Few Singapore firms see climate change as financial risk: Poll

Smoke and vapour rising from the cooling towers and chimneys of a power plant near Bergheim in Germany in 2009. The KPMG survey found that only 17 per cent of Singapore firms have set carbon reduction targets, which pales in comparison to the global
Smoke and vapour rising from the cooling towers and chimneys of a power plant near Bergheim in Germany in 2009. The KPMG survey found that only 17 per cent of Singapore firms have set carbon reduction targets, which pales in comparison to the global rate of 50 per cent.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Finding comes even as sustainability reporting begins

Sustainability reporting among Singapore-listed companies has begun, but more needs to be done in terms of recognising climate change as a financial risk, says a KPMG survey on corporate responsibility (CR) reporting.

According to the report, 84 per cent of the largest companies in Singapore are now undertaking CR reporting, faring better than the global average of 72 per cent.

This comes as the Singapore Exchange mandated last year that listed firms are required to include sustainability reporting on a "comply or explain" basis for the financial year ending on, or after, Dec 31 this year.

KPMG Singapore's head of sustainability advisory and assurance Ian Hong said Singapore's high percentage could be attributed to the high standards set under its Code of Corporate Governance, which formally incorporates sustainability considerations.

A surprising finding, however, is that 75 per cent of the top 100 companies in Singapore have yet to address the financial risks stemming from climate change in their annual reports.

Also, only 17 per cent of local firms have set carbon reduction targets, which pales in comparison to the global rate of 50 per cent.

Globally, the five economies with most of their top 100 companies acknowledging climate change as a financial risk in annual reports are Taiwan (88 companies), France (76), South Africa (61), the United States (53) and Canada (52), said KPMG.

  • 84%

    Percentage of the largest firms in Singapore undertaking CR reporting, compared with the global average of 72 per cent.

  • 75%

    Percentage of the top 100 firms here that have yet to address the financial risks stemming from climate change in their annual reports.

  • 17%

    Percentage of local firms that have set carbon reduction targets, compared with the global 50 per cent. 

Mr Hong said: "Going forward, disclosures surrounding climate risk will expand further due to the increasing expectations of securities regulators, the investor community and other stakeholders.

"We encourage companies to start with a full assessment of where climate-related risk lies within the organisation, and assess the current state of their processes and data quality for identifying and reporting on such risks."

He added that CR reports should be used as a tool to present an organisation's true value, beyond its financial performance.

Indeed, industry experts have noted that sustainability reporting brings about considerable benefits including cost savings, improved brand equity and better employee retention, among others.

Commenting on what the survey's findings mean for businesses, global head of KPMG sustainability services Jose Luis Blasco said: "Firstly, get ready for more reporting regulation because it is on the way. Secondly, be clear that reporting integration is the new normal... Finally, remember that from here on in, it's all about reporting your impact, not just statistics."

The KPMG Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting 2017 studied annual financial and CR reports from the 100 largest companies by revenue in 49 economies.

  • TOP FIVE

  • Economies with most of their top 100 firms acknowledging climate change as a financial risk in their annual reports:

    • Taiwan (88 companies)

    • France (76)

    • South Africa (61)

    • United States (53)

    • Canada (52)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2017, with the headline 'Few S'pore firms see climate change as financial risk: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe