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Advancing Sustainability: Best Practices to Drive Successful Sustainability Initiatives in the Multicultural Asia Pacific and Japan Region

This article originally appeared in the EDB Singapore Newsroom (in Japanese).

Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword; it is a critical aspect that businesses need to consider to ensure that their businesses are future-fit. Japan, as the world's 5th largest CO2 emitter1  and a manufacturing powerhouse, faces an urgent need for sustainability transformation and can be a global leader driving this change. However, while many Japanese companies commit to decarbonization, concrete action in Asia Pacific, including Japan, lags behind the US and EU. This article explores how Japan-Singapore collaboration can bridge this commitment-action gap. 

Japan: A Global Sustainability Leader in the Making 

Japan’s sustainability leadership is evident in their impressive number of RE100 commitments and Science Based Targets net-zero pledges, ranking second globally2. These efforts are further reinforced by Schneider Electric's 2023 Sustainability Survey. Out of 500 corporate respondents from Japan, 83% of Japanese business leaders identified sustainability as a top priority. Notably, 73% of companies surveyed had sustainability goals and targets. These combined factors paint a clear picture: Japan, driven by its C-suite, is serious about building a sustainable future. 

While positive trends are commendable, a gap persists between ambition and action in APAC. Notably, the survey found that the region has a 50% ‘Green Gap’ between action and ambition. This gap reflects the difference between companies setting goals (94%) and those actively executing plans (44%). Therefore, companies are on the lookout for viable sustainability solutions. Japanese companies can leverage this opportunity to become market leaders that develop concrete action steps to addresses the unique sustainability challenges in the APAC region. 


Bridging the Sustainability Gap and learnings from Singapore 

By leveraging strengths and best practices, Japan-Singapore collaboration can lead sustainable transformation across the Asia Pacific. For instance, Singapore boasted the second-smallest Green Action Gap (38%), highlighting its ability to translate intentions into action. 

Backed by robust government policies such as the Singapore Green Plan 2030, 94% of companies in the city state have also established sustainability goals, while 56% actively implement strategies. This success reflects a potent ecosystem – a blend of forward-thinking policies and strong business drive – fostering innovation and positioning Singapore as a thriving hub for sustainable business solutions. 

Getting the basics right: Strategize and formulate a winning gameplan 

As sustainability is still an emerging practice, companies can initiate their ESG journey with the help of external experts to assess and benchmark their own efforts globally. Taking into account industry standards and market trends, companies can craft a future-proof strategy bridging the gap between high-level sustainability goals and tangible outcomes like emissions reduction targets. 

Farrukh Shad, Head of Sustainability Business in APMEA (Asia Pacific, India, Middle East and Africa), Schneider Electric, notes: “Based on our experience working with over 50% of Fortune 500 companies, we see that leaders are adopting an integrated approach to achieve sustainability starting with a robust strategy, followed by implementation of digital tools to help track efforts and finally deploying the right technologies and resources to execute on you decarbonization plan across your operations and your value chain. Strategy seems the right starting point, however unfortunately it is often short circuited as companies look to act quickly and pivot directly to decarbonize, and by doing this they miss on potential synergies and cost efficiencies."  

One Source of Truth: Digitize and make data driven progress 

You cannot manage what you do not measure – digitization is a crucial enabler for companies to consolidate and analyze sustainability-related data. 

ASICS, a global sporting goods manufacturer, demonstrates this transformative potential of digital technology in driving sustainability. Through the integration of Schneider Electric's EcoStruxure™ Resource Advisor software platform, ASICS gained a comprehensive view of their operational and supply chain data from all over the world. This enabled them to identify inefficiencies, reduce costs, and lower carbon footprints to identify their status and next actions to progress on their decarbonization strategy.  

Singapore also leads in APAC for digitization, being ranked most digitally competitive economy in Asia by the 2023 World Digital Competitiveness Report. Its digital economy contributed 17.3% to its GDP in 2022, largely driven by non-tech sectors like finance, wholesale trade, and manufacturing. This makes Singapore an ideal environment for sourcing innovative digital solutions to measure and track sustainability metrics. 

Leverage long term renewable energy agreements to future proof your energy transition 

Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) offer corporations a clear path to sustainability by providing stability through fixed long-term electricity pricing and scalability through access to offsite renewable energy sources. These agreements also provide positive environmental impact by financing the deployment of new renewable energy capacity into the grid (also known as additionality). 

Despite supply challenges, Singapore's renewable energy ecosystem of developers, think tanks and experts puts it at a forefront for best practices to address not just operational emissions but scope 3 emission as well. For instance, IT industry leaders like Intel, HPE, and Google, as well as pharmaceutical giants like GSK, MSD and Norvartis have collaborated with ecosystem partners like Schneider Electric on PPA-related supply chain decarbonization initiatives. This showcases the effectiveness of leveraging Singapore's knowledge and expertise on renewable energy procurement to drive decarbonization efforts for Japanese companies. 

Decarbonise by combining traditional hardware with software and advanced analytics to tackle energy efficiency 

Improving business performance is a key concern for every boardroom. This can be done through energy efficiency initiatives that reduce energy and operation costs while lowering greenhouse gas emissions and associated environmental impacts.  

Last year, multinational pharmaceutical company Takeda opened its first ‘positive energy’ manufacturing support building in Singapore. Constructed in reference to the Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) Green Mark Zero Energy certification scheme, the building received the Green Mark Platinum Positive Energy certification, recognizing that the building produces more electricity than it consumes. Some key features of the building includes Photovoltaic panels covering 1,600 square meters, as well as a Building Management System (BMS) - Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure that enables them to track, analyse and operate systems based on real-time information and data, and identify areas of opportunities to achieve sustainability goals. 

Closing remarks

When driving sustainability, it's crucial to consider the complexity of operating across multiple countries, languages, and cultures. Schneider Electric has invested significantly in having sustainability experts on the ground in Singapore and globally. 

Farrukh Shad, at Schneider Electric shares, "Similar to Takeda case study, Schneider Electric Sustainability Competency Centre (SCC)e in Singapore has supported companies in their sustainability endeavours through over 100 projects across most of the Southeast Asia / Asia-Pacific countries in the recent years. Our SCC in Singapore provides regional and domain expertise, supporting our Japan-based colleagues and helping our customers achieve their sustainability ambitions."  Collectively, we can navigate the diverse environmental needs of businesses across the region, forging a path toward sustainability with precision. 

Schneider Electric, the leader in the digital transformation of energy management and automation, been recognized by Time as the World's Most Sustainable Company of 2024.


Jiro Tanaka, Country Manager, Sustainability Business Unit, Japan

​​Alexandreu Popa, ​​Senior Manager, Sustainability Division, ​​Singapore