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Sustainability Trends and Regulations for APAC Listen with ReadSpeaker

Sustainability Trends and Regulations Ahead for the APAC

The pandemic had a prolonged economic and societal impact in the Asia Pacific. Borders reopened at different junctures and recovery speeds will vary. The Asian Development Bank forecasts growth of 4.8 percent in the region over the next two years.

Key drivers will be an upturn in consumption, tourism, and investment. The post-pandemic recovery will occur in the spotlight of 2030, the target date for achieving, nationally and regionally, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Here are five factors that will influence sustainable planning and regulations throughout the region.

The scale of the sustainability challenge for the 58 markets in the Asia Pacific is highlighted by a new UNESCAP report. The end of 2022 marked the midpoint for meeting the 2030 United Nations’ SDGs. Asia Pacific should have made 50 percent progress towards its 17 SDGs and 169 targets, but overall progress was 14.4 percent. At this rate, Asia Pacific “will miss the 2030 target by several decades,” says UNESCAP.


Affordable and clean energy and industry innovation and infrastructure are areas of progress since 2015, with the highest annual improvements recorded in 2022. Improvements are needed for responsible consumption and production and clean water and sanitation. However, the region recorded a regression in climate action over the past seven years.



  • Asia Pacific will miss 90 percent of the 118 measurable targets unless efforts are multiplied between now and 2030
  • Markets are not on track to achieve greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets
  • Bridging the SDG data gaps across the region will require public and private investment along with strong coordination between data providers and policymakers

Urbanization will continue accelerating in Southeast Asia, placing a focus on smart and sustainable future planning. In 2015, 47 percent of ASEAN’s population lived in cities. This could increase to 52.9 percent by 2025 and 55.6 percent by 2030.


Indonesia alone will count 186 million urban residents in 2030. Variable urbanization rates will occur across the 10 markets. For example, 100 percent of Singapore’s population is urbanized compared to 24.2 percent in Cambodia.


The 2022 ASEAN Sustainable Urbanization Report says megacities will continue expanding, but unique opportunities for low-carbon energy, transport, construction, and retailing will emerge in secondary cities. Fast-developing secondary cities will require support to build capacity and deliver the infrastructure and services for ensuring sustainable urbanization.



  • New solutions will be sought in secondary cities to manage traffic congestion, pollution, waste management, and other symptoms of rapid growth
  • Secondary cities can rebalance national development and support the growth of diffuse economic hubs as a counterpoint to the dominance of large cities and capitals
  • Integrated master planning will help emerging cities develop infrastructure networks and neighborhood-level urban design to improve their sustainability

Decarbonizing road transport is a priority across the Asia Pacific. It is particularly important in the fast-growing economies in Southeast Asia where car usage continues to rise.


Southeast Asia is becoming a hotspot for electric vehicle (EV) supply chains. Expanding middle-class affluence and a plentiful labor supply are enticing EV makers to shift capacity from China. Indonesia is also a source of nickel, which is a vital component of low-emission car, bus, and motorcycle batteries.


Governments are introducing tax breaks, registration fee waivers, and cash incentives for EV buyers to improve uptake in high-potential markets like Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Manufacturers from China, South Korea, and Southeast Asia will produce new ranges of affordable EV compacts and motorbikes. This could spark price competition.


Indonesia will underwrite part of the cost to swap a petrol or diesel motorbike for an e-bike. Vietnam’s first ride-hailing service featuring electric-only cars was launched in Hanoi with EVs leased from local automaker Vinfast. MPT Mobility in the Philippines will roll out a fleet of electric jeepney buses by 2027, promising an 87 percent reduction in carbon emissions.



  • Building national EV charging, service, and auto parts supply chains is vital to increasing ownership of low-carbon vehicles
  • Governments will offer financial incentives to encourage drivers to buy EVs
  • Regional EV makers will produce more e-cars and e-motorbikes in Southeast Asian markets to reduce production and transport costs and emissions

Combatting carbon emissions while meeting surging demand for electricity is among the region’s greatest challenges. Biofuel research is targeting clean alternative sources of energy formulated with organic crops and waste foods. These reduce hazardous particulates in the air, create cheap sources of renewable fuel, and help tackle waste management.


Japan is leading the way. The scenic Takachiho Amaterasu Railway is powered by a biofuel partly made from ramen broth, rice, and sesame oil left over at local restaurants. A company in Nagoya is trialing a technology to extract carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into green fuel. University researchers in Indonesia developed a method of capturing bioenergy from rice straw to heat homes and reduce air pollution from agricultural waste burning.



  • Biofuel research and development is forecast to be a high-growth sector in the coming years
  • Biofuel solutions can be regionalized with locally produced fuels networked directly to nearby homes and businesses to power appliances and kitchen equipment
  • Scaling up the production of low-emission energy sources produced from organic ingredients will require significant investment and resources

With China having reopened its borders in January 2023, and the Asia Pacific region fully open, travel volumes are set to soar in 2023. This will mean more planes in the skies, cruise ships on the seas, and traffic congestion in cities.


New solutions are needed to make travel and tourism less polluting and less impactful for local communities. Governments and the private sector will work together to devise mechanisms that do not shift the cost directly to tourists through levies and fees.


Launched in 2022, Singapore’s Hotel Sustainability Map takes a collaborative path. It targets 60 percent of the city state’s hotel room stock to achieve an international sustainability certification, such as by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, by 2025.


To support this transition, the government provides financing to hotels to purchase carbon-reduction infrastructure. This includes rooftop solar panels to power elevators and lighting, sky garden equipment, rainwater harvesting, recycling systems, and energy-efficient technologies. The policy extends beyond tourism to support sustainable urban renewal. As large, prominent buildings in a city, hotels can help symbolize and promote a low-carbon travel revolution.



  • Decarbonizing travel will require collaborative partnerships between governments, tourism authorities, travel service providers, and consumers
  • Achieving verified sustainable certifications demonstrates to visitors and residents that results-driven carbon removal actions are being taken
  • Developing low-carbon hotel infrastructure supports efforts to make business meetings, conferences, and events more transparently sustainable