SAP, a German multinational software company, aims to help Southeast Asia achieve its common goal of building a sustainable future for all, according to the firm’s top executive for the region.
Sustainability is a top issue in Southeast Asia as governments impose mandates on organisations to chase net-zero and carbon neutrality goals by 2030.
However, there is still a big gap on the ground in Southeast Asia, and quite often, the plan versus the reality is different, says Verena Siow, President and Managing director of SAP Southeast Asia.
“As many companies ramp up sustainability agendas, the challenge is not just about going green, but how it delivers measurable outcomes and creates meaningful impact for our societies, the environment, our employees, and customers,” she said.
Organisations in Asia remain disconnected from sustainability plans and actions, SAP said in its press release in early November. “On average, 60 percent of businesses in Asia have a clearly communicated sustainability plan, with Japan leading at 68 percent and Indonesia scoring lowest at 46 per cent. While 66% of businesses do not think it’s difficult to be sustainable and profitable at the same time, just 8% say they receive significant value from their sustainability strategies today.”
A long-term goal
SAP, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, has been in Southeast Asia since 1989. It expects ASEAN to be the fourth largest economy in the world by 2030, especially around the digital economy, reaching an expected $1 trillion, all enabled by cloud technologies.
Siow said that SAP has solutions that can help customers to embed sustainability in their business processes. According to her, SAP’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) software helps businesses measure their environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) practices and make sure that how they are driving sustainable practices according to their plan.
“Our long-term goal is to help our customers to become sustainable in the long run, and each one would have its own journey and its own way of starting. We are here to help each and every one of our customers as well as for our partners to collaborate as an ecosystem to become more sustainable in the longer run,” Siow said.
The Result of Sustainability Survey Focusing on Southeast Asia businesses
A recent study by Oxford Economics and SAP was conducted on some 2,000 global executives on their sustainability ambitions, strategies, investments, and results.
According to SEA result, data has shown regulatory mandates are one of the key drivers of sustainability strategies, with Singapore leading at 74%, 60% for Indonesia and 52% for Malaysia.
Organizations may need to refocus on their strategies to achieve greater value and benefit from sustainability. Compliance is the main benefit companies derive from sustainability (46%), ahead of reduced carbon emissions, with Indonesia scoring the highest at 56%, Singapore at 43% and the lowest for Malaysia at 39%. Too much focus on compliance is the second biggest sustainability challenge for businesses (26%), only behind reinventing business strategy, with the highest score attained by Singapore 32%, Indonesia 27% and the lowest being Malaysia at 23%.
‘We all have a role to play’
Siow said it is an encouraging sign that businesses across Southeast Asia are increasingly mindful of sustainability practices along their entire supply chain, including those of their suppliers.
“There is no time to waste to move beyond strategy and to achieve real, tangible results. In three years, almost a third of businesses expect significant value from their sustainability strategy – and we believe that with the right focus, this number can be even higher,” she said.
Siow urged business leaders in Southeast Asia not to perceive sustainability action as a risk mitigation measure only. For her, it is an opportunity to realise new sustainable revenue streams, find new efficiencies, and build new business models based on low-emission, circular, and ultimately regenerative concepts to benefit both the organization and our society at large.
“We need to make sure that we have a world or earth that is not damaged, that can still support healthy living for us to all survive for the many generations to come,” she said. “We all have a role to play.”
Citing the research findings, Siow said one way to improve sustainability is to follow the best practices of the so-called “sustainability leaders” — organisations that have embraced comprehensive programs and are experiencing improved sustainability outcomes, business performance, and brand reputation.
These sustainability leaders share four behaviours. They set clear expectations about sustainable performance and communicate those expectations across the workforce.
They apply technology and data management know-how in key areas across the organization.
They engage with their core audiences and partners across the ecosystem, working closely with supply chain partners and policymakers to ensure that they are running the sustainability plan and communicating it beyond the organization, with business partners and policymakers.
They create a system of records and accountability to ensure that sustainable efforts go beyond talk.
Need to start today
Siow said that SAP believes in the power of its ecosystem and its wider community to realise the opportunity tomorrow as well as today. For her, the world’s most significant problems such as climate change, resource scarcity, demand shift, and supply chain disruptions can be resolved collaboratively by companies leveraging on the strength of SAP’s ecosystem and also leveraging on technology to address those requirements.
“It’s really important that we start today to take action on the sustainability plan that we have in place to transform tomorrow today. The sooner we start making sure that we are sustainable, the stronger our standing and competitive advantage,” she said.
For her, taking this first step is really important as businesses make sustainability a core part of their business strategy.
“We will see the rewards for being more eco-friendly. And more importantly, we all need to do our part towards a brighter and greener future for generations to come,” concluded SAP’s Southeast Asia President & MD.
SAP has most recently updated its SAP Sustainability Control Tower solution to offer what companies are looking for today to run more sustainably.