Singapore more aware than global peers on ESG: SEC Newgate

According to new research, Singaporeans are willing to pay more for brands and services that offer a better-perceived ESG performance.


In new research by SEC Newgate, it was found that six in 10 people in Singapore (62 per cent) said they are strongly interested in the environmental, social and governance behaviour of government and corporates, rating it seven or more out of 10 in importance. Just over half said that ESG issues influence their purchase decisions.

In Singapore, 30 per cent of respondents said that they have heard of ESG and have a good understanding of it, compared to just 17 per cent globally.

The study, which surveyed 1,027 people in Singapore, showed that the government performed best in ESG followed by not-for-profit organisations, companies, and individuals. Similarly to Greater China, participants in Singapore gave significantly higher ratings of their government, companies and not-for-profit organisations compared to all the other countries included in the survey. 

A driver analysis was conducted to understand the extent to which the specific ESG metrics drive overall ratings of the government. ‘Acting in the best interests of the global community’ ranked the highest followed by ‘ensuring ethical employment practices including among supply chains’ and ‘taking responsibility when things go wrong’.

Meanwhile, for companies, respondents ranked ‘responsible and sustainable use of natural resources’ and ‘action on climate change’ as key drivers of ESG. When quizzed about which companies were performing best in these areas, DBS came up top followed by NTUC, Temasek, and Singtel. 

Interestingly, banking and finance are among the industries perceived as high performing in ESG next to healthcare and education. Mining and resources, the chemicals industry, automotive, and construction rank among the lowest-performing industries.

Among all issues, the climate and environment dominate the ESG agenda in Singapore. When asked about the one ESG issue they feel is most important for the government or companies in their country to focus on, 55 per cent mentioned something related to the environment—slightly higher than the global result of 52 per cent. Waste management (such as food and plastics) also ranked high on the agenda alongside sustainability, employment opportunities, and recycling. Issues that ranked the lowest were racism, the economy, and the pandemic.

Are Singaporeans willing to pay for higher ESG performance? According to the study, yes. But it depends on the industry in question. Over eight in 10 consumers were willing to bear increased costs for products and services in food (86 per cent), technology (82 per cent) and pharmaceutical (82 per cent) sectors and this was significantly higher than the global result. A similar pattern is recorded for financial products and services, airline tickets, and electricity.

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