Sustainability is a critical component of brand value in Asia – and Chinese companies are falling behind

         

World Trademark Review, February 27, 2017

Asian Correspondent announced the release of the inaugural edition of its CSR50 Index last week, with the new ranking intended to highlight the “environmentally-conscious companies” that have done the most to “promote sustainable practice within the Asia region” in the past year.

In recent years, corporate social responsibility (CSR), eco-friendly credentials and commitment to sustainable development have become increasingly important features of brand-building, and the Asia-Pacific region is no exception. As Asian economies grow at breakneck pace, brands must be able to live up to the expectations of consumers, who have more disposable income and are able to exercise more choice in their purchasing decisions than ever before. In addition, more and more products and services developed in the region are finding a worldwide audience, further raising their profile and their need to demonstrate economic and environmental responsibility.

Underlining the impact this is having on boardrooms, 79% of Asia-based executives polled by Ethical Corporation for its 2016 State of Responsible Business Report stated that their CEO is convinced of the value of sustainability, with 50% regularly reporting their company’s sustainability performance to senior management. Interestingly, 65% said that sustainability is a revenue driver for their business; while 90% - more than in either Europe or North America – reported that CSR is an increasingly important part of their company’s business strategy.

You can view the full CSR50 Index here; the chart below groups the brand owners on the list by country.

As might be expected, the region’s most developed economies dominate the index, with Japanese companies making up close to quarter of the list and Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan also with strong showings.

Of concern for Chinese politicians and brand owners alike is the country’s relatively woeful showing on the index. China and India are by far the largest of the 12 countries that were included in the CSR50 analysis, yet only Lenovo from the former makes the final listing (Hong Kong boasts five entrants, but as a separate legal jurisdiction with its own business regulatory system it makes sense to consider these separately). India – often considered significantly behind its neighbour in development terms – provides an impressive 12% of the index, while emerging markets Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines also all manage to beat China’s contribution.

The cultivation of a brand associated with sustainability – and CSR more generally – is an effort that clearly goes beyond in-house trademark departments. Nevertheless, trademark counsel, in Asia and elsewhere, are in prime position to contribute to the process, thanks to their insight on legal, regulatory and customer-facing functions. By doing so, they could prove their value to the wider organisation at a time when sustainability is more important than ever.





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