Accelerating The ESG Momentum

More companies in Asia-Pacific are adopting ESG metrics to align with the interests of all stakeholders.

The corporate world is increasingly under pressure to do well by doing good. Businesses are accelerating their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) commitments as investors become more sophisticated and demand transparency over their portfolios. CEOs are not only held accountable for delivering growth and profits but also for steering businesses toward ESG commitments and goals.

According to global advisory firm WTW, more companies are tying executive incentives to ESG measures to align with the interests of all stakeholders, including the long-term interests of shareholders. This demonstrates the critical role of leadership in driving momentum for ESG initiatives.

WTW found that in 2023, 77% of leading companies in Asia-Pacific (APAC) incorporated ESG measures into their executive incentive plans, compared to 63% in 2022. This is considerably influenced by the level of disclosure requirements in each market, says the report. While the use of ESG metrics across the region is uneven, Australia, Japan and Singapore are leading the charge in disclosure and integration of ESG. Leading companies in other markets are picking up pace. 

Moving the Agenda Forward

The adoption of ESG metrics varies across sectors. The report highlights that companies in consumer staples, energy, financials and utilities sectors are more likely to incorporate ESG metrics into their executive incentive plans. Additionally, it notes a substantial increase in the utilization of ESG measures among real estate and communication services companies, as well as those in the energy and industrial sectors in APAC.

While environmental considerations continue to take center stage on the ESG agenda, social and governance factors are also gaining traction. For instance, social issues such as employee engagement, work safety-related issues, human rights, labor practices and ethical supply chain practices are among the growing concerns at large corporations.

FGV Holdings Berhad (FGV), a global agribusiness based in Malaysia and one of the world’s largest producers of crude palm oil, recognizes the importance of addressing these issues. The company prioritizes effective labor management, viewing it not as an operational cost but as a fundamental social responsibility. It has implemented policies, from providing improved housing and amenities to abolishing recruitment fees, and enhancing the well-being of its employees, particularly its migrant workers. FGV also engages smallholders for 70% of its crop supply. The company says this approach not only fosters community support but also facilitates economic empowerment, aligning with its mission to drive sustainable development. 

A Focus on Environmental Stewardship

As the world faces the escalating impact of climate change, businesses are doubling down on their efforts and commitment to sustainable practices. RGE, a Singapore-headquartered group of resource-based manufacturing companies with extensive operations globally, has incorporated innovative sustainable practices into its operations for decades as it further deepens its commitment to operating at the heart of the bioeconomy. By integrating bioeconomy principles into its operations, RGE and its business groups are revolutionizing plantation management, conservation and renewable energy practices.

Meanwhile, Sino Group, one of the leading developers in Hong Kong, has made sustainability a central focus of its operations. This includes everything from architectural planning and eco-friendly provisions to green property management and innovations, as well as caring for its employees’ well-being, serving the community and preserving cultural heritage.

These companies demonstrate how aligning themselves with ethical and sustainable principles is key to their long-term growth and success. As the regulatory landscape evolves, more companies will need to prepare to comply with mandatory ESG reporting regulations and requirements in major markets.

Sowing The Seeds Of A Greener Future Through The Bioeconomy

Bey Soo Khiang, Group Vice-Chairman of Singapore-headquartered RGE, shares the company’s progress and achievements in the bioeconomy and its range of sustainability commitments.

In the face of escalating environmental and climate challenges, the bioeconomy has emerged as a viable solution. The bioeconomy involves using renewable biological resources sustainably to produce food, energy and even industrial goods.

On the surface level, the bioeconomy involves breaking up plants into their component parts as completely as possible and converting them into valuable materials. However, it also involves growing the plants in a sustainable way.

By harnessing the regenerative potential of nature, the bioeconomy advocates for a holistic approach to economic development, one that fosters innovation, resilience and equity while safeguarding the planet for future generations.

It also helps the world move toward a more circular, low-carbon economy, which is aligned with a significant number of targets under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), as well as supports the push for net zero carbon emissions.

One of Apical’s palm oil refineries in Balikpapan, Indonesia

Commitment to the Bioeconomy and Sustainability

At the forefront of this transformative and visionary movement is Singapore-headquartered RGE, a group of resource-based manufacturing companies with extensive operations globally, from Indonesia and China to Brazil.

RGE, founded more than 50 years ago, is mainly involved in the paper, palm oil and textile industry. It plays a significant role in the value chain of many items that are used on a daily basis, from paper products, tissue and surgical masks to soaps, cooking oil and clothes.

It is also the world’s largest producer of viscose fiber—a natural, renewable and biodegradable cellulosic fiber made from wood pulp, commonly used as an affordable substitute for silk, and a more sustainable alternative to polyester.

RGE and its range of business groups have incorporated innovative sustainable practices into its operations for decades as it further deepens its commitment to operating at the heart of the bioeconomy.

Enhancing the Bioeconomy for the Next Generation

RGE, via its business group APRIL, is one of the world’s largest producers of bio-based pulp, paper and board products. Since APRIL began commercial production in 1993, the firm has been committed to sustainable business principles.

As early as 2002, more than a decade before the 17 UN SDGs were introduced, APRIL published its first sustainability report, which requires a company to have in-depth understanding on how its operations affect the environment.

“By integrating bioeconomy principles into its operations, RGE and its business groups such as APRIL are revolutionizing plantation management, conservation and renewable energy practices,” says Bey Soo Khiang, RGE’s Group Vice-Chairman.

One of the cornerstone efforts of RGE and APRIL in the area of the bioeconomy is the commitment to no deforestation. Laid down in 2015 in APRIL’s Sustainable Forest Management Policy 2.0, this commits the company to the elimination of deforestation from its supply chain and to protecting the forest landscapes in which its operates.

“Instead, our focus is on enhancing the productivity of existing land while adopting circularity principles,” Bey says.

In 2014, APRIL also unveiled its 1-for-1 commitment, which requires the company to protect and restore one hectare of forest for every hectare of plantation. To date, APRIL has achieved 80% of this target and has 361,234 hectares of conservation and restoration forest under management, Bey says.

Another flagship conservation program supported by APRIL is Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER). Established in 2013, RER is one of the largest forest ecosystem restoration projects in Southeast Asia. It comprises more than 150,000 hectares of peatland swamp forest on the Kampar Peninsula and Padang Island, in east Sumatra, Indonesia, home to hundreds of species of fauna and flora, some of which are endangered.

Rangers from Restorasi Ekosistem Riau carry out conservation activities.

Creating Bioeconomy Awareness

Bey says the bioeconomy and sustainability can only be achieved with the buy-in from all stakeholders. Therefore, RGE has taken a proactive role in spreading awareness on the bioeconomy to villagers.

By working closely with subject matter experts, social enterprises and local influencers, RGE regularly shares updates on key environmental topics, such as the potential impact of El Niño weather system changes, as well as the operation of APRIL’s “zero burn” policy and its Fire Free Village Program (FFVP) which works to build strong partnerships with local communities, actively engaging them in fire prevention and awareness initiatives.

“We educated families about the harmful effects of haze on children’s health. We have also appointed village firemen to speak about not performing open burning to clear land. On top of that, we have also loaned machinery to help farmers with heavy work and helped ‘no fire’ communities build mosques or schools,” Bey says.

The education and awareness among communities driven by the FFVP has been successful. Among participating communities, instances of burnt land have dropped by more than 90% since the program was set up in 2014.

Journey to Net Zero

Over the long-term, RGE has an ambitious goal of achieving net zero carbon emission by 2050. On its way to net zero, it aims to cut carbon emission by 30-50% by 2030, by investing in solar and biomass energy.

To achieve this ambitious goal, Bey says RGE would need to leverage the power of digital technology. For a start, it uses drones to find where seedlings have not survived, so that the company can replant quickly and maximize yield. Such a move is important to reduce carbon emission, Bey says, as studies have shown that carbon emission is high when the land is exposed to the sun.

Bey adds that the company has invested US$4 million to install four greenhouse gas flux towers to measure the net exchanges of methane and carbon dioxide emitted or absorbed in its plantation and conservation areas, as well as nitrous oxide in the soil. “We use measurements of the life cycle of trees to determine where and when emissions are highest and how to bring them down,” he says.

APRIL invests in R&D to advance sustainable approaches to forestry plantation management.

Continuous Support for Science, Research and Development

Although RGE has begun its sustainability journey ahead of industry peers, Bey says it is crucial for the group to continue supporting scientific research, as advancement in science is key to achieving sustainable targets.

Bey says each of RGE’s group of companies has its own sustainability targets. In RGE’s case, one of its main focuses will be on improving the sustainability of its textile business.

“We are looking to scale circularity and improve recycling, particularly in the textile industry, as we are the world’s largest producer of plant-based viscose fiber, which has silk-like properties,” Bey says.

“We are laser-focused on finding solutions, so that textile content doesn’t go to landfills. We have committed to invest S$6 million (US$4.4 million) over five years with Nanyang Technological University in Singapore to create ways for all recyclable materials to be reused. I believe this can help drive an innovative urban-fit prototype with low carbon emission, chemicals and effluents.”

Forging Partnerships

Bey also shares that Apical, a member of the RGE-managed group of companies, has formed a joint venture (JV) with Spanish firm Cepsa. The JV involves the construction of the largest second-generation biofuel plant in southern Europe. Scheduled to commence production in 2026, the biofuel plant has the capacity to produce up to 500,000 tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) a year.

Today, SAF comprises about 5% of the total fuel mix in Europe, and it is up to 2.5 times more expensive than normal jet fuel. Bey believes there will be a day when SAF becomes a more viable option for airlines.

“I’m confident that soon we’ll be expanding production of SAF through partnerships closer to home here in Southeast Asia,” he says.


Creating Better Lifescapes

For more than half a century, Sino Group has been championing green living and wellness, pursuing meaningful designs and innovations while respecting heritage and culture to build a better community. 

Silversands    Situated by the picturesque Starfish Bay, the low-density waterfront development provides 160 beautifully presented one- to four-bedroom residences, as well as a clubhouse equipped with wellness, fitness and recreational amenities, bringing beachfront living to life.

Established in Hong Kong in 1971, Sino Group has been growing with the communities it serves into one of the leading developers in Hong Kong. Today, the Group has footprint in Hong Kong, mainland China, Singapore and Australia, as well as a team that counts over 11,000 across the Asia-Pacific.

The Group has participated in over 250 projects spanning over 130 million square feet of floor area. Its core business of developing residential, office, industrial and retail properties for sale and investment is complemented by a full range of property services to ensure a holistic “Sino Experience.” It is also a major player in hotel investment and management, including The Fullerton Hotels & Resorts and other affiliate brands.

Sustainability is central to the Group’s mission of “Creating Better Lifescapes” and is integrated into all aspects of the Group’s operations—from architectural planning to eco-friendly provisions, from green property management to innovations, from taking care of its staff to serving the community and preserving cultural heritage.

Green Living

The Group has been at the forefront of pursuing green and sustainable solutions for the built environment. In 2020, the Group unveiled the Sustainability Vision 2030, a blueprint charting the course for 2030 and beyond. It entails the Group’s vision across crucial areas such as decarbonization, renewable energy, plastic reduction, green building certification and innovative solutions, all of which contribute to a more sustainable future. In a further effort to drive sustainability, the Group unveiled its Decarbonization Blueprint in 2022, a holistic roadmap toward net zero carbon by 2050. A comprehensive climate risk assessment has also been conducted to improve climate resilience of the Group’s properties in alignment with recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

In 2023, Sino Land, one of the listed companies of Sino Group, received validation from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) with respect to its criteria and recommendations (version 5.0). The validated targets include a commitment to reduce absolute Scopes 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 46.2% by 2030, using 2019 as the baseline. The Group is also striving to reduce Scope 3 GHG emissions from capital goods, fuel and energy-related activities, and waste generated in operations by 51.6% per square foot by 2030 from the 2022 baseline, in addition to a 51.6% reduction in Scope 3 GHG emissions from leased assets per square foot by 2030.

Taking a further step, the Group adopts a circular economy approach to reduce carbon footprint and municipal waste. The Group’s partnership with EcoBricks, a homegrown startup, is a case in point. With its proprietary process, EcoBricks are upcycled from all the seven types of plastic, including mixed and composite plastic. The low-energy process entails no heating or melting of plastic, eliminating harmful emissions and representing a viable circular economy solution to plastic waste. The Group has applied EcoBricks at Gold Coast Piazza, Olympian City and The Fullerton Ocean Park Hotel Hong Kong, and plans to apply them at more suitable properties. It also aims to strengthen engagement with tenants and customers to support plastic upcycling and the circular economy.

ONE SOHO    Drawing inspiration from “city in transformation,” ONE SOHO presents an urban oasis with a greening ratio of over 30% and all-in-one space blending social, relaxation and leisure. It received the Grand Award at the prestigious Green Building Award 2023, notably for its sustainable model of urban redevelopment.

Innovative Design

Sino Group is also taking a major step in driving green and digitalized property development. It deploys Ampd Enertainer, an advanced energy storage system, to power construction activities on-site. Developed by a homegrown startup, Ampd Enertainer provides diesel-free power and Internet of Things (IoT) for holistic reviews of equipment and operational efficiency. Compared with traditional generators, it is quieter, reduces carbon emission by 75% and eliminates “tailpile” emissions. In addition, OpenSpace’s AI 360, an integrated solution for efficient project management, is deployed on construction sites. The 360° cameras and AI-based technology facilitate complete visual records on-site and enable remote project tracking.

The Group established Sino Inno Lab in 2018 as a sandbox platform for startups and technology companies, and to facilitate co-creation. In 2024, the Group launched the second Sino Inno Lab at One North, occupying a strategic location within the Northern Metropolis. Complementing the second Sino Inno Lab is The Spark, an exchange platform accelerating innovation and co-creation while connecting to the Greater Bay Area.

Community Spirit

As a committed corporate citizen, the Group serves those in need to make the community a more compassionate place. Sino Group and the Ng Teng Fong Charitable Foundation have supported Wellness Lodge, a transitional housing project for underprivileged families on the waiting list for public housing in Hong Kong.

Wellness Lodge provides around 80 units ranging from 146 to 197 square feet at preferential rents. Accessible facilities are provided to cater to the needs of elderly residents and the physically challenged. The project also provides a farming area and cozy space for families to engage in various activities, in addition to a multi-purpose room.

Sino Group and the Ng Teng Fong Charitable Foundation also supported the Community Living Room initiative, led by the HKSAR Government, with the pilot program launched in December 2023. The initiative has garnered positive feedback, demonstrating the possibilities of tripartite collaboration among the government, business sector and community to support the community.

“We hold a strong belief in the crucial role of businesses in building a healthier and better future together. Sustainability is integrated into all aspects of our business and operations, as we seek to create long-term value for stakeholders and the communities, and to ensure that we grow more resilient together,” says Daryl Ng, Deputy Chairman of the Group.

 Sino Land’s Latest ESG Achievements
  • Selected as a constituent of the Dow Jones Sustainability Asia/Pacific Index for two consecutive years (2023-2024), placing the Group among the top 20% in Asia-Pacific
  • Achieved five-star rating in the 2023 Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark Real Estate Assessment
  • “AA” rating in the MSCI ESG Rating, signifying ESG industry leader status for two consecutive years (2023-2024)
  • Regional Top-Rated ESG Performer by Sustainalytics for three years in a row, maintaining an overall “Low Risk” rating (2022-2024)
  • Named one of the Global 100 Sustainable Companies by Corporate Knights (2023-2024)
  • Recognized in S&P Global Sustainability Yearbooks (2023-2024)

Cultivating A Sustainable Future For All

Guided by its Sustainability Framework, Malaysia’s FGV Holdings Berhad is committed to more than just advocating sustainable palm oil and safeguarding food security; it also strives to forge a sustainable future through responsible resource management, championing human rights and caring for the environment.

FGV Holdings Berhad (FGV), a global agribusiness based in Malaysia and one of the world’s largest producers of crude palm oil (CPO), understands the significance of sustainability. With a yearly output of 3 million metric tons (MT) of CPO—which accounts for 14% of Malaysia’s production and 3% of global supply—FGV plays a crucial role in global food production.

“As an organization that is reliant on natural resources, we understand the need to conscientiously cultivate the land while fostering an ecosystem that promotes inclusive growth for all,” says Dato’ Nazrul Mansor, Group CEO of FGV.

In July, FGV will unveil its enhanced Sustainability Framework, serving as a blueprint for the company in its sustainability journey. The framework is structured around five key pillars: Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals, Economic Growth, Innovation and Technology. It addresses a wide range of concerns, from environmental conservation and human rights protection to aligning sustainability objectives company-wide, as well as identifying emerging economic growth sectors and leveraging technology for organizational transformation.

Dato’ Nazrul Mansor, Group CEO of FGV

Cultivating a Diverse Portfolio for a Sustainable Future 

FGV, which has operations spanning seven countries across Asia, the Middle East, North America and Europe, has since diversified its portfolio into six primary divisions, namely plantation, oil & fats, sugar, consumer products, logistics & support, and integrated farming.

Its plantation sector, with a total land bank of more than 440,000 hectares for oil palm and rubber, forms the core of the company.

The company’s bulking and transport businesses are also revenue generators, with 12 strategically located terminals in Malaysia and Pakistan. FGV owns one of the world’s largest storage facilities for edible oils with a total capacity exceeding 1 million MT.

It is committed to providing sustainable food and agriproducts worldwide. This year, the company launched two new products— Saji sweetened creamer and Saji evaporated creamer—in the Middle East and North Africa market, following the successful launch of Adela margarine in the region in 2022.

As one of Malaysia’s industry leaders, FGV aims to play a significant role in the country’s food security agenda by offering affordable high-quality and nutritious food products. Besides Saji and Adela Gold, the company’s consumer product brands include Seri Pelangi, Gula Prai, Ladang’57 and Bright Cow.

Its dairy brand, Bright Cow, specializes in producing top-quality milk-based products, including fresh milk, ultra-high-temperature (UHT) milk, cheese, yogurt and kefir. FGV’s fresh produce brand, Ladang’57, on the other hand, engages in large-scale and high-quality agricultural production of MD2 pineapples, Cavendish bananas, Harumanis mangoes, fragrant rice and free-range chicken, among others.

Advocating Sustainable Palm Oil 

The palm oil industry, long scrutinized for its environmental impact, is showing a notable shift toward sustainability, while adhering to challenging ESG requirements. Despite discourse surrounding palm oil’s environmental impact, there is global advocacy for the sustainable development of the industry instead of a blanket boycott. In recent years, the Malaysian government’s commitment to policies such as No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation (NDPE) has also led to a major decline in forest loss.

Working under the stringent requirements of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) Certification Scheme, FGV contributes toward environmental conservation and champions human rights, thereby redefining benchmarks for sustainable palm oil production.

RSPO develops and implements global standards for sustainable palm oil, while MSPO ensures Malaysian palm products meet global sustainability standards. To promote awareness on sustainable practices set by MSPO in the Malaysian palm oil industry, FGV embarked on a strategic collaboration by placing the MSPO certification label on its Saji cooking oil.

To promote sustainable practices in the palm oil industry, FGV has signed a strategic collaboration with Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil to carry the latter’s certification label on its Saji cooking oil products, making it one of the first companies to do so.

Navigating Global Challenges 

Facing challenges like import bans and regulatory scrutiny, FGV remains resilient, leveraging its Sustainability Framework while tackling issues like the United States Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Withhold Release Order (WRO) and the upcoming European Union’s Deforestation Regulation (EUDR).

FGV has been working relentlessly to reverse the WRO decision, in place since 2020. Remedial measures include appointing independent consultant Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance (LRQA) to assess FGV’s operations and presenting the findings to CBP at the end of June 2024. FGV has given top priority to implement a remediation plan to uphold labor rights and address any gaps in its labor practices, including the reimbursement of recruitment fees imposed on its migrant workers by third-party recruitment agencies.

Championing Human Rights and Equality 

FGV’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond environmental stewardship. Recognizing the integral role of its 50,000 workforce, FGV has implemented policies, from providing improved housing and amenities to abolishing recruitment fees, and enhancing the well-being of its employees, particularly its migrant workers.

Demonstrating its dedication to gender equality, FGV became the first agribusiness in Malaysia to sign the UN’s Women’s Empowerment Principles. In further supporting the gender empowerment agenda, FGV enhanced its governance structure by appointing an additional two distinguished female Independent Non-Executive Directors to its board in April 2024. This move signifies FGV’s unwavering dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion across all organizational levels.

FGV’s determination to uphold labor rights mirrors a broader trend in the industry toward ethical and sustainable business practices. As global pressure mounts on companies to address issues like forced labor and environmental degradation, FGV stands as a beacon, showcasing how businesses can drive positive change.

“We prioritize effective labor management, viewing it not as an operational cost but as a fundamental social responsibility,” says Dato’ Nazrul. “For example, rather than solely relying on in-house cultivation for processing, we actively engage smallholders, ensuring that 70% of our crop supply originates from them. This approach not only fosters community support but also facilitates economic empowerment, aligning with our mission to drive sustainable development.”

Barn owls help to keep the rodent population in check.

Forging a Path Toward Sustainable Business 

Embracing the principles of the circular economy, FGV is revolutionizing waste management and resource utilization. Through innovative initiatives like the “waste-to-wealth” program, FGV harnesses the power of nature by using black soldier fly larvae to convert palm oil mill wastes into a protein-rich source, used as fertilizers and feed for chicken and fish.

Other eco-friendly practices include using barn owls as natural predators to control rodent populations in the plantation and employing non-toxic herbicides to control weed.

“While implementing a circular economy requires collaboration among stakeholders and changes in business models, it offers benefits including reduced resource depletion, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and new economic opportunities through innovation and job creation,” says Dato’ Nazrul.

The palm oil industry has a long supply chain, and traceability is crucial for ensuring that supplies are sourced from companies that adhere to sustainable practices. FGV has successfully achieved 100% traceability for its plantations.

At FGV, the protection of wildlife and biodiversity is also a priority. The company has initiated programs to conserve endangered forest species such as the Malayan sun bears, pygmy elephants, gibbons, and pangolins. FGV has been consistent in strategically planting indigenous trees to attract and foster endangered wildlife population.

Under its waste-to-wealth program, FGV is firmly exploring the potential of green energy generation by leveraging its agricultural by-products such as biomass from palm oil production. This strategy involves collaboration and innovation with feedstock suppliers, power generators, and distributors to transform agricultural by-products into renewable energy and integrate it into the national grid. FGV’s commitment to renewable energy initiatives has positioned itself as the only palm plantation company in the world with 28 biogas power plants.

“There has never been a better time than now for the palm oil industry to be sustainable. Continuous improvement is an intrinsic part of any sustainability journey, and we have more tools than ever before to achieve sustainable supply chains that protect forests, ecosystems and human rights,” says Dato’ Nazrul.

“We are sowing the seeds for a brighter tomorrow—one where sustainability, prosperity and environmental stewardship go hand in hand. Our reputation as a leader in this space attracts partners eager to align with our values. We are committed to extending this transformative value proposition to the global market, driving sustainable change and fostering meaningful partnerships worldwide.”

Watch the video “Cultivating A Sustainable Future”

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