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Singapore firms top sustainability ranks

Singapore's Gardens by the Bay, one of the top 10 indoor gardens of the world.
Jonas Gratzer | LightRocket | Getty Images
Singapore's Gardens by the Bay, one of the top 10 indoor gardens of the world.

Singaporean companies scored the highest marks in Asia in a new ranking of global corporate sustainability, highlighting the city-state's commitment to green living.

Real-estate developer Keppel Land and telecommunications firm Starhub were the only two Asian companies on the top 25 list of Corporate Knights' 'Most Sustainable Corporations' index released on Wednesday.

Corporate Knights, a Canadian investment advisory firm, ranked Keppel Land as the fourth most sustainable company globally, while Starhub came in at 24th.

Sustainability is a term frequently used among biologists and climate change enthusiasts, but in the corporate world it measures how harmonious an organization's interests are with resource efficiency as well as the cultural and physical environment.

"The index rewards corporations that maximize value cre¬ation from scarce resources by calculating resource productivity for water, waste, carbon and energy," Corporate Knights said. "This means that when economic fortunes decline and companies fail to make the necessary adjustments, resource productivity suffers."

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100 firms were covered in the annual ranking after being scored on various indicators such as the amount of revenue companies generate per unit of energy consumed, the ratio of CEO to average worker pay and lost-time injury rate.

Overall, American companies dominated the index with 20 firms featured, the country's best showing in the index's 11-year history, Corporate Knights said. American biotech firm Biogen topped the list, followed by Allergan and Germany's Adidas.

"The impressive economic performance of the American economy in the face of global headwinds likely played a factor here," noted Jeremy Runnalls, managing editor at Corporate Knights Magazine.

Only one firm from Japan and China made it to Corporate Knights' ranking, despite the two nations being the second and third-largest economies in the world.

What Singapore’s doing right

"Keppel Land has again proven itself to be a champion for sustainability, topping the Asian and real estate charts two years in a row. Awareness in sustainability has grown globally in recent years, especially so in Asian countries and the real estate sector," said Toby Heaps, CEO of Corporate Knights.

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Meanwhile, Starhub gained acclaim thanks to community-oriented measures like its 'Suppliers' Sustainability Survey,' which monitors vendors in its supply chain on social and environmental issues, and an electronic waste recycling program for consumers.

New requirements for Singapore-listed companies to publish sustainability reports are a key factor supporting the country's profile. In October, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) announced it was conducting a one-year study to determine the guidelines for these reports, which are expected to come into effect by 2017 or 2018.

The island-nation is renowned worldwide for efficiency in the public and private sector, yet environmental challenges remain a headwind. In November, the government launched a S$1.5 billion program aimed at helping the city deal with issues like long-term water supplies, limited land and its impact on residential housing as well climate change after the city suffered its longest drought in history in February last year.