In many ways, the future of our world will be defined by Asia. With a ballooning economic growth rate and a leadership role in implementing alternative energy solutions, the GlobeScan Hong Kong team recently hosted two key events with thought leaders to discuss how to accelerate the drive towards a more sustainable, better world.
Our first event was hosted by Dream Impact, a community of socially minded entrepreneurs who share the same vision in creating collective social impact through business and together develop an innovative and resilient network. It was a highly interactive event, with many from both the corporate and the social impact scene in Hong Kong working on the cutting edge of social innovation.
Our Salon event was held at our offices at The Hive Sheung Wan with over 40 guests from the commercial and social sector. It was an interactive evening where guests raised questions and shared their thoughts on how to move sustainability forward in Asia.
Many of the interesting and insightful conversations and discussions at these events were framed by our recently launched book, All In: The Future of Business Leadership The book, co-authored by GlobeScan’s Chris Coulter, David Grayson, Emeritus Professor of Corporate Responsibility at the Cranfield School of Management, and Mark Lee Executive Director of SustainAbility, identifies the essential attributes of high-impact corporate sustainability leadership and describes how companies can combine and apply those characteristics for future success.
All In draws on the perspectives of thousands of experts globally as collected via the GlobeScan/SustainAbility Leaders Survey over two decades. The book reveals insights from dozens of interviews with Chairs, CEOs and Chief Sustainability Officers of pioneering companies explaining how they have gained recognition, created value and boosted resiliency based on their sustainability leadership.
When looking at the top 10 corporate leaders from the 2018 results of our GlobeScan/SustainAbility Leaders Survey, it is notable that Asian companies are missing from this leaderboard. However, there are other important reasons for the lack of recognized Asian corporate leaders: most Asian companies, often family owned, have not yet integrated sustainability fully in their overall business strategy.
All In defines a leadership framework for the long-term success of companies built around five key attributes.
- Purpose – a societal Purpose beyond profit maximization that galvanizes the organization to make a substantive positive difference in the world, and which describes how the business creates value both for business and society (e.g. IKEA, Nestlé, Tesla);
- Plan– a comprehensive Plan to embed sustainability throughout the business (e.g. Unilever, Marks & Spencer, Danone);
- Culture – an innovative, empowering, open and accountable Culture which enables all other attributes (e.g. Natura, Patagonia, Apple);
- Collaboration – the skill and will to identify and undertake Collaboration in support of the Purpose and Plan (e.g. Interface, Unilever, Walmart);
- Advocacy– an Advocacy approach characterized by speaking up and speaking out for pro sustainable development policies, norms and behaviors and broader systemic change (e.g. Interface, Patagonia, Unilever).
Often, Asian companies have a humble attitude towards broadcasting their achievements in sustainability, and don’t want to be accused of green-washing and want to deliver upon their promises. This is ingrained in the DNA of many (long established) Asian businesses and the overall culture, which also includes some aversion of risk, which advocacy can bring. However, there are uniquely Asian expressions of the All In leadership attributes, which need further definition and exploration.
As the authors of All In write: “To have a fighting chance of enduring success, businesses can no longer be half-hearted or tentative about sustainability, they now have to go All In to secure long-term commercial success. Business leaders must proactively engage with society and embrace circular economy models to survive and thrive.” This is as true in Hong Kong and Asia more broadly, as anywhere in the World.