Boyden Research Sees Asia-Pacific Ahead in Sustainability Leadership

Global leadership and talent advisory firm Boyden says its annual global executive talent research has revealed that Asia has the highest number of Chief Sustainability Officers, and has robust investment and priority skills at executive and board level.

The global study, ‘Exploring Adaptivity through Strategy and Talent’, analyses perspectives on risk among CEOs, boards, and other senior leaders, alongside executive talent trends, priorities, and investment.

As business leaders worldwide strive to achieve sustainability-led organisations, findings in Asia-Pacific show that 29% of respondents have a Chief Sustainability Officer, compared with 12% in Europe and 11% in North America.

Commenting on the findings Allan Marks, Managing Partner, Boyden Australia said: “The focus on sustainability and ESG underscores the growing recognition of sustainability as a catalyst for growth and corporate responsibility within the Asia-Pacific business arena. Clients in the industrial sector are beginning to perceive sustainability as a growth driver and are actively investing in leadership development and recruiting new leadership talent to tackle resourcing challenges and maintain competitiveness”.

Skills in sustainability are among the top three priorities for strengthening skills at the board and executive level to capitalise on growth through ‘sustainability opportunities’. This ranked bottom among growth drivers in 2022, and for 25% of respondents is now a top three driver of growth, as consumers show a strong appetite for sustainable products and ESG-related brands.

ESG Deeply Embedded

Shalini Kandhari, Partner, Boyden India, added: “In the consumer and retail sector in India, leaders’ standout quality is adaptability. They are formulating strategies for sustainable supply chains and eco-friendly product lines to reduce their carbon footprint, appealing to environmentally conscious consumers. This is fostering a fusion of tradition and modernity in retail experiences, as leaders focus on digital payments, omnichannel strategies, and eco-friendly packaging”.

Other key findings reveal a stronger global perspective in the region: 72% are extremely likely or likely to hire more globally-focused executives, compared with a 47% global average. Global growth is a stronger driver of structural change in Asia-Pacific than regional growth, at 37% compared with 29% respectively.

William J. Farrell, Managing Partner, Taiwan and South Korea said: “Boards in Asia-Pacific companies are adapting to shifting dynamics, including slower growth in China and the push for non-Chinese suppliers. They recognise opportunities for improved market positioning and growth by responding effectively, including a pronounced emphasis on recruiting global talent. Such talent is instrumental in meeting evolving supply chain demands and ensuring the leadership of more competitive and internationally effective teams”.

For sustainability investment, 81% of President/CEOs think their organisation is investing sufficiently, compared with the global average of 58%. Culturally, significant progress shows 56% of respondents in Asia-Pacific reporting ESG ‘deeply embedded in organisational culture’ or ‘part of most business decisions,’ up from 44% in 2022.