Greenwashing fear is hindering Asia corporates’ sustainability agenda, study finds


(Photo: Alamy / faithie )

To avoid greenwashing, enterprises may strengthen their sustainability efforts or trigger greenhushing phenomenon. According to global consulting firm Kearney, over 70% of executives in the Asia-Pacific region expressed reluctance to publicly disclose carbon reduction plans due to greenwashing anxieties.

Kearney conducted a survey across nine countries in the Asia-Pacific region, involving approximately 1,000 business executives. Of these, 83% indicated concern among their company's leadership regarding greenwashing behavior, with Malaysia and the Philippines leading the chart, followed by Indonesia.

However, 84% of respondents stated that organizations are becoming more cautious in planning sustainability development and goals, with 78% even reluctant to publicly discuss sustainability plans. Additionally, 72% said they hesitate to disclose emission reduction plans. The greenwashing worry hiders companies setting sustainability goals.

Carolina Rodriguez, Managing Director of sustainability-focused creative agency Dilucidar, said that regulation is changing so fast that it’s hard for companies to keep up. “Some don’t know where they stand. The alternative is to say nothing, because it’s safer.”

She described regulation as a “hot potato” that is driving greenwashing concern. Multinationals headquartered in the West with regional offices in Asia are more exposed to greenwashing scrutiny and a more aggressive activist scene, and some of that fear has been “exported” to Asia, Rodriguez suggested.

More than 70% of Asian executives continue to view sustainability efforts as a cost to business rather than a value creating opportunity.

Research findings also indicate that over 70% of business executives perceive sustainable development as a cost to the business rather than an opportunity to create value.

However, the anti-greenwashing trend has brought positive impacts to enterprises as well. 86% of executives stated that their companies are investing more resources to fulfill climate commitments, and an even higher percentage, reaching 90%, are placing greater emphasis on the sustainability practices of suppliers and partners.

Despite growing scrutiny of corporate sustainability goals, the majority remain optimistic about carbon reduction targets. Three-quarters of executives anticipated achieving net-zero in their Scope 1 and Scope 2 by 2030, while over 60% aiming to achieve net-zero in Scope 3 within the same timeframe.

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