More corporations across Asia-Pacific are embracing the environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda, showing that sustainability is gaining traction in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, based on a new report from global banking giant Citi.
According to a survey conducted by Citi, 54 percent of institutional respondents stated they already have ESG policies and practices integrated in their corporate strategy while close to 90 percent of the remaining respondents intended to roll out ESG policies and practices within five years.
“Evidently, sustainability is coming of age in this region. With COVID-19 presenting new challenges, ESG issues that were previously on the periphery are now in the forefront for many companies,” the Citi report said. Over two-thirds of the respondents attributed COVID-19 as a driving force of ESG policies and practices in their firms.
Citi’s study was based on a survey conducted in the first quarter among 259 institutional clients in 14 markets across Asia Pacific to better understand how they are embracing the ESG agenda. The report included views from global fund management firms BlackRock and Manulife Investment Management, alongside a survey of key issuer clients in the region.
Of the respondents, majority held senior level positions in their firms: 16 percent were chairpersons, presidents or CEOs, 24 percent were other C-suite executives, while 26 percent were managing directors and directors and 28 percent were senior vice presidents and vice presidents.
Mandate and opportunity
The main drivers behind the adoption of overall ESG standards among those who responded to the survey included the following: alignment to overall corporate sustainability strategy (65 percent); positive impact on relationship with customers and stakeholders (57 percent); social and environmental factors (48 percent); regulatory obligations and preempting broader policy and regulatory changes (42 percent); access to funding dedicated to ESG projects (28 percent); and demand and pricing impact on ESG products (22 percent).
“As a global, value-driven firm, we are dedicated to supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy. We view sustainable financing both as a mandate and as an opportunity to partner with our clients across geographies—to help them decarbonize their operations and achieve their enterprise sustainability goals,”
-Peter Babej, Citi Asia Pacific CEO.