From left: Joining the ESG Symposium kickoff ceremony were Anthony Cheung, supervisory board member of the World Benchmarking Alliance; Loh Christine Kung-wai, independent non-executive director of Towngas Smart Energy; Peter Wong Wai-yee, managing director of Towngas; Tse Chin-wan, secretary for the environment and ecology of the HKSAR; Doris Ng, assistant academic dean and head of degree programmes of HKMA; and John Ho Hon-ming, executive director, chief financial officer and company secretary of Towngas. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
ESG (environmental, social and governance) used to be a buzzword glorified by all corporations across the world. It is not simply shorthand for a sustainability slogan, but is mindfully incorporated in businesses’ practices and investors’ checklists. This is commendable, but to realize ultimate carbon neutrality is no easy feat, said speakers and panelists at ESG Symposium 2022 on Friday.
Officiated by Tse Chin-wan, the secretary for the environment and ecology of the HKSAR, business leaders and experts from various industries in Hong Kong gathered at the symposium organized by Towngas and Towngas Smart Energy, in partnership with the Hong Kong Management Association, InvestHK, China Daily Hong Kong Edition, and others. The symposium attracted over 5,000 participants from Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland, and other countries and regions, both online and offline.
Peter Wong Wai-yee, managing director of the Hong Kong and China Gas Co Ltd (Towngas), envisions an ESG-dominated future in the next few years, where “if your company is not engaging in ESG properly, you’re losing out. No investors will be interested in your company”.
Simon Ngo Siu-hing, head of engineering – hong kong utility of Towngas, acknowledges the energy transition, and the company is exploring the feasibility of supplying hydrogen as a clean fuel to local bus companies. Ngo added, “In 2003, Towngas signed a 25-year natural gas supply contract with an Australian supplier, with a reference price capped at US$25 per barrel. Compared with the current price of about US$100 per barrel, this new opportunity back then has saved our clients nearly HK$20 billion of fuel costs over the years.”
Underpinning the battle against climate change is governance, remarked Anthony Cheung, supervisory board member of the World Benchmarking Alliance, during the first panel discussion centering on ESG regulations in 2022 and beyond.
The implementation of any strategic measures and initiatives would be virtually impossible without governance, he contended. “There are 30 jurisdictions and 50 countries having launched their major initiatives for climate change, and today we have business leaders coming here for a dialogue on ESG” in an ultimate aim to conquer climate change, which are encouraging steps on the right track, he acknowledged.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development launched its Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures pilot program in October this year, involving its 23 member companies from North and South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East with a total market value worth $1.3 trillion. Cheung applauded the move and expected to see the preliminary harmonized standard for businesses to disclose nature-related risks and opportunities to be released in September next year.
During the symposium, Towngas announced the publication of the Climate-related and Nature-related Directive Guide — the first company in town to reference the Task Force for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) framework. Wong added, “The guide was prepared as an interim update on our sustainability commitments of both Towngas and Towngas Smart Energy, and to aid stakeholders who are explicitly interested in understanding climate change and ecosystems in the context of the Group’s
An institutional investor, Cheung revealed that a company’s ESG performance tops the checkbox for his investment.
Peter Wong Wai-yee, managing director of Towngas, delivers a welcome speech at the ESG Symposium 2022 on Friday. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
In response to the intensifying demand from investors, the IFRS Foundation Trustees established the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) in November last year, pledging to hammer out a comprehensive global baseline of sustainability-related disclosure standards. The standards will help investors and other capital market participants make informed investment decisions by accurately and transparently appraising companies’ sustainability-related risks and opportunities.
“Hong Kong Exchange as well as other regulators have gone to great lengths to conduct research, to optimize the existing ESG reporting framework by incorporating more relevant information into the disclosure,” said Kelly Lee, vice-president of policy and secretariat services of the listing division at Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd. Working out a feasible ESG reporting playbook isn’t a breeze. “There are 2,500 listed companies in Hong Kong and they could be at different stages. These practical nuances are taken into account.”
The majority of companies in Hong Kong who are keen on ESG disclosure are listed companies, while smaller corporations hold back from being engaged, reveals Loretta Fong, Hong Kong and GBA ESG services leader of PwC Hong Kong, who is involved in ESG consultation with various companies in Hong Kong. She reasons that smaller companies might consider themselves not meeting the ESG reporting requirements set by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in the first place. “For listed companies, particularly resource companies, energy companies and property companies, the new obligation of ESG disclosure will have a profound impact to their practices. It means a lot to them because they have to contemplate how to react to climate change structurally and tactically,” said Fong.
On the “social” front, Towngas is a high achiever, continued Fong. “They look at CSR (corporate social responsibility) performance ratings, and business ethics, environmental undertakings, workspace operations, etc.”
ESG ethos have not only entered the radar of more well-established enterprises but have become an integral part of their DNA, dictating their areas of commitment.
MTR Corp conceived a new corporate strategy in terms of tackling greenhouse emissions last year and will double down on
optimizing it, said Jessica Chan, head of sustainability of MTR Corp at the Panel Discussion 2 revolving around “Decarbonization Roadmaps of Corporates”. It will also continue exploring optimal practices on carbon reduction and efficiency, clean-energy management and low carbon designs to boot.
Swire Coca-Cola HK has bent over backwards to enhance procurement of recycled materials to reduce the carbon emission due to packaging.
Athena Ng, general manager of corporate finance and corporate communications departments of China Overseas Land & Investment, reflected on the challenges and setbacks when the company introduced decarbonization initiatives in the early days. It was really hard, if not impossible, for a company to set the decarbonization ball rolling “unless the government restructured its overall energy system.” Not only does she take pride in China’s 2060 carbon-neutral goal, she’s confident that national endeavors to the end have facilitated her company to translate decarbonization visions into practice. “We aim to hit carbon-neutral target ahead of our time and before 2060,” said Ng.
For the Chinese mainland, 2060 carbon neutrality is the goal, while the task is more herculean for Hong Kong as that target is 2050, said Tse Chin-wan, secretary for Environment and Ecology of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. “The entirety of Hong Kong has to work together to face up to and embrace this challenge. Government, corporations, we as individuals, academia, schools … all have to make their fair share of contributions,” said Tse.