Tundra Fonder Senior ESG Analyst Maryam Mughal Moderated first panel. Others from left: Tundra Fonder AB Head of ESG Jennie Ahren, John Keels Holding Sustainability, ERM and Group Initiatives Manager Vidushi Seneviratne, Cargills Ceylon Research and Sustainability Manager Isuru Samaratunga and Access Engineering Business Development Manager (Diligence) Shanaka Fernando
By Shannon Jayawardena
The importance of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) analytics into business planning and operations came under the spotlight yesterday at the Colombo Stock Exchange-Tundra Fonder Sustainability Forum.
The event involving international and local experts reconnoitered the catalytic potential of private finance in embracing and advancing ESG perspectives in business practices while establishing the business case for sustainability, through perceptions shared by many professionals in the field.
Colombo Stock Exchange Chief Executive Officer Rajeeva Bandaranaike said: “This initiative is the right thing to do at the right time and the work that Tundra is doing in Sri Lanka should be greatly acknowledged. Their confidence in investing in the country is remarkable and we hope that they have a rewarding experience in endowing in our new markets.”
The Forum touched upon topics such as a foreign investor’s perspective on Sri Lanka’s equity market, sustainable investing; what matters from an international perspective, sustainable policies, practices and challenges from both a company’s and civil society’s standpoint.
Tundra Fonder Founder and CIO Mattias Martinsson noted: “Our aim is to invest in the world’s newly emerging markets in the world, the less known markets where you can really have value as an investment.”
Speaking on why Sri Lanka is a successful country to invest in and the opportunities it offers, he said: “When we look at why we like Sri Lanka, because it is a very small country we see that there’s so much more. The country has a 93% literacy rate and 98% primary school enrolment rate which means that Sri Lanka will have twice the workforce than many other countries. The driving force for Sri Lanka to go forward is the tourism sector which needs to be enhanced.”
ESG’s principles are based on the notion that environmental, social and governance issues, such as climate change and human rights, can affect the performance of investment portfolios and should therefore be well-thought-out alongside more traditional financial factors if investors are to properly fulfill their fiduciary.
The forum denoted that environmental criteria looks at how a company performs as a steward of the natural environment. Social criteria examines how a company manages relationships with its employees, suppliers, customers and the communities where it operates and governance deals with a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits and internal controls, and shareholder rights. Hence understanding and integrating ESG analytics into business preparations and procedures is a very vital component when it comes to any business’s or investors success.
Tundra Fonder Head of ESG Jennie Ahren said: “Education is very important when it comes to equity and equality, equality to make sure that no one is left behind and we cannot do this alone. It has to be a joint effort. We at tundra believe that it is important to focus on ESG’s policies and sustainability reporting, be transparent and have good governance in order to accomplish any set tasks.”
The forum yesterday comprised of two panel discussions one; moderated by Tundra Fonder Senior ESG Analyst Maryam Mughal and panellists Ahren, John Keells Holdings Manager Sustainability ERM and Group Initiatives Vidushi Seneviratne, Cargills Ceylon Manager Research and Sustainability Isuru Samaratunga, IFS South Asia CEO Jayantha De Silva and Manager Business Development Access Engineering Shanaka Fernando who shared their views and insights sustainable policies, initiatives, best practices and challenges.
The second was moderated by Ahren, with Mughal, Transparency International Sri Lanka Executive Director Asoka Obeysekere and ECPAT CEO Mohammed Mahuruf as panellists who too shared their vast knowledge on sustainable policy implementation and so forth.
The panellists denoted that although sustainable investment professionals around the world continue to evolve the overall ESG framework to effectively allocate value, they face several challenges such as defining sustainability, framing sustainability value, identifying the right levers, investment horizon and data quality and access.
Sharing their views on how to overcome these issues they proposed many ways that sustainability initiatives can contribute towards shareholder values such as growth, productivity and risk management. Transparency and subject awareness are very important constituents the forum was told.
Pix by Lasantha Kumara