World Benchmarking Alliance Conference in Bangkok: Staying Ahead in Sustainability

Heidi Spurrell | 18th June 2024 | 4min read

Group picture at the World Benchmarking Alliance

Group picture at the World Benchmarking Alliance!

Attending the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) conference in Bangkok was more than just an opportunity to network; it was a masterclass in understanding the intricate dance between corporate reporting and actual sustainability performance. This event was a goldmine of insights, and I’m excited to share the most impactful ones with you. 

What also struck me was the concern some ASEAN businesses have in terms of the geopolitics of sustainability progress. I heard the narrative around sustainability being a colonial idea to slow down progress in Asia. That blew my mind. 

The Reporting Mirage

Companies excel at producing impressive sustainability reports, but do these reports translate into real actions? Especially in Southeast Asia, where private sector engagement is crucial for achieving the SDGs, there’s a noticeable lag. This disconnect between reporting and action is a reality check: slick reports don’t always equate to meaningful progress. Acknowledging and addressing this gap is essential.

Policies: The Framework of Progress

Policy discussions at the conference emphasised the importance of upcoming events like the Summit of the Future and various COP gatherings. However change in the region will be slow commented one expert. ‘Don’t expect mandatory regulation from ASEAN on Human Rights Due Diligence, you won’t get it’, we heard. Progress is not happening fast enough unfortunately. European companies however have to address requirements, and are addressing this. Best practice is coming and we hope it will spread across the world.

Indeed, these frameworks define what businesses need to do to contribute to the SDGs. However, voluntary guidelines and MOUs aren’t enough. Mandatory regulations are necessary to enforce due diligence, especially on human rights and environmental standards.

Business and Human rights in Southeast Asia

New report published on Business and Human Rights in Southeast Asia by Amerbon

Tailored Solutions for Different Sectors

Different sectors face unique challenges and require tailored solutions. The palm oil sector in Indonesia, represented by Musim Mas, has made significant strides through RSPO certification programmes. They told us it takes years to build trust with farmers on the ground, but that’s exactly what they’ve spent time nurturing over the years. It’s the same with investors and consumers, trust takes time to build. However, other sectors, like electronics and construction, still lag behind and need specific interventions.

The Silent Impact on Children

UNICEF’s session highlighted the impact of business practices on children’s rights, especially within food systems. Companies often fail to report on critical issues like child labour and harmful marketing practices. Greater transparency and proactive measures are needed to protect children in corporate supply chains.

A Call to Action

World Benchmarking Alliance Sustainability Leaders

Heidi Spurrell with sustainability leaders at the World Benchmarking Alliance! 

This was my first physical event at The WBA’s allies assembly. It was more than just a series of sessions; it was a call to action. It reinforced the importance of staying informed and engaged with the latest in sustainability. The insights gained will help push for stronger policies, better corporate practices, and more effective and holistic sustainability strategies that are designed with systems change in mind.

Achieving the SDGs is no small feat. It requires a relentless push for deeper integration of sustainability within our organisations and holding corporations accountable for their actions. The journey is tough, but the destination—a sustainable future—is worth every effort.

As sustainability experts, we must remain vigilant, informed, and proactive. The path is challenging, but the rewards are immense. Let’s use these insights to enhance our practices and drive meaningful change. The world needs us to step up, and we are more than capable of doing so.


If you are wondering what the World Benchmarking Alliance is…

The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) is committed to incentivising and accelerating the private sector’s role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. By benchmarking companies on their contributions to the SDGs through publicly available data, WBA provides clarity and guidance on what businesses need to do, fostering greater accountability and transparency. Their work spans multiple sectors and geographies, driving transformative change to build a more sustainable future.

Corporate responsibility slides at the World Benchmarking Alliance

Presentation explaining the importance of corporate responsibility at the WBA conference!

Key Food Businesses Ranked by WBA

Here are some of the key food businesses ranked by the WBA (this list is not in order):

  1. Nestlé (Switzerland)
  2. Walmart (United States)
  3. Unilever (United Kingdom)
  4. Coca-Cola (United States)
  5. PepsiCo (United States)
  6. Tyson Foods (United States)
  7. Danone (France)
  8. Kellogg’s (United States)
  9. Mars (United States)
  10. Mondelez International (United States)
  11. Wilmar International (Singapore)
  12. Yum China (China)
  13. Woolworths Group (Australia)
  14. Tesco (United Kingdom)
  15. Carrefour (France)
  16. McDonald’s (United States)
  17. Starbucks (United States)
  18. Sysco (United States)
  19. Sainsbury’s (United Kingdom)
  20. Sodexo (France)

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Together, we’re not just talking about a sustainable future; we’re building it. Let’s make every meal a story worth telling.

Stay green, stay inspired.

Future Green Team

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