Discover how corporate transparency, workers’ rights, and environmental concerns intersect amidst elections in Asia.
Despite the dual conflicts of ongoing wars and escalating geopolitical tensions globally, businesses persisted in adopting innovations and enhancing their supply chains throughout the year.
The emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI) marked a significant milestone, with ChatGPT swiftly becoming the world’s most sought-after AI platform, amassing 100 million users within a mere two months of its launch. However, amid the corporate integration of this technology to bolster efficiency and reduce expenses, there is now a widespread plea to safeguard and bolster the workforce, ensuring that automation enhances workplaces without jeopardizing jobs. These initiatives are expected to persist.
The rapid ascent of electric vehicle (EV) adoption is notable in emerging economies such as India, Thailand, and Indonesia, where the demand is primarily driven by affordable models.
Stringent regulations have compelled corporations not only to monitor their direct emissions but also those stemming from their suppliers and end-users.
Increased emphasis on safeguarding workers amidst the latest surge of AI innovations
The prominence of advancing technology has been eclipsed notably by the rise of generative AI over the past year. According to a survey conducted in September by the London-based market research firm Mintel Trends, half of the respondents in the Asia Pacific region express concerns about AI rendering their jobs obsolete, despite 57 percent admitting a limited understanding of AI.
Within the same study, 69 percent of participants voiced opposition to supporting companies engaged in unethical practices, such as deceiving consumers and mistreating employees, while 73 percent believed that companies should take more substantial measures to address inequality issues like equitable pay and support for vulnerable groups.
Matthew Crabbe, Mintel’s Asia Pacific director, interprets these findings as indicative of a ‘strong moral sentiment’ prevalent in the region, signaling an increasing norm toward prioritizing workers’ rights, combating inequality, and addressing mistreatment. This trend encompasses an examination of how modern technology might pose a threat to employment opportunities.
Rapid Advancement of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in Developing Asia
China has witnessed a remarkable surge in electric vehicle (EV) sales in recent years, capturing approximately a quarter of the global market share. Domestically, China’s Hainan province has established the most ambitious goal in Asia to eliminate sales of traditional vehicles by 2030.
However, unlike solar technology, which, due to its affordability, presents an appealing investment option, EVs have encountered limited traction in the rest of the developing world. This is primarily attributed to their comparatively higher purchase costs and the absence of readily available charging infrastructure.
India, on the other hand, boasts a burgeoning population of EV owners, with a significant majority — more than 90 percent — comprising popular motorbikes, scooters, and rickshaws.
The Spotlight on Scope 3 Reporting
Ivan Li, the Director of Strategy and Implementation, Asia Pacific, at energy consultancy ENGIE Impact, anticipates increased pressure on companies not only to disclose their direct emissions but also to reveal their Scope 3 or indirect emissions stemming from suppliers and end-users.
This amplified attention from government entities and crucial stakeholders are compelling corporations to proactively enhance their transparency measures. Many are voluntarily adopting reporting frameworks that showcase their dedication, such as pursuing approval for science-based targets by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). This initiative mandates reporting on pertinent Scope 3 emissions, signaling a commitment to accountability and disclosure.
Guidance Beyond Greenwashing
Matthew Crabbe from Mintel suggests that as corporations integrate climate adaptability into their business practices within the framework of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) initiatives, trust and assurance will become pivotal components.
Consumers are perceptive to the lack of clarity surrounding many companies’ actions regarding their positive climate impact and the outcomes of these actions. There exists a desire among people to embrace sustainability, but they often lack access to information on how to do so. Brands can facilitate this by enhancing transparency.
One approach is for brands to elucidate their strategies for reducing food waste, conserving energy and water, minimizing packaging waste in their products, and pursuing adopting a circular economy business model. Additionally, they can showcase their commitment, whether by reinvesting a portion of profits into sustainability endeavors or supporting ethical organizations.
Could Election Fever in Asia Affect the Sustainability Agenda?
The upcoming year is set to witness an unprecedented 40 national elections worldwide, with a quarter of them taking place in Asia. Despite this electoral surge, experts suggest that incoming administrations are poised to uphold similar climate change policies and positions as their predecessors.
In Indonesia, the immensely popular leader Joko Widodo takes pride in implementing the ban on nickel ore exports three years ago, viewing it as a successful measure to foster the local smelting industry and improve the country’s welfare. He anticipates his successor to maintain this program.
A comparable scenario unfolds in India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a leading candidate, has pledged to achieve 500 gigawatts of clean energy by 2030. However, there has been minimal discourse on reforms of coal. Observers predict that elections are unlikely to bring about significant changes in this regard.
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