Most Singapore firms silent on sustainability

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Singapore, Business Times Online (20 Oct 2016) - Most Singapore companies are still not communicating sustainability, a study by the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School's Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations (CGIO) and Asean CSR Network (ACN) has found.

Over 60 per cent of Singapore listed companies are found guilty of that, according to findings from the study titled Sustainability reporting in Singapore: The State of Practice among Singapore Exchange (SGX) Mainboard Listed Companies 2015.

Of the 502 mainboard-listed companies studied, 186 of them reported that they communicate their sustainability practices to stakeholders, with an average level of disclosure of 43.6 points. This is an increase from 160 companies in 2013 and 79 in 2011.

Lawrence Loh, director of CGIO at NUS Business School, said that while Singapore has made good progress, it still lags behind its regional peers substantially. He added that at its current rate of progress, less than half of Singapore companies will be reporting sustainability by 2018.

"While the new SGX sustainability reporting requirement of 'comply or explain' is timely, it won't be enough," said Associate Prof Loh. "Companies have to recognise the long-term benefits of consistently reporting sustainability, and take action."

Among the four indicators of quality of disclosures studied - governance, economic, environmental and social - governance was best disclosed and environmental was the least disclosed indicator.

Notably, the study found that disclosures pertaining to climate change were "insufficiently addressed". Only 12.9 per cent of companies disclosed information about their climate change efforts, and even fewer companies disclosed information on biodiversity management efforts.