The key idea of “ESG” has been deeply infiltrated into the of China and Hong Kong, while it is expected that enterprises will continue to focus on energy conservation and emissions reduction in 2023. Amid the active promotion of carbon neutrality and carbon trading markets by the Chinese government, large enterprises and listed companies are likely to enhance their carbon reduction targets and move towards the zero-carbon ambition. In the short to medium term, we recommend that companies invest more resources in carbon auditing, ESG data collection and consolidation. In view of the stakeholders’ expectations for more detailed and complete disclosure, while actively deploying ESG investment and publicizing corporate ESG achievements, companies shall also do a good job in assuring the integrity and accuracy of the data. Should there be any material discrepancy in ESG performance disclosure, this will bring significant reputational risk to companies.
When ESG data involves more than one geographical locations, data collection and consolidation often face great challenges. Take an example for a manufacturing company which has its production bases in mainland China and Southeast Asia, with its offices in Hong Kong, mainland China and the United States. Data conversion, inconsistencies in units and emission factors are usual challenges that we have to deal with as some places use cubic meters when measuring waste yet others use kilograms or metric tons, while the unit of gasoline consumption in the United States is the gallon yet in mainland China it is the liter. The difficulty faced when dealing with the consolidation of a company’s carbon emissions and ESG data is no less than the consolidation of its financial statements. Even though there are many ESG data collection and sorting systems on the market, many of them fail to automatically adopt to the actual context of each company, thus requiring the person in charge of the company to undergo training so as to input the information uniformly according to the system requirements. In fact, based on our experience, even if the system has clear instructions on its requirements, for example requiring the American employees to input the gasoline consumption in liters, the American users will still enter data in gallons into the system which specifies that liters are to be entered. As of now, the participation of ESG internal and external consultants are still having significant and irreplaceable value in enhancing the quality of corporate ESG disclosure.
In view of the short history of ESG as important data, its importance and the integrity of its working are far less valued than accounting data. We aspire that through the participation of global ESG auditors, the integrity and reliability of corporate ESG data can be improved. Otherwise, funds and investors who rely heavily on publicly available ESG data for analysis and investment decisions will be exposed to significant risks.
On the other hand, emissions reduction targets based on Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) are required to cover Scope 3 emissions. Many companies nowadays only disclose their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions without including Scope 3 emissions into their disclosures. Even if they do so, only a small part of Scope 3 emissions, such as emissions arose for business air travel are included. However, the core of Scope 3 emissions lies in the emissions generated by the entire value chain. Therefore, a fairly large number of companies need to step up their efforts to establish a framework to collect and calculate Scope 3 emissions.
Attributed by the wider consideration of ESG factors by the government and financial markets when making important decisions, ESG data is gradually gaining importance. As such, performing well in ESG will undoubtedly lead companies to open to more resources. Adhering to the principle of fairness, before approving and supporting a green project or enterprise, investors should require the related parties to do a better job in reviewing the integrity and accuracy of their ESG data.
*Scope 1, 2, 3 can also be translated as category 1, 2, 3