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Companies sharpen focus on social aspects of business
The latest survey conducted by Asset Benchmark Research shows social factors have risen to the top of the agenda of companies in Asia
The Asset 15 Aug 2022

A positive result from a Covid-19 test can induce anxiety. But companies in Asia, tested by the pandemic the past more than two years, have produced a far more pleasant positive outcome: attention to the social aspects of the business has jumped by nearly 24% compared with a 2020 survey.

Among the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors reported by companies participating in The Asset ESG Corporate Survey, social factor rated as the most important overall, followed by governance and environmental factors.

Workplace safety amid the public health emergency was cited by more companies than any other social factors. At the height of the Covid-19 crisis, for example, many companies in developing Asia took it upon themselves to secure government approval to source vaccines for their employees. In addition, many companies also permitted flexible work arrangements such as work-from-home.

The survey, conducted by Asset Benchmark Research from June to September 2021, also showed that participating companies did not lose sight of the importance of ethical business practices. Including product safety, contract negotiation, and fair trade, companies said this was the second most important factor for them during the health crisis.

Also important for the participating companies at the time was employee welfare such as protection for disabilities and long-term health issues. A number of these companies offer medical/wellness benefits to help their employees cope with the stress induced by the pandemic.

These three factors garnered over 90% of the total votes when participating companies were asked to rank the importance of a number of factors in the area of corporate social responsibility. Other aspects rated by the participating companies include community investment such as charity, which jumped by over 6% year-on-year; gender equality, and supply chain sustainability issues.

In the 21st century, corporate social responsibility has been moving into wide-reaching areas including employee engagement, equality, diversity, and inclusion. It has also extended into the ethics of supply chain management and broader stakeholder health and safety. Many companies are now adopting some or all of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their corporate strategies.

The Asset ESG Corporate Survey is conducted annually to gauge how companies in the Asia-Pacific are progressing in integrating ESG metrics into their operations. Asset Benchmark Research, the research arm of The Asset, created a benchmarking service for corporates in Asia to enable them to assess their ESG performance in relation to global norms and Asian peers.

The assessment includes four series of questions in corporate governance, social responsibility, environmental responsibility, and investor relations. In the 2021 ESG Corporate Awards process, Asset Benchmark Research added a deeper investigation into the companies’ preparedness in cybersecurity. Together, the questions provide a thorough analysis of the companies’ risk management, preparedness, flexibility, attitude to stakeholders, and overall management capability.

The scores from the questionnaire are combined with input from investors and further analysis by The Asset editorial board.

The 2022 The Asset ESG Corporate Survey is now underway. The Asset welcomes submissions from companies interested to explain their approach to ESG as part of knowledge-sharing with other organizations embarking on their ESG journey. As investors place greater attention on ESG investing, companies will need to be able to articulate their work in an increasingly transparent and science-based manner. To join the 2022 The Asset ESG Corporate Survey, please click here.

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