In Asia, a number of leading companies have embraced environmentally sustainable business practices, but many more still need to catch up. The governments in Asia can play a key role by implementing strong policies that address the systemic under-pricing of fossil fuels and water, incentivize green innovations, and engage civil society. Long-term business success needs a social license to operate, and companies worldwide must recognize this reality.
Veteran journalist and Asia Business Council’s executive director Mark Clifford has written a new book, The Greening of Asia: The Business Case for Solving Asia’s Environmental Emergency. The book, published by Columbia Business School, puts the spotlight on Asian companies that are catalyzing sustainability through technology and policy innovation. Clifford profiles companies in three core areas: energy, including renewables; urban infrastructure, including efficient buildings and transportation; and nature’s services, including forests, farms, and water.
The book quotes the example of Hong Kong’s CLP Holdings, which was historically a dirty energy utility, but has now transformed its approach towards sustainability. The company has set a target to cut its carbon emissions 75 percent by 2050, with interim targets along the way. It is now the largest foreign investor in China’s and India’s wind energy markets.
Singapore, which had virtually no water resources in the 1960s, is today home to Hyflux, the world leader in membrane technology and desalination plants. Hyflux became one of the few Asian companies that treated its wastewater when there were no economic incentives to do so. With sales of $412 million in 2013, Hyflux is now a thriving international company.
China’s BYD (“Build Your Dreams”) is a lithium battery and electric car company, which is 10 percent owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy. Hong Kong shirt manufacturer Esquel believes that green and sustainable companies will make more money. Esquel’s sales tripled and net profit grew six-fold by cutting energy and water waste.
India’s outsourcing giant, Infosys Technologies, has set a goal to become carbon neutral and power its entire India operations with renewable energy. The company has cut its per capita power consumption by nearly 50 percent and water consumption by 40 percent at no additional cost over the last six years. The more Infosys measured its consumption, the more it saved.
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