In a business world of superegos and greenwashing the Asia Corporate Excellence and Sustainability Awards (ACES) has led the charge for greater accountability in leadership and sustainability reporting for the past nine years. This year the ACES turns ten, and recommits to its mission of bringing to greater prominence the leaders making positive industry and employee-wide changes in their organizations, as well as turning a spotlight on to corporations with stellar ESG and sustainability accomplishments.
In this milestone year the ACES received its most number of submissions to date, with 580 would-be nominees from the melting pot of Asian business vying for a mention at the Awards. The 580 submissions were from over 52 industries from 15 countries, which was a testimony to the positive reach of the ACES. After an expansive, thorough, and unbiased review process, there emerged 82 winners across 21 categories from Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Topping the list of winners was Philippines, with 23 winners, followed by Malaysia with 15 winners. The roll of honour at this year’s ACES included Somphote Ahunai, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Energy Absolute Public Company Limited for Entrepreneur of the Year, Nisa Ismail, Chief Executive Officer, SEDANIA As Salam Capital Sdn Bhd as Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, and Hoe Kian Choon, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CUCKOO International (MAL) Sdn Bhd as Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Ayala Corporations was named Asia’s Most Sustainable Company of the Year.
Far from the mere bestowing of laurels on winners, the ACES has made it a mission to go beyond award presentations, and move into the sphere of public policy. Its contribution to corporate and sustainable advocacy comes into play via the triumvirate of the ACES Council, ACES Institute and Goeman Bind.
The ACES Council comprises of five visionary corporate and thought leaders whose world view helped shape the ACES Awards. They are international corporate lawyer, author and public policy advocate Hemant K. Batra; Dr Jayanthi Desan, former Executive Director of the Malaysian Centre of Regulatory Studies, University Malaya; Harvard graduate and FDI consultant James John Ku; Luis Bueno Nieto, CEO and Founder of Naterial Concept; and Shanggari B, Chief Executive Officer of MORS Group and Asian business market development specialist. The ACES Council uses their individual and collective expertise to gather individuals to further the cause of the ACES Institute.
The ACES Institute is the vanguard of Asia’s sustainable growth, with its prime objective being the igniting of progress through research, expert insights, standards, and strategic alliances. Committed towards the raising of Asia’s business potential, the ACES Institute is leading the charge in fostering economic prosperity, equality, and environmental development through dialogue, information sharing, and the exchange of insights by successful corporate thought leaders, bodies and think tanks.
The ACES Institute consists of an assembly of noteworthy experts who believe in ambitious change within the corporate world. The ACES Institute seeks to unite stakeholders in meaningful ways by dialogue and leadership programs and initiatives which address critical issues of the corporate world, foster collaborations among key stakeholders, and propel innovation.
Adding critical insights and knowledge of the diaspora to the coalition is Goeman Bind HTO, a non-profit international development, public policy, and law research think-tank headquartered in India. Goeman Bind has recently become a part of the ACES Institute as a Center of Excellence, sharing its access to eminent academicians and intellectuals from across the globe who believe in the cruciality of sustainability, and the importance of knowledge sharing. The ACES Goeman Bind Center of Excellence will serve as a knowledge hub, nurturing a culture of learning and enriching the discourse within the ACES community.
The combined experience of the three bodies is already seeing its first fruits by way of the inaugural ACES Summit. The ACES Summit, which took place on 23 November 2023, a day before the ACES Awards, was held at the Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur.
Themed “Actioning Asean’s ESG: A Vision for Sustainable Progress,” the Summit provided a unique platform for business leaders, sustainability advocates and thought leaders to explore and debate strategies for transformative actions to achieve an equitable, resilient and sustainable future for business and generations to come. The one-day event featured ACES Council member, Dr Jayanthi Desan, together with ACES Awards past winner Niko Safavi, Chief Executive Officer of PT Mowilex under whose direction the organization was named Best Managed Company in Indonesia by Deloitte.
Other ACES Summit Core Members included Marla Garin-Alvarez, Vice President & Head, Sustainability Office, Compliance Group, BDO Unibank; Eric Roberto M. Luchangco, Chief Sustainability Officer, and Head of Strategy and Finance of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), another ACES Awards winner; and Laura Canas da Costa, Senior Global Policy Expert, United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI).
The high-level discussions included sessions on technology and innovation (Circular Business Models and Reinventing Supply Chain Decarbonization), financing and investment (Climate Financing for Positive Change, Navigating Impact Investing in Asia), and human capital (Future of Social & Community Impact).
This by-invitation only Summit targeted representatives or owners of businesses who are interested in advancing efforts towards achieving net-zero emissions, and individuals passionate about driving Asia’s responsible business agenda.
CEO of MORS Group and President of the ACES Awards and ACES Council, Shanggari B believes that the longevity of the ACES Awards is testament to the number of corporate leaders who are aware that changes must be made to the way businesses are governed and run. “More than ever there is an increasing belief in the corporate sector that with great power comes great responsibility. It is no longer enough for businesses to turn a profit. Societally-aware business leaders now know that they are being appraised not just by their Boards, but also by consumers of their brand’s products or services. With consumers becoming more aware, purchases are now subject to a consumer’s scrutiny of a brand, the organization behind it, and how it treats its employees, as well as the way it sources raw materials and produces its products. We live in an era of accountability, and the ACES Awards is one of the best gauges of accountability,” she stresses.
ACES Awards winners thus far have collectively generated over US$361 billion in revenue, emphasizing the financial viability of sustainability-driven businesses. Their commitment to ESG principles has also led to a significant decrease in waste production as well as carbon emissions, and a commendable increase in the utilization of renewable energy sources. ACES winners have brought transformative changes across 52 over industries, and provided employment to over a million individuals.
“We have been around for ten years and have tracked these numbers over those ten years. Our evidence is irrefutable: good leadership and sustainability initiatives can and do work. Our goal for the next ten years to come is to keep amplifying this message aided by our past winners, ACES Institute and more ACES Summits,” concludes the dynamic Chief Executive. ‘