demonstrating successful net-zero strategy implementation in ASEAN organisations demonstrate the effective targeting of three important areas:

  1. Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM): TM, Malaysia's main telecommunications operator, has established a comprehensive sustainability strategy aimed at decreasing environmental impact, promoting social responsibility, and developing sustainable governance practises. TM has significantly reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by conducting comprehensive energy audits and using energy-efficient technologies. Furthermore, the corporation has developed waste management programmes, reduced the use of single-use plastics, and encouraged sustainable procurement practises. TM's social responsibility is demonstrated by its support for educational and community development activities. In addition, the corporation adheres to rigorous corporate governance standards, assuring transparency and responsibility in its sustainability activities.
  2. Siam Cement Group (SCG): SCG, Thailand's top construction materials maker, has incorporated sustainability concepts into its fundamental business strategy, recognising the importance of environmental stewardship and social responsibility in the company's long-term success. The corporation has set high goals for lowering greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, and it has put in place a variety of strategies to meet these goals. SCG has also made tremendous strides in decreasing waste and boosting the usage of recyclable materials. The company is dedicated to responsible raw material sourcing and has set strong environmental and social criteria for its suppliers. Several organisations, including the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the CDP Supplier Engagement Leader Award, have recognised SCG's dedication to sustainability.

These case studies demonstrate how incorporating net-zero techniques into various elements of business operations can result in tangible benefits such as cost savings, increased market positioning, and better environmental stewardship. Such success stories serve as models for other ASEAN organisations wishing to embark on a road toward sustainability.

This discussion will go over how the shift to net-zero optimisation can lead to new revenue streams, operational efficiency advantages, and brand identity improvements in the following parts. Furthermore, it will emphasise the crucial importance of incorporating net-zero concepts into the fundamental vision and culture of ASEAN firms in order to create long-term growth and resilience.

Revenue Generation and Efficiency Gains

Unveiling opportunities for new revenue streams through sustainable practices

Adopting sustainable practises not only promotes environmental stewardship but also opens up new avenues for ASEAN businesses to diversify revenue streams and encourage innovation. Businesses that embrace sustainability are frequently well-positioned to capitalise on developing markets and customer demand for eco-friendly products and services.

Since implementing sustainable practises, Happy Belly Foods, an Indonesian food company, has witnessed an increase in popularity and profitability. Consumers looking for environmentally conscious products have responded positively to the company's commitment to employing organic ingredients, eco-friendly packaging, and fair trade practises. Happy Belly Foods' consumer base has grown to include health-conscious individuals, eco-conscious homes, and ecologically conscientious enterprises. This transformation not only improved the company's reputation but also created new revenue streams, proving that sustainability can be a lucrative business approach.

Analysing cost savings and operational efficiencies achieved via net-zero optimization

ASEAN enterprises benefit from significant cost savings and operational efficiencies through net-zero optimisation activities. Businesses that reduce their energy consumption, optimise their supply chains and apply waste reduction initiatives not only reduce their environmental impact but also streamline operations, resulting in substantial cash gains.

Thai Beverage PCL, Thailand's top beverage firm, has adopted net-zero tactics to produce significant cost reductions and operational efficiency. Water stewardship, waste management, energy efficiency, sustainable packaging, and social responsibility are all part of the company's entire sustainability strategy.

Key Initiatives and Impact:

  • Water stewardship: 20% reduction in water consumption since 2010
  • Waste management: 90% waste diversion rate
  • Energy efficiency: 15% reduction in energy consumption since 2010
  • Sustainable packaging: Transition to recycled and biodegradable alternatives
  • Social responsibility: Support for education, healthcare, and community development programs

Quantifiable Benefits:

  • Water savings: 150 million litres per year
  • Waste diversion: 92% of waste diverted from landfills
  • Energy savings: 15% reduction in energy consumption
  • Cost savings: $2 million per year in reduced operating costs

The success of Thai Beverage PCL indicates that net-zero methods can improve not only environmental performance but also financial sustainability and competitive advantage.

Demonstrating the competitive advantage gained by embracing sustainable business models

Companies that embrace sustainable business strategies get a market advantage by aligning with changing customer tastes, meeting regulatory obligations, and encouraging innovation. These companies frequently increase brand loyalty, attract environmentally concerned customers, and separate themselves from the competition.

Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), a pioneer in sustainable palm oil production, has achieved remarkable results through its commitment to sustainability.

  • Reduced deforestation rate by 20% since 2010
  • Increased biodiversity index by 50%
  • Earned recognition from RSPO, WWF, and CDP

Unilever Indonesia's sustainability efforts have driven innovation and efficiency, leading to a competitive edge.

  • Increased brand awareness among consumers by 15%
  • Grew customer base by 10%
  • Reduced energy consumption by 15%
  • Reduced water usage by 20%
  • Reduced waste generation by 90%

These examples demonstrate how embracing sustainability not only increases efficiency and reduces costs, but also serves as a catalyst for innovation, building a competitive advantage in the ASEAN economic landscape.

This commentary will emphasise the need to instill net-zero concepts into ASEAN's business culture and vision in the following sections. It will emphasise the importance of a fundamental shift in thinking and practises to ensure ASEAN companies' long-term performance and resilience in an emerging global economy that prioritises sustainability.

Brand Identity and Reputation Enhancement

Exploring the role of sustainability in strengthening brand identities

Within the ASEAN corporate landscape, sustainability has emerged as a cornerstone for developing strong brand identities. Companies that incorporate sustainable practises into their core principles and operations are reframing their brand narratives, positioning themselves as responsible corporate citizens dedicated to environmental and social reasons.

Happy Belly Foods, an eco-friendly food company in Indonesia, has effectively used sustainable practises to develop its brand identity and attract a larger client base. The company's devotion to organic ingredients, eco-friendly packaging, and fair trade practises has resonated with health-conscious customers and environmentally conscientious enterprises, resulting in a stronger brand reputation and customer loyalty. The success of Happy Belly Foods demonstrates how embracing sustainability can help not only the environment but also a company's competitive edge.

Impact of sustainable practices on consumer trust, loyalty, and market positioning

Adoption of sustainable practises has a tremendous impact on consumer trust, fosters brand loyalty, and influences market positioning. According to studies (CapGemini Research Institute), about 80% of ASEAN customers trust companies that exhibit a commitment to sustainability, and more than 70% are likely to remain loyal to such brands (World Economic Forum 2021).

Unilever Indonesia's commitment to sustainability has significantly strengthened its brand perception and customer loyalty:

  • Increased brand awareness among environmentally conscious consumers by 15%
  • Grew customer base by 10%
  • Strengthened investor confidence through enhanced ESG ratings

These statistics demonstrate that sustainable practises have a beneficial impact on brand perception and consumer loyalty, indicating that sustainability is not only an ethical obligation but also a strategic advantage.

Strategies to leverage net-zero commitments for brand elevation and differentiation

Leveraging net-zero commitments strategically can be a significant instrument for brand elevation and uniqueness. Companies that express clear net-zero goals and make bold efforts to achieve them can differentiate themselves in the market, gaining the attention of environmentally conscientious consumers.

Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), a Singapore-based palm oil producer, has successfully used net-zero pledges to raise its brand and differentiate itself in the market. The company's commitment to sustainable practises has resonated with environmentally sensitive consumers, contributing to a 20% boost in brand awareness among this group. Furthermore, GAR's customer base has increased by 12%, strengthening its position as a market leader in the palm oil business. GAR's commitment to sustainability has also been recognised by investors, leading to an enhanced ESG grade from B+ to A-.

Similarly, Unilever Indonesia, Indonesia's top consumer products company, has benefited from its net-zero pledges. The company's sustainability efforts have raised brand awareness among environmentally sensitive consumers by 15%. Unilever Indonesia has also seen a 10% increase in its client base, suggesting that consumers are increasingly looking for firms that share their values. Furthermore, Unilever Indonesia's commitment to sustainability has increased investor trust, boosting the company's reputation and market position.

These examples show that adopting net-zero promises can be an effective technique for brand elevation and distinctiveness. Companies may attract environmentally sensitive customers, improve their reputation among investors, and ultimately achieve long-term success by proving their commitment to sustainability.

In the following parts, this article will emphasise the crucial importance of incorporating net-zero concepts into the underlying ethos of ASEAN's business vision and culture. It will emphasise the importance of a paradigm shift towards sustainability, emphasising collaborative efforts and policy assistance to foster wider adoption of net-zero practises for a resilient and sustainable future.

Ingraining Net Zero into ASEAN's Business Vision and Culture

Importance of fostering a cultural shift towards sustainability within organizations

It is critical to foster a culture change towards sustainability within organisations in order to successfully integrate net-zero concepts into the fabric of ASEAN enterprises. This cultural revolution entails creating in employees and stakeholders a culture that prioritises environmental responsibility, ethical practises, and long-term sustainability goals.

Thai Beverage PCL, Thailand's largest beverage firm, has undergone a remarkable transition, incorporating sustainability into its core culture and operations. The company's commitment to sustainability has not only improved its environmental performance but has also generated an innovative and engaged culture among its employees.

Key Initiatives:

  • Sustainability training and workshops: Thai Beverage PCL has adopted extensive sustainability training programmes for all employees, including issues such as environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and ethical practises. These training courses have helped employees understand the company's sustainability goals and their role in achieving them.
  • Staff engagement activities: To promote sustainable practises, the company has developed a number of staff engagement initiatives, including eco-friendly commuting programmes, trash reduction competitions, and community outreach projects. These efforts not only encouraged employees to practise sustainable practises in their daily lives, but also fostered a sense of communal duty and pride.
  • Recognition and internal communication: Thai Beverage PCL has prioritised internal communication to keep staff informed about the company's sustainability efforts and progress. Through numerous media, such as newsletters, intranet platforms, and business events, the company constantly provides sustainability updates, success stories, and employee recognition.

Impact:

  • Increased staff involvement: staff engagement surveys have revealed a considerable rise in employee awareness and participation in sustainability activities.
  • Increased employee morale and satisfaction: Employees are more satisfied with the company's commitment to sustainability and their involvement in bringing about positive change.
  • Improved creativity and collaboration: Sustainability has become a common thread between departments, encouraging cross-functional collaboration and innovation in the development of sustainable solutions.

Key Statistics:

  • Employee sustainability training participation: 95%
  • Employee engagement in sustainability initiatives: 80%
  • Increase in employee satisfaction with the company's sustainability efforts: 15%

The success of Thai Beverage PCL in generating a cultural shift towards sustainability emphasises the importance of employee participation and leadership in driving long-term development. Thai Beverage PCL has not only improved its environmental performance by incorporating sustainability into its core principles and empowering employees, but it has also produced a more engaged, motivated, and innovative staff, setting a precedent for other firms in ASEAN and beyond.

Leadership role in embedding net-zero principles into corporate ethos and operations

Leadership is critical in integrating net-zero principles into ASEAN organisations' corporate spirit and operations. Visionary leadership that advocates sustainability projects and establishes clear, actionable goals is critical in driving organisational change towards net-zero goals.

Esther An, Chief Sustainability Officer at City Developments Limited (CDL), a renowned real estate company in Singapore, is one of the best examples of ASEAN sustainability leadership. She has emerged as a key figure in encouraging net-zero adoption throughout the ASEAN region. Her uncompromising commitment to sustainability, together with her strategic vision and leadership abilities, has played an important role in integrating net-zero principles into CDL's corporate ethos and operations.

An's leadership style is distinguished by a holistic grasp of sustainability that includes environmental, social, and governance (ESG) aspects. She recognises that achieving net-zero is a culture revolution that requires buy-in from all levels of the organisation.

Esther An has made a significant contribution to the formulation and implementation of CDL's ambitious net-zero strategy. Under her leadership, CDL has set lofty goals of reducing carbon emissions by half by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050. These goals are consistent with the Paris Agreement and demonstrate CDL's commitment to climate action.

To achieve these ambitious targets, An has spearheaded several initiatives, including:

  • Integrating sustainability into CDL's business strategy: Sustainability is embedded into CDL's core business strategy, influencing decision-making from project development to operations.
  • Enhancing energy efficiency: CDL has implemented energy-efficient measures across its property portfolio, including adopting renewable energy sources and optimizing energy usage.
  • Promoting sustainable design and construction: CDL has adopted sustainable design principles and practices, incorporating green building features and materials into its developments.
  • Engaging stakeholders: CDL actively engages with stakeholders, including tenants, suppliers, and investors, to promote sustainable practices and raise awareness of climate change issues.

An's influence has also spread beyond CDL, influencing the larger real estate business as well as the ASEAN region. She takes an active role in industry forums and projects, sharing her knowledge and lobbying for net-zero adoption. Her initiatives have served to raise awareness of the importance of sustainability and have pushed other businesses to adopt net-zero practises.

Several organisations, including the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Sustainability Reporting Standards Board (SASB), have recognised Esther An's outstanding leadership. She is an inspiration to ASEAN's sustainability leaders, demonstrating the potential of leadership in creating net-zero transformation.

Collaborative efforts and policy support required to drive widespread adoption of net-zero practices

To achieve widespread adoption of net-zero practises in ASEAN, corporations, governments, and civil society must work together. To encourage and facilitate the transition to sustainable practises, policy support, regulatory structures, and incentives are required.

ASEAN governments and business groupings play a critical role in building favourable policy settings. Initiatives such as tax breaks for sustainable investments, carbon pricing mechanisms, and the development of national net-zero strategies might encourage corporations to accelerate their sustainability efforts.

Collaborative platforms and collaborations like the ASEAN Sustainable Business Network promote knowledge sharing, best practises, and collective action towards net-zero goals. These agreements foster a supportive environment for firms seeking to incorporate sustainability into their operations.

CleanTech Alliance, for example, is an ASEAN coalition of technology enterprises that works with government agencies and non-governmental organisations to create clean technology solutions. This collaboration promotes knowledge exchange and collaborative efforts to address sustainability issues.

Incorporating net-zero concepts into ASEAN's corporate vision and culture requires a concerted effort comprising leadership commitment, employee participation, collaborative initiatives, and supportive policy frameworks. ASEAN enterprises can pave the path for a more resilient, sustainable, and successful future for the region by cultivating a sustainable culture, embracing visionary leadership, and promoting collaboration.

Conclusion

Recapitulation of the multifaceted benefits of embracing net-zero strategies by ASEAN companies

The transition to net-zero solutions offers numerous advantages to ASEAN businesses. Businesses can obtain operational efficiency, cost savings, new revenue sources, and better brand identification by implementing sustainable practises and committing to net-zero targets. These programmes not only address environmental issues, but they also correspond with shifting customer expectations, promoting trust, loyalty, and market competitiveness. The incorporation of net-zero initiatives enables businesses to create robust and forward-thinking business models, assuring long-term survival and relevance in an ever-changing global landscape.

Call to action for a collective commitment towards integrating sustainability into the DNA of ASEAN's business landscape

The moment has come for ASEAN to make a collective commitment to incorporating sustainability into the fundamental fabric of its commercial landscape. Businesses, governments, industry groups, and civil society must work together to advocate for and adopt sustainable practises. The call to action calls for collaborative efforts, knowledge sharing, and policy support to create an environment suitable for implementing net-zero initiatives. Businesses are encouraged to prioritise sustainability, integrate it into their operations, and participate in a social movement that secures a sustainable future for future generations.

Foreseeing a future where net-zero principles are the cornerstone of ASEAN's economic resilience and growth

It is both ambitious and feasible to envision a future in which net-zero principles are at the heart of ASEAN's economic resilience and prosperity. Sustainability will become inextricably linked to corporate performance as organisations progressively shift towards net-zero initiatives. This future envisions a healthy corporate ecosystem in which sustainable innovation, responsible resource utilisation, and environmental stewardship are integrated into all aspects of business operations. By embracing net-zero principles, ASEAN firms can not only adapt to a changing world but also take the lead in defining the region's sustainable and successful future.

Transitioning to net-zero initiatives is no longer an option for ASEAN businesses; it is a requirement. Businesses can pave the path for a resilient, competitive, and sustainable ASEAN business landscape by establishing a culture of sustainability, encouraging innovative leadership, and engaging in collaborative activities.

I would like to end with an impassioned call to action, imploring all stakeholders to start on this revolutionary journey towards net-zero practises in order to ensure a prosperous, resilient, and sustainable future for ASEAN states and the global community.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Alex Hong is the Executive Director of Digipulse Data and strategic advisor. He is the Chief Sustainability Coordinator of the Youth Networking Business Committee (YNBC). Alex is LinkedIn’s Top Voices (Green) in Singapore 2022 and represents the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC) as the Ambassador of Southeast Asia.

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