HKEx urges more compliance with WWF environmental objectives

Drive to increase compliance on environmental practices outlined by WWF is being stepped up

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 October, 2012, 1:31pm

Listed companies are being urged by the stock exchange to report on their compliance with "environmental, social and governance" (ESG) practices - such as turning off lights after working hours - from January.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx) issued a guide, produced by the wildlife organisation WWF Hong Kong, in August to advise listed companies on how to include ESG practices in their annual reports.

The practices also include turning off air conditioning after work, using environmentally friendly toilet paper and eating sustainable seafood in company canteens.

The 115 listed companies that agreed to follow the guide and donated money to WWF have become part of the WWF-Hong Kong Corporate Membership Programme, with members receiving awards at a ceremony yesterday in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Ellie Pang King-ling, HKEx assistant vice-president, said the ESG guide covers four areas.

The first is workplace quality, including the health, safety and development of staff. The second is environmental protection, dealing with issues such as emissions and use of resources.

The third is operative practices, such as supply chain management, product responsibility and anti-corruption. The final one is community involvement.

Pang said the guide, to be published on January 1, will be a stepping stone for listed companies to adopt international disclosure guidelines.

Pang said ESG reporting could help attract investors, adding: "More and more investors incorporate ESG into their evaluations and investment strategies."

WWF has devised programmes and workshops to aid companies in filing their ESG reports. Pang added that ESG practices also helped to motivate employees and improve a company's reputation and credibility by raising transparency.

She said companies would be able to fine-tune their risk management because the guide would be an incentive to assess internal practices.

Pang said a study would be conducted in 2014 to see how many of the listed companies had taken up ESG reporting.

If the number is low, then a consultation will begin to see if it is necessary to institute a provisional code, which would force companies to comply or explain why they had failed to do so.

The WWF-Hong Kong's director of conservation, Dr Andy Cornish, said ESG reporting was important because "all businesses rely … on the availability of natural resources".

He told how programme member Crystal Group adopted a policy which meant the last person leaving the office had to switch off the air conditioning.

It resulted in a reduction of 14 per cent - or HK$560,000 - on the company's electricity bill.