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APAC firms lead the way with Chief Sustainability Officer appointments

Among recent high-profile Chief Sustainability Officer appointments in the region, Singaporean bank OCBC named Mike Ng its first group CSO last July.
Melodie Michel
Asia Pacific Chief Sustainability Officer appointments are ahead of other regions
Mike Ng, named OCBC's first group Chief Sustainability Officer last July

Companies in Asia Pacific are twice as likely to have a Chief Sustainability Officer than those in Europe and North America, research by recruitment firm Boyden shows.

In a survey of 1,000 executives worldwide, the company found that 29% of Asia Pacific firms have a Chief Sustainability Officer, compared to 12% in  Europe and 11% in North America.

Combined with ‘sustainability leads’, the study reveals that more than half of companies in the APAC region have a dedicated head of sustainability, compared to 40% globally.

(Among recent high-profile Chief Sustainability Officer appointments in the region, Singaporean bank OCBC named Mike Ng its first group CSO last July.)

Asia Pacific companies also lead the way in terms of sustainability reporting, with almost 90% of the biggest companies by revenue producing sustainability reports, compared to 82% in Europe and 74% in the Americas.

KPMG’s 2022 survey of sustainability reporting notes that within the N100 sample (top 100 companies by revenue in 58 countries, territories and jurisdictions), seven Asia Pacific countries have sustainability reporting rates higher than 90%, with 100% of companies in Japan and Singapore disclosing sustainability information.

Read also: Most Chief Sustainability Officers are new to sustainability

For the first time this year, a third of global respondents in Boyden’s Exploring Adaptivity Through Talent survey said they needed to strengthen sustainability skills within their workforce and board – ranking this in their top three talent priorities.

Asia Pacific Chief Sustainability Officers focused on sustainability investment and opportunities

Additionally, ‘sustainability opportunities’ were identified as a top three growth driver for 20% of firms globally and 25% in Asia Pacific, after being ranked last in 2022, the report shows. Boyden attributes this shift to a stronger consumer appetite for sustainable products and ESG-related brands.

“The focus on sustainability and ESG underscores the growing recognition of sustainability as a catalyst for growth and corporate responsibility within the Asia-Pacific business arena. Clients in the industrial sector are beginning to perceive sustainability as a growth driver and are actively investing in leadership development and recruiting new leadership talent to tackle resourcing challenges and maintain competitiveness,” said Allan Marks, Managing Partner, Boyden Australia. 

Interestingly, companies in the APAC region widely think they are investing enough in sustainability, with 81% of executives expressing this sentiment. In comparison, only 58% of CEOs globally feel their company’s sustainability investments are sufficient.

Asia Pacific companies may be driven to invest more in sustainability by their own investors: according to EY, more than three-quarters of investors in the region believe companies “should make investments that address ESG issues relevant to their business, even if it reduces profits in the short term”.