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Bridging intention-action gap vital for sustainable development in Singapore: Refinitiv

BRIDGING the intention-action gap among Singapore and Asian companies is crucial to further sustainable development in the region, a new report by Refinitiv has found. 

"A clear gap is seen between intention and action, with a greater portion of Singaporean companies having policies on emissions, waste management and water efficiency, than those with actual targets for improvement," the report said. 

In Singapore, the largest disparity is in resource and waste management, with 80 per cent of Singaporean companies adopting waste reduction policies, but only 28 per cent having specific waste reduction targets to back up their policies.

According to the report, targets can make a significant impact on action over time, and drive real change. 

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In terms of emissions, 69 per cent of Asian companies have emissions reduction policies, a significant increase from 55 per cent in 2013. However, Asian companies with specific emissions reduction targets remained relatively stagnant, with a slight increase from 28 per cent in 2013 to 30 per cent in 2017.

Locally, 53 per cent of Singaporean companies have emissions policies, and 33 per cent have emissions reductions targets.

When it comes to water efficiency, 62 per cent of the companies in Asia have a water efficiency policy, but only 16 per cent maintain specific water efficiency targets. Meanwhile, 60 per cent of Singaporean companies have water efficiency policies, and 18 per cent maintain targets.

In addition, the report also highlighted that Singapore companies have made considerable progress in building more ethical supply chains.

Singapore companies recorded the largest increase in companies with supply chain policies in the region, with a 40 per cent jump over five years, from 15 per cent in FY2013, to 55 per cent in FY2017.

However, Singaporean companies lag the region in the development of environmentally conscious products, with only 40 per cent doing so, versus 56 per cent in Asia.

Elena Philipova, global head of ESG (environmental, social, governance) at Refinitiv, said: "With Asia set to lead global economic growth in the coming decade, the region's companies and business leaders will play a prominent role in the sustainable development agenda.

"As many of the world's most pressing environmental and social concerns, such as climate change and social inequality, reach critical junctures, it is important that companies take their responsibilities seriously. ESG data and transparency play an important role to drive and influence the changes required to sustain future economic and social growth."

Julia Walker, head of market development, risk at Refinitiv, added: "Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is a collective effort that starts with the most influential members of society, including large companies, leading the way... Daily, we see more financial institutions increasing due diligence and directing investment towards more responsible and sustainable companies and investments. As concerns in areas such as climate change grow, we expect this trend to accelerate."

The Financing a Sustainable Future in Asia report analysed data on 944 companies across eight markets in Asia, including 40 firms in Singapore.