In our previous Ecosystm Insights, Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Gerald Mackenzie, highlighted the key drivers for boosting ESG maturity and the need to transition from standalone ESG projects to integrating ESG goals into organisational strategy and operations.
This shift can be difficult, requiring an alignment of ESG objectives with broader strategic aims and using organisational capabilities effectively. The solution involves prioritising essential goals, knitting them into overall business strategy, quantifying success metrics, and establishing incentives and governance for effective execution.
The benefits are proven and significant. Stronger Customer and Employee Value Propositions, better bottom line, improved risk profile, and more attractive enterprise valuations for investors and lenders.
According to Gerald, here are 5 things to keep in mind when starting on an ESG journey.
A 2020 McKinsey report revealed that executives and investors value companies with robust ESG performance around 10% higher in valuations than laggards. Equally pivotal, workplace diversity is now recognised as a strategic advantage; a study in the Harvard Business Review finds that companies with above-average total diversity had both 19% higher innovation revenues and 9% higher EBIT margins, on average. Against this backdrop, organisations must recognise that embracing ESG principles is not merely an ethical gesture but a strategic imperative that safeguards resilience, reputation, and enduring financial prosperity.
The data from the ongoing Ecosystm State of ESG Adoption study was used to evaluate the status and maturity of organisations’ ESG strategy and implementation progress. A diverse representation across industries such as Financial Services, Manufacturing, and Retail & eCommerce, as well as from roles across the organisation has helped us with insights and an understanding of where organisations stand in terms of the maturity of their ESG strategy and implementation efforts.
A Tailored Approach to Improve ESG Maturity
Ecosystm assists clients in driving greater impact through their ESG adoption. Our tools evaluate an organisation’s aspirations and roadmaps using a maturity model, along with a series of practical drivers that enhance ESG response maturity. The maturity of an organisation’s approach on ESG tends to progress from a reactive, or risk/compliance-based focus, to a customer, or opportunity driven approach, to a purpose led approach that is focused on embedding ESG into the core culture of the organisation. Our advisory, research and consulting offerings are customised to the transitions organisations are seeking to make in their maturity levels over time.
Within the maturity framework outlined above, Ecosystm has identified the key organisational drivers to improve maturity and adoption. The Ecosystm ESG Consulting offerings are configured to both support the development of ESG strategy and the delivery and ‘story telling’ around ESG programs based on the goals of the customer (maturity aspiration) and the gaps they need to close to deliver the aspiration.
Key Findings of the Ecosystm State of ESG Study
89% of respondents self-reported that their organisation had an ESG strategy; however, a notable 60% also identified that a lack of alignment of sustainability goals to enterprise strategy was a key issue in implementation. This reflects many of the client discussions we’ve had, where customers share that ESG goals that have not been fully tested against other organisational priorities can create tensions and make it difficult to solve trade-offs across the organisation during implementation.
People & Leadership/Execution & Governance
Capabilities are still emerging. 40% of respondents mentioned that a lack of a governance framework for ESG was a barrier to adoption, and 56% mentioned that immature metrics and reporting maturity slowed adoption. 64% of respondents also mentioned that a lack of specialised resources as a key barrier to ESG adoption.
In our discussions with customers, we understand that there is good support for ESG across organisations, but there needs to be a simple narrative compelling them to action on a few clearly articulated priorities, a clear mandate from senior leadership and credible resourcing and governance to ensure follow through.
Data and Technology Enablement
There is a strong opportunity for improvement. “We can’t manage what we cannot measure” has been the common refrain from the clients we have spoken to and the survey reflected this. Only 47% of respondents say that preparing data, analytics, reporting, and metrics for internal consumption is a priority for their tech teams.
ESG is rapidly emerging as a key priority for customers, investors, talent, and other stakeholders who seek a comprehensive and genuine commitment from the organisations they interact with. Successfully determining the right priorities and effectively mobilising your organisation and external collaborators for implementation are pivotal. It’s crucial to acknowledge the intricacy and extent of effort needed for this endeavour.
With our timely research findings complementing our ESG maturity and implementation frameworks, analyst insights and consulting support, Ecosystm is well-positioned to help you to navigate your journey to ESG maturity.
Enhanced Centre of Excellence track to expand grant funding to corporate venture capital entities
Innovation Acceleration track to support emerging tech based FinTech solutions, and
Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) FinTech track to accelerate ESG adoption in fintech
Additionally, FSTI 3.0 will continue to support areas like AI, data analytics, and RegTech while emphasising talent development. We can expect to see transformative financial innovation through greater industry collaboration.
MAS’ Continued Focus on Innovation
Over the years, the MAS has consistently been a driving force behind innovation in the Financial Services industry. They have actively promoted and supported technological advancements to enhance the industry’s competitiveness and resilience.
The FinTech Regulatory Sandbox framework offers a controlled space for financial institutions and FinTech innovators to test new financial products and services in a real-world setting, with tailored regulatory support. By temporarily relaxing specific regulatory requirements, the sandbox encourages experimentation, while ensuring safeguards to manage risks and uphold the financial system’s stability. Upon successful experimentation, entities must seamlessly transition to full compliance with relevant regulations.
Innovation Labs serve as incubators for new ideas, fostering a culture of experimentation and collaboration. They collaborate with disruptors, startups, and entrepreneurs to develop groundbreaking solutions. Labs like Accenture Innovation Hub, Allianz Asia Lab, Aviva Digital Garage, ANZ Innovation Lab, and AXA Digital Hive drive create prototypes, and roll out market solutions.
Building an Ecosystem
Partnerships between financial institutions, technology companies, startups, and academia contribute to Singapore’s economic growth and global competitiveness while ensuring adaptive regulation in an evolving landscape. By creating a vibrant ecosystem, MAS has facilitated knowledge exchange, collaborative projects, and the development of innovative solutions. For instance, in 2022, MAS partnered with United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) to build digital financial ecosystems for MSMEs in emerging economies.
This includes supporting projects that address environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns within the financial sector. For instance, MAS worked with the People’s Bank of China to establish the China-Singapore Green Finance Taskforce (GFTF) to enhance collaboration in green and transition finance. The aim is to focus on taxonomies, products, and technology to support the transition to a low-carbon future in the region, co-chaired by representatives from both countries.
MAS has also promoted Open Banking and API Frameworks to encourage financial institutions to adopt open banking practices enabling easier integration of financial services and encouraging innovation by third-party developers. This also empowers customers to have greater control over their financial data while fostering the development of new financial products and services by FinTech companies.
Regulators in Asia Pacific Taking a Proactive Approach
While Singapore is at the forefront of financial innovations, other regulatory and government bodies in Asia Pacific are also taking on an increasingly proactive role in nurturing innovation. This stance is being driven by a twofold objective – to accelerate economic growth through technological advancements and to ensure that innovative solutions align with regulatory requirements and safeguard consumer interests.
Recognising the potential of fintech to enhance financial services and drive economic growth, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) established the Fintech Facilitation Office (FFO) to facilitate communication between the fintech industry and traditional financial institutions. The central bank’s Smart Banking Initiatives, including the Faster Payment System, Open API Framework, and the Banking Made Easy initiative that reduces regulatory frictions help to enhance the efficiency and interoperability of digital payments.
The Financial Services Agency of Japan (FSA) has been actively working on creating a regulatory framework to facilitate fintech innovation, including revisions to existing laws to accommodate new technologies like blockchain. In 2020, FSA launched the Blockchain Governance Initiative Network (BGIN) to facilitate collaboration between the government, financial institutions, and the private sector to explore the potential of blockchain technology in enhancing financial services.
The Central Bank of the Philippines (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas – BSP) has launched an e-payments project to overcome challenges hindering electronic retail purchases, such as limited interbank transfer facilities, high bank fees, and low levels of trust among merchants and consumers. The initiative included the establishment of the National Retail Payment System, a framework for retail payment, and the introduction of automated clearing houses like PESONet and InstaPay. These efforts have increased the percentage of retail purchases made electronically from 1% to over 10% within five years, demonstrating the positive impact of effective cooperation and innovative policies in driving a shift towards a cash-lite economy.
The promotion of fintech innovation highlights a collective belief in its potential to transform finance and boost economies. As regulations adapt for technologies like blockchain and open banking, the Asia Pacific region is promoting collaboration between traditional financial institutions and emerging fintech players. This approach underscores a commitment to balance innovation with responsible oversight, ensuring that advanced financial solutions comply with regulatory standards.
As a knowledge partner, Ecosystm is deeply involved in the Point Zero Forum. Throughout the event, we will actively engage in discussions and closely monitor three key areas: ESG, digital assets, and Responsible AI.
Read on to find out what our leaders — Amit Gupta (CEO, Ecosystm Group), Ullrich Loeffler (CEO and Co-Founder, Ecosystm), and Anubhav Nayyar (Chief Growth Advisor, Ecosystm) — say about why this will be core to building a sustainable and innovative future.