he United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November 2021 highlighted the need for everyone to work together to combat climate change and mitigate its impacts. At the conference, countries agreed to meet again to pledge cuts to carbon dioxide emissions, phase down coal as a power source, support developing countries’ ability to cope with climate change, and phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
There are also increasing demands by investors and regulators on companies to be transparent about the risks and opportunities that climate change and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues pose to their businesses. Hong Kong first introduced ESG reporting guidelines in 2012, and these have been strengthened since, with the latest guide took effect in 2020.
As ESG increasingly becomes a priority of boards and part of business strategy, it is important for us as professionals to understand its essence and implication to businesses, in order to create value and fulfil stakeholders’ expectations.
The Institute is playing its own part in becoming more sustainable and promoting sustainability to members. In November 2021, the Institute joined other accounting bodies, all members of The Prince of Wales’s Accounting for Sustainability Project Accounting Bodies Network, in publicly committing to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions within their own organizations, as well as provide an enabling environment for their membership to do the same. The Institute will develop its plan over the next 12 months.
It is also building on the sustainability discussion through a series of webinars that aim to equip participants with fundamental knowledge in ESG, highlighting the latest trends and updates on certain key areas of ESG, including climate change, sustainability, ESG reporting, and supply chain health and safety.
About the e-Series
The e-Series comprises four recorded webinars.
With businesses increasingly being called upon to report on their ESG efforts, accountants have a key role to play. To help in the collecting and reporting of ESG data, accountants and finance professionals must expand their ESG and climate change knowledge. There are also certain requirements from regulators on ESG and climate change risk management that members should familiarize themselves with. The webinar “ESG and Climate Change 101 and Latest Trends for Accounting and Finance Professionals” covers the basics and the latest developments of ESG, sustainability, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and climate change risk management.
Accountants can also help to establish or implement an ESG strategy and reporting system, which can provide value for shareholders and build confidence in the company’s ability to prioritize ESG commitments. A well-established ESG strategy and reporting system can also better enable companies to make business decisions and provide transparency to the outside world. The webinar “ESG Strategy and Communication” discusses the latest ESG trends, how to integrate climate-related risks and an ESG strategy into the business strategy, as well as how an ESG strategy could generate value for shareholders.
The webinar “Driving Shared Values Through Effective ESG Reporting” offers insights into the “why,” “what” and “how” of effective ESG reporting. When it comes to ESG reporting, effective reporting enables companies to get better access to green and sustainable finance, and generate shared social and environmental values with stakeholders. However, creating a high quality ESG report can be challenging as it must fulfil the specific requirements of the reporting methodology and principles, and also strike the right balance of information and data from a wide range of topics. Companies also need to plan well on how to communicate relevant information to drive long-term sustainability improvements.
The final webinar “EHS vs. ESG – The Evolution towards Safe, Responsible and Accountable Business” covers environmental, health and safety (EHS) aspects of operating a business and how the traditional framework of EHS relates to ESG. This comes as businesses are being pressured to address the environmental impact of their operations and the safety of employees and communities. How different phases of EHS apply to different businesses, the concept of materiality, and major components of EHS will also be addressed. After the webinar, participants will have a deeper understanding of the key components of a robust EHS management system, be more familiar with the common metrics and disclosures pertaining to EHS, and will be able to identify and differentiate key EHS standards and relevant reporting frameworks.
All the recordings are available on the Institute’s website for enrolment.
Herbert Yung FCPA is Director, Member Engagement and Sustainability Lead, at the Hong Kong Institute of CPAs and the moderator of the ESG Series. He has over 12 years of advisory experience in enabling companies across industries to resolve business challenges and achieve sustainable growth. He led various projects relating to sustainability strategy, risk management, as well as ESG reporting and assurance for multinational corporations and Hong Kong-listed companies.