More firms reporting on corporate responsibility

PHOTO: More firms reporting on corporate responsibility

More companies here and across the region are giving investors regular updates on not just their financial results but also their impact on society and the environment.

More than 70 per cent of large Asia-Pacific firms now publish corporate responsibility reports, up from less than half in 2011, according to a survey by audit firm KPMG.

This puts the region's companies almost on par with those in Europe and the United States, KPMG said. The survey, now in its eighth edition, studied 4,100 firms comprising the 100 largest businesses in each of 41 countries.

KPMG found that 71 per cent of Asia-Pacific's major firms report on their corporate responsibility, in line with the global average.

This is slightly below the 73 per cent in Europe and 76 per cent in the Americas, but significantly higher than the 54 per cent in the Middle East and Africa.

Across the globe, Singapore is one of the top three countries with the highest increase in reporting rates over the past two years, KPMG said.

Eight in 10 Singapore companies reported on corporate responsibility this year, almost double the figure in 2011. Only India and Chile saw bigger jumps in their reporting rates.

The impetus for change in Singapore and India likely came from new reporting requirements, KPMG said.

The Singapore Exchange Sustainability Reporting Guide for listed companies and Code of Corporate Governance have encouraged the trend, while India's top 100 listed firms are now required to include corporate responsibility in their annual reports.

Firms in Australia and Taiwan have also enthusiastically jumped on the corporate responsibility bandwagon in recent years, KPMG found.

"If anyone still thinks that Asia is a corporate responsibility dead zone, this survey is clear evidence that they should think again," said Mr Sharad Somani, head of climate change and sustainability services in KPMG in Singapore, in a statement on Wednesday.

"The companies surveyed in the Asia-Pacific region clearly recognise that doing business anywhere in a globalised 21st century world requires you to account for not just your financial performance, but also your social and environmental performance."

But KPMG noted that there are still areas of improvement. Despite the growth in reporting, external assurance for corporate responsibility reports remains mostly voluntary, and Singapore has one of the lowest rates of assurance globally.

"It is clear that sustainability is becoming part of the business language in Singapore and across Asia-Pacific... (but) quantity does not always equate to quality," said Mr Somani.

"Some companies report on their corporate responsibility activities, but show no evidence of robust reporting processes, strategic objectives or clear targets."

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