How to break into Asia

Sustainability is a booming industry in Singapore. Here’s how one UK firm carved out their own space within this growing market.

by Éilis Cronin

Breaking into a new and emerging market can be daunting, but for Peter Lyburn, former political strategist and chief executive of Stonehaven, a sustainability consultancy that assists policy makers in the UK, the decision was influenced by the company’s sustainability specialist firm Robertsbridge, who had clients in the region and had built up relationships with five of the largest Southeast Asian conglomerates across Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.

“Eighty percent of ESG goals set by companies with a global supply chain go through Southeast Asia, so it’s a massively important market for sustainability. I understood the vision when Brendan (May, founder and chairman of Robertsbridge, who has spent the last 15 years exploring the region) took me out to Singapore and introduced me to some of his existing clients and prospects in the region. I got to understand the business community there. When you’re taking a calculated risk somewhere as far away as Singapore, you need to be inspired.”

Having a clear strategy

In May 2022, Lyburn and May began drawing up plans to set up an office in the region, focusing on Singapore, which has “aspirations to become a green hub by 2030”. May says: “There are huge lessons to learn from the way Singapore makes policies because when it moves, it moves now, whether or not you approve of the direction it is moving in. It has a very clear national strategy and has built up its green credentials.”

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