70% of Asia-Pacific businesses see sustainability as important, but less than half say they are committed towards net zero: New Vodafone study
Only 24% of APAC businesses agree that they have a well-developed plan to tackle climate change.
74% of APAC businesses reporting higher profits have a formal ESG program in place.
On Nov 21 Vodafone Business released the APAC edition of its annual global study, revealing that APAC businesses see a strong case for sustainability. Additionally, the study also highlights that more needs to be done to account for climate change in business planning to meet net zero targets with technology and collaboration playing a key role.
The annual global study, commissioned by Vodafone Business and conducted by B2B International – Fit for the Future  – surveyed 3,101 businesses across 15 countries, including 748 businesses across the APAC region. The study found a gap between businesses' view of sustainability and actual action being taken:
70% of APAC businesses view sustainability as a necessary or important strategic goal.
1 in 2 businesses in APAC (52%) agree that businesses should focus on preventing climate change.
However, less than a quarter (24%) of APAC businesses agree that they have a well-developed plan in place to tackle climate change.
Additionally, less than half (41%) say they are committed to moving towards net zero emissions, and only a third (35%) say they are taking action to offset their carbon impact.
Business case for environmentally sustainable practices driven by strong customer and investor demand in APAC
APAC businesses implementing sustainability practices into their business planning are realising significant business benefits from doing so. The study found 74% of businesses reporting higher profits this year, have a formal ESG program in place. This is significantly higher compared to firms that reported lower profits, where less than half (47%) said they have such programs in place.
This is largely due to increased customer and investor interest. Customer demand (50%) emerged as the top factor driving APAC businesses to view ESG as a key competitive differentiator.
More than half (58%) also say that customers and clients are becoming more demanding of the companies they buy from to practise environmental sustainability.
Whilst majority of APAC businesses believe that there is a strong customer demand for sustainability, only about a third (34%) say customers are willing to pay more for environmentally sustainable products and services. This points to how customers expect companies to adopt sustainable practices, without translating into higher costs for them.
Investor demand is also a key driver, with 58% of large enterprises in APAC reporting that their investors are focusing on sustainable businesses.
Tech skills and innovation needed to overcome barriers to sustainability
The report also found that the top three top barriers to sustainability in APAC are:
The lack of maturity of key technologies that will enable sustainability (31%).
Lack of skills in green technologies (30%).
Lack of understanding on how to improve sustainability in their organisations (29%).
More collaboration (78%) and breakthroughs in technology are needed to drive progress towards sustainability goals in the region.
In particular, the top three areas where technology innovation is needed are adoption of renewable energy (41%), improving data connectivity (41%), improving traceability (e.g., using data analytics and blockchain) to make better supply chain decisions (41%).
"While there is recognition across APAC on the importance of environmental sustainability, there is a clear opportunity for businesses to take more concrete actions, particularly driven by customers and investor demand. Technology plays a key role in helping businesses overcome the barriers and move towards sustainability goals, with over 70% of businesses in APAC agreeing that technology breakthroughs are needed to enable progress," said Bhupinder Singh, President, Asia Pacific & Middle East, at Vodafone Business, "Fit for the Future businesses recognise the importance of creating a sustainable future, and Vodafone Business is ready to collaborate on innovative solutions to support businesses on both their sustainability and digital transformation journeys."
 Based on the report, businesses considered "Fit for the Future" have a more positive attitude towards changing the way they conduct business and are more adaptable to challenges.