Business leaders, investors examine impact investing and ESG in post-COVID-19 recovery

Business leaders, investors examine impact investing and ESG in post-COVID-19 recovery

HONG KONG, June 7, 2021 — A webinar, themed “Impact Investing and ESG in Post-COVID Economic Recovery”, co-organized by China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable and AvantFaire, was held on June 7. It drew about 150 participants, including business leaders, investment project owners, private equity firms and investors.

According to the latest annual report of the Global Impact Investing Network, the impact investment market reached US$715 billion in assets under management in 2020 -- a 42.2 percent year-on-year increase. Despite the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, a significantly high number of investors have chosen to invest their money in impact investing products and ethical funds. Therefore, the impact investing market is expected to continue to grow and play an important role in post-pandemic economic recovery.

What are the latest trends in impact investment? How do investors measure the impacts and alignments to specific sustainable development goals? Why does environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) integration matter to a positive investment outcome?

Ms. Diane Damskey, Head of Secretariat, Operating Principles for Impact Management, delivered the keynote address.

Moderated by Ms. Catherine Chen, Founder and CEO of AvantFaire Investment Management Ltd, and Dr. DJ Clark, multimedia director, China Daily Asia Pacific, the panel invited Ms. Hester Marie DeCasper, IFC regional head of operations, East Asia and Pacific and head of office in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; Mr. Thomas Kwan, chief investment officer, Harvest Global Investments Limited; and Mr. Andrew Weir, regional senior partner, KPMG Hong Kong, and vice-chairman, KPMG China, to share their insights on the topic.

Diane Damskey said the pandemic has highlighted the great global needs to bridge the gap in inequality in education, jobs’ basic benefits and healthcare, where more capital is increasingly needed. In times of stress, she said investors have made greater efforts in addressing the global challenges by not only showing their interest, but also contributing to capital flow since the pandemic.

Hester Marie DeCasper noted that impact investment has expanded by 42 percent during the pandemic which has reinforced and accelerated the trend. More companies have found it necessary to meet the social and environmental challenges. “In Asia, the overall size of the impact investment market is still very modest. To bridge the gap, companies in Asia should make more proactive investments in areas like education,” she said.

“We should look for companies with a business model that helps address environmental and social issues as regulations now demand it. More specifically, I think, with thematic investments, if we look at the renewable energy side, not many investors realize that the Chinese are leading on this front,” said Thomas Kwan.

Andrew Weir pointed out the fundamental change that sustainability has moved from a nice niche into the core mainstream, and a massive engine for this will be the COP26 (the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties) initiative, the impact on the economies of those commitments, and a carbon neutral commitment. “To be quite honest, many of the state-owned enterprises coming out of China and other markets have already been doing it, but may not possibly have badged it or described it as sustainable investment and impact investment, but that gives a very strong foundation on which to build,” he said.

Catherine Chen said there are quite a lot initiatives going on, but they need to be better aligned with the green standards that keep evolving. The challenge is how to integrate the existing standards with the green industry and the initiatives. Hong Kong is not lagging behind in policies, but it’s time to get the private sector to invest and promote the green industry, she said.

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About the China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable
The China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable is a by-invitation network of movers and shakers in Asia, providing platforms for focused dialogue, issue investigation and possible collective action on strategic issues relating to Asia’s economic, business and social development. Our aim is to enhance communication and increase mutual understanding between China, Asian and Western countries. Roundtable events are held in major cities across Asia.