What Impact Means to Digital Economy Companies in Southeast Asia

The Institute’s recent study, produced in partnership with the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Governance and Sustainability, highlights the key stakeholders, top issues of focus, and disclosures of the Digital Economy Companies (DECs) across the SEA-6 region.

Digitalisation will continue to underpin Southeast Asia’s post-pandemic recovery and economic transformation. As creators, distributors and users of digital technology, Digital Economy Companies (DECs) play an influential role in this trajectory. Even as they strive for growth and profitability, their products and services are shaping the way we live, work and play. This study, produced in partnership with the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Governance and Sustainability, reviews how 439 DECs in the six largest markets in Southeast Asia – Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – frame their impact beyond financial numbers.

By understanding the stakeholders and factors motivating DECs beyond growth and profit, his report seeks to serve as a catalyst for conversations on how stakeholders in the digital ecosystem may align their interests for inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth across the region.

Governments are currently not among the top stakeholders for DECs. As the digital economy matures and consequences of rapid adoption emerge, regulators are expected to play an increasingly significant role in shaping the environment in which DECs operate. DECs will likely see the need to engage with a broader range of stakeholders in the future.

Cybersecurity and data protection have emerged as key risk mitigation and compliance issues across SEA-6. Diversity, equity and inclusion were particularly important in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore. DECs will need to shift from addressing immediate “licence to operate” issues to demonstrating responsible products, services and operations as demand for transparency and accountability gains momentum.

DECs generally did not identify environmental concerns as their main issue of focus. Listed DECs identified waste, circular economy, resource and energy efficiency among their top issues, while this was not the case for non-listed companies.

85% of DECs assessed expressed intention towards sustainability and impact as corporate information, while fewer than half have implemented initiatives to put these intentions into action. Only a quarter of DECs assessed have formally reported on their non-financial impact with clear metrics and targets. There is much scope for DECs to embed non-financial metrics into their strategic and operational plans, with clear goals against which their performance may be assessed.

Increasingly, DECs are under pressure to demonstrate profitability while mitigating risk and demonstrating benefit to people and the planet. As digital technologies evolve rapidly, operating responsibly is a moving goalpost. DECs could consider measuring and communicating performance on:

  • Environment: Scope 1, 2, 3 GHG emissions, Climate-related targets
  • Social: Cybersecurity, Data protection, Product or service safety, Employee upskilling or reskilling, Employee wellbeing
  • Governance: Anti-corruption, Compliance and Competitive behaviour

Key Partner:NUS Centre for Governance and Sustainability

The Centre for Governance and Sustainability (CGS) was established by the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School in 2010. Its primary objective is to spearhead relevant and high-impact research on corporate governance and corporate sustainability issues that are pertinent to institutions, government bodies and businesses in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific. As a pioneer of thought leadership, CGS conducts public lectures, industry roundtables, and academic conferences on topics related to governance and sustainability. CGS is the national assessor of corporate sustainability and corporate governance performance of listed companies in Singapore. In tandem with growing demands from consumers and investors for financial returns achieved with integrity, coupled with environmental and social considerations, CGS has a slew of research focusing on sustainability reporting in Asia Pacific, sustainable banking, nature reporting, and climate reporting in ASEAN. For more information about CGS, please visit www.bschool.nus.edu.sg/cgs/

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Dr Ming Tan

Founding Executive Director

Dr Ming Tan is founding Executive Director for the Tech for Good Institute. She is concurrently a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Governance and Sustainability at the National University of Singapore. Her research interests lie at the intersection of technology, business and society, including sustainability and innovation.


Ming was previously Managing Director of IPOS International, part of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, which supports Singapore’s future growth as a global innovation hub for intellectual property creation, commercialisation and management.


Prior to joining the public sector, she was Head of Stewardship of the COMO Group, a Singaporean portfolio of lifestyle companies operating in 14 countries worldwide. Her portfolio covered sustainability, brand and data privacy. She was concurrently the founding Executive Director of COMO Foundation, the private philanthropy of the owner of the COMO Group.


As a company director, she lends brand and strategic guidance to SuperNature Pte Ltd, COMO Hotels and Resorts (Asia) Pte Ltd, COMO Club Pte Ltd, and Mogems Pte Ltd. In the not-for-profit space, Ming is an Advisor to Singapore Totalisator Board and serves on the boards of Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre, St. Joseph’s Institution International and COMO Foundation.


As part of her commitment to holistic education and the arts, she also sits on the Advisory Panel of the Centre for the Arts of the National University of Singapore.


Ming was educated in Singapore, the United States, and England. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and her doctorate from Oxford.