The majority of businesses in APAC (70%) view sustainability as a necessary or important strategic goal and 52% agree that businesses should focus on preventing climate change. However, only 24% of APAC businesses agree that they have a well-developed plan in place to tackle climate change.
Additionally, 41% said they are committed to moving towards net zero emissions, and 35% said they are taking action to offset their carbon impact, according to an annual global study titled "Fit for the Future" commissioned by Vodafone Business and conducted by B2B International.
The business case for environmentally sustainable practices are no doubt driven by strong customer and investor demand in APAC. Investor demand is also a key driver, with 58% of large enterprises in APAC reporting that their investors are focusing on sustainable businesses.
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 programme in place. This is significantly higher compared to firms that reported lower profits, where less than half (47%) said they have such programmes 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 said that customers and clients are becoming more demanding of the companies they buy from to practise environmental sustainability.
While the majority of APAC businesses believe that there is a strong customer demand for sustainability, only 34% said 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.
That said, tech skills and innovation are still required to overcome barriers to sustainability. The study found the lack of maturity of key technologies that will enable sustainability (31%) to be one of the three barriers. The lack of skills in green technologies (30%) and the lack of understanding on how to improve sustainability in their organisations (29%) were also cited as barriers.
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, such as using data analytics and blockchain to make better supply chain decision (41%).
Bhupinder Singh, president, Asia Pacific and Middle East, at Vodafone Business said that 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," Singh added.
The qualitative research took place in UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and South Africa and consisted of 31 depth interviews with business decision makers, investors and journalists. According to Vodafone business, 3,101 businesses of all sizes and sectors were surveyed via a 15 minute quantitative survey across 15 different markets - Australia, China, Germany, Spain, Ireland, India, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, UAE, UK and USA.