Business gurus back ESG as new normal

Business gurus back ESG as new normal

New demands on corporates, summit finale told

From left: Irene Natividad (President of the Global Summit of Women), Elena Butarova (MetLife's regional head for Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal and Vietnam) and Chadatip Chutrakul (chief executive of Siam Piwat) take part in the 2022 Global Summit of Women (GSW) in Bangkok on Saturday. (Photo: Global Summit of Women 2022)
From left: Irene Natividad (President of the Global Summit of Women), Elena Butarova (MetLife's regional head for Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal and Vietnam) and Chadatip Chutrakul (chief executive of Siam Piwat) take part in the 2022 Global Summit of Women (GSW) in Bangkok on Saturday. (Photo: Global Summit of Women 2022)

The global community concept of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) should be regarded as a “new normal”’ on the road to achieving sustainable development goals, a conference for female CEOs acknowledged on Saturday.

Advocates of the view that company profits should be shared among the workforce, rather than flowing back into the pockets of owners, made their case on the last day of the 2022 Global Summit of Women (GSW), as they discussed the topic of ‘’How ESG Informs Business Strategy’’.

ESG is widely seen as an evolution in the methodology by which company performance can be measured and has been embraced by customers and investors.

Even if not required to do so, many companies are now including their ESG activities in annual reports.

Kattiya Indaravijaya, CEO of Kasikornbank, said that 74% of participants in a recent survey had agreed to pay more if the company could meet its net-zero pledges, which reflects how global concern is shifting toward tackling climate change and environmental issues.

As a fund manager herself, she said she could feel a shift among the global elite toward focusing on how many international behemoths observe ESG practices, which also embrace human rights, welfare and harassment- and discrimination-free workplaces.

“When the business partners and customers’ mindsets change, so does the company.

‘’This is beyond CSR or corporate social responsibility.

“It is something that could create advantages from other competitors. ESG is no longer an alternative choice, but it is already the new normal practice for sustainable growth,’’ Ms Kattiya said.

Elena Butarova, MetLife’s regional head for Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal and Vietnam, said sustainable development is important for the insurance sector too.

After her company created a successful platform, it shared its story via new media channels as in the belief it could enhance sustainable growth across disparate sectors in the long run.

For example, she said that the company made strong efforts to support the first woman CEO in Egypt in 2014 and also found a way to throw a support to agents in Nepal, where 70% of those in the role are women.

Ms Butarova said the company had invested US$30 billion to help people who are suffering from symptoms of poverty and urbanisation.

In terms of the environment, she said that the company has been carbon neutral since 2016.

Chadatip Chutrakul, CEO of Siam Piwat Group, said the company has provided 14,000 square metres of Iconsiam for local business owners to sell food and other premium products, which could generate income to those vendors worth around $50 million.

The company sees this as a “loss-leading” strategy to raise the wealth of the local community as a whole, she added.

She said ESG is now part of a company’s DNA which is wholly invested in the belief that improving incomes and standards of living from the bottom up will benefit society as a whole in the long run.

‘’We have around 100,000 customers per day who visit our Sook Sayam corner.

“We can help to modernise old-fashioned family businesses and in turn that encourages the young to bring their skills, as they can now perceive the opportunity to be successful here, and that benefits us all,’’ she added.

Dian Siswarini, CEO of PT XL Axiata from Indonesia, said setting up telecommunication systems in Indonesia is geographically challenging and the company needs to invest around $1 billion a year to develop such systems.

“Some say that in a situation like this, the company should focus on profits instead.

“But we firmly believe that in the long run, the risk of high expenses now will yield sustainable rewards for future generations,’’ she stressed.

Meanwhile, Sharon Dayoan, chair and CEO of KPMG RG Manabat & Co from the Philippines, said ESG is something new in her home country, and there are no strong regulations to enforce it. 

However, she said it is still important to incorporate this into business blueprints as it will inevitably come to play not only an important, but also a legally enforced, role in the local economy of the future. 

Thailand hosted the three-day GSW 2022, attended by 650 delegates from 52 countries.

The Bangkok Summit ended on Saturday with two significant milestones having been achieved. 

It was the first carbon-neutral gathering ever in the event’s 32-year history.

And it also made significant revisions to Thailand’s Corporate Governance Code regarding the terminology that should be used during high-level discussions on gender diversity as a necessary component of good corporate governance.

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