Doing good makes good business sense: 25 firms lauded for steward leadership

Stewardship Asia Centre’s CEO Rajeev Peshawaria stresses the importance of steward leadership, which refers to the “desire and persistence to create a collective better future”. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – Come Nov 30, the stories behind 25 worthy companies in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific will be unveiled at the inaugural Steward Leadership Summit. The stories and their projects capture their efforts in creating economic value by integrating the needs of stakeholders, society, future generations and the environment.

This listing – Steward Leadership 25 (SL25) – aims to showcase the best narratives of steward leadership in the Asia-Pacific. They cover large, medium and small listed firms, private or social enterprises, but all pursuing steward leadership in both strategy and execution.

Stewardship Asia Centre is behind the initiative, together with partners Insead Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society, global broking and solutions firm WTW and The Straits Times.

Stewardship Asia Centre’s chief executive officer Rajeev Peshawaria noted: “There were 95 submissions from a diverse range of industries. We had participation from sectors including financial services, transportation, agribusiness, real estate and many more. They came from over 10 countries across the Asia-Pacific.”

In early 2022, companies submitted details of their efforts to a judging panel.

“It is really heartening to see the effort and persistence of so many organisations striving to make lasting positive changes in the environment and community.”

Commitment to steward leadership starts at the top. WTW’s global leader of executive compensation and board advisory Shai Ganu said leaders have to believe that companies are responsible for all stakeholders.

Pursuing these ESG (environmental, social, governance) priorities also makes good business sense, he added.

The hope is that these examples will inspire others, said executive director of the Insead Emerging Markets Institute, Gender Initiative and Africa Initiative, Dr Vinika D. Rao, by moving the focus from increasing the “value” of companies to emphasising the “values” that their companies stand for.

ST editor Jaime Ho said: “At The Straits Times, we have been covering developments in Singapore, Asia and the world since 1845, helping our readers understand events around them. Especially at this time of significant economic, environmental and geopolitical uncertainty, it is heartening to learn of, and support, the efforts of companies which aim to do good for all their stakeholders.” 

The judges were impressed by the quality and range of submissions.

Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh is happy to note that “so many companies in the region are acting responsibly and doing good things for their community, for sustainability and the environment”.

CEO of Panarchy Partners Munib Madni said the inspiring stories came from social enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises and not just large companies.

Singapore Management University president (SMU) Lily Kong noted that the businesses range from “ecoproducts to medical device manufacturing to sustainable hospitality to HR consulting to sustainable investing to support carbon transition”.

While the companies are all at different stages of their stewardship journey, they have made steward leadership part of their core activities, said Yale-NUS College’s president Joanne Roberts. These activities include aiming to reduce the carbon footprint and have a positive environmental impact, as well as the employment of marginalised communities.

SPH Media Trust former interim CEO Patrick Daniel (right) speaking at the Stewardship Asia Roundtable 2022 held at the Equarius Hotel at Resorts World Sentosa, on March 31, 2022. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Apec Secretariat Singapore’s executive director Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria finds that the motivations of the companies vary. Some are motivated by profit while others focus on legacy. Some have realised that they need to incorporate steward leadership values to remain sustainable. Yet for others, it is the stakeholders who are also responsible for driving some of these changes.     

Another judge, Dr Veerathai Santiprabhob, who chairs the executive board at the Mae Fah Luang Foundation, highlights that innovation is key to success. “Execution will be key in delivering the outcomes. (Companies) should not expect to conduct their business the same way and generate different outcomes, especially in the current competitive and volatile business environment.”

But companies will have to realise, said SMU’s Professor Kong, that the means of measurement and articulation are not yet well honed. This means that the full impact of the work may not yet be fully appreciated, she added.

The full SL25 listing will be released on Nov 30 via a live stream on ST’s LinkedIn page during the summit, followed by a panel discussion.

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