Survey data has pointed to the lack of programs and measurement as key barriers in the region’s lag in ESG initiatives.

A 16-country global survey of 1,491 executives between 21 December 21 and 8 Jan 2022 in which business leaders shared their views on prioritization, challenges, and opportunities for sustainability has indications that while APAC respondents were especially optimistic about sustainability compared to peers around the world, they lagged behind those of North America, Europe, Middle East and Africa in having programs and strategic priorities to achieve sustainability initiatives.

The survey, commissioned by Google Cloud, identified two factors—the lack of sustainability programs and the lack of quantifiable measurements—as the most significant barriers to sustainability transformation across APAC.

The good news from the data is that sustainability was increasingly top of mind for respondents around the world as they sought to protect the environment and make sustainability a growth driver. The movement is new on many organizations’ sustainability journeys, with the majority in planning and early implementation phases of programming.

The evidence points to the management of technology as the path forward, enabling executives to narrow the gap between ambitions and impact. 

Key findings

APAC respondents led in optimism for sustainability agendas, (77% compared to global 73%), with many identifying environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives as their top organizational priority, ranking ESG on par with business model evolution and customer relationship and experience optimization. 87% of APAC respondents agreed to prompts that they wished their “board or senior leadership gave us more room to prioritize sustainability” compared to 82% globally. Other findings follow:

  • APAC respondents were more likely to indicate that their organization did not have sustainability programs or strategic priorities in place—the highest of all regions (8% APAC vs 4% percent globally).
  • Measurement was a challenge, with 36% of APAC respondents measuring their sustainability efforts, and only 16% (17% globally) using measurement tools to optimize results. 
  • APAC respondents faced competing priorities, with revenue KPIs and authenticity the biggest barriers to sustainability progress: 37%, comparable to 38% globally.
    • Authenticity was also top of mind, with 61% in APAC vs 58% globally indicating that their organization was guilty of greenwashing, and 65% (vs 66% globally) questioning how genuine or effective their organization’s sustainability initiatives were. 
  • Tech innovation was the top area respondents believed will impact the sustainable growth of their organization and of the planet. 79% of APAC respondents (vs 78% globally) believed that technology can help transform operations, socialize initiatives, and measure and report on the impact of their efforts.
  • The top two investment areas for 2022 cited by respondents were technology (61% in APAC, 62% globally) and sustainability (50% in APAC, 55% globally). 
  • The survey showed a divergence in sustainability agendas and progress within APAC, with Indonesia and Taiwan leading in prioritization and best practices: 
APAC countries represented/  Selected survey questionsAustraliaIndonesiaJapanSingaporeTaiwanGlobal average
ESG is a priority at my organization64%66%34%62%79%63%
My organization is more focused on growing in a way that is sustainable for the planet, even if it means lower revenue in the near future 61%74%54%57%71%62%
My organization does not have programs or strategic priorities in place to accomplish sustainability initiatives5%0%26%8%1%4%
We have not started developing a strategy / have been focused on other areas, and are not planning to do so in the near future15%1%22%4%0%6%
We have the ability to measure our biggest areas of environmental impact and progress against our goals89%96%46%86%95%85%
We are implementing a program or sustainability initiative/measuring its impact/using the measurement of our program to optimize based on results51%77%36%64%63%59%
Technology allows us to measure the impact of our efforts / report (e.g., automated data collection, reporting, etc.)43%54%46%44%49%45%
Technology enables automation or outsourcing business operations to improve sustainability31%59%32%44%61%43%
Technology enables reduced carbon footprint of commuting (e.g. hybrid or remote work)31%43%28%51%50%42%
Organizational priorities and programs, measurement of impact, and technology investment

According to Google Cloud’s Vice President for Asia Pacific (APAC), Karan Bajwa: “The International Panel on Climate Change report is a stark reminder that it is now or never for climate action. Our planet urgently needs it, and consumers, employees, and investors demand it. As organizations ramp up sustainability transformation efforts, technology innovation is what executives believe will have a lasting impact on the sustainability of their organization and the planet.”