Mr. Anthony Cheung CESGA, Vice-Chairperson & Green Finance Convenor of Friends of the Earth (HK)

On World Environment Day, I had the privilege of serving World Vision and FoE(HK) as a panelist in a thought-provoking discussion titled “Supporting Natural Regeneration Projects: The Role of the Private Sector.” 

  • Mr. Tony Rinaudo, the Forest Maker, Principal Climate Action Advisor, World Vision Australia 
  • Mr. Daniel Misson, Carbon Programming and Partnerships Manager, World Vision Australia 
  • Mr. Ken Chiu, Head of Carbon & ESG Products, HKEx 
  • Mr. Calvin Wong, Head of Sustainability Assurance Services, SGS Hong Kong 

During our engaging conversation, we delved into the benefits, challenges, and opportunities for corporations and investors interested in engaging in Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) and other natural regeneration initiatives. I would like to highlight several key takeaways from this insightful exchange: 

1. Return on Investment and Realizing Impacts 

Panelists emphasized the relatively swift realization of tangible benefits in these initiatives, often surpassing expectations compared to traditional tree planting projects. For instance, Tony shared instances where farmers experienced remarkable increases in crop yields, sometimes doubling, within the first year of FMNR projects. The advent of remote sensing technology enables more frequent monitoring and verification of carbon projects, allowing investors to witness carbon credit generation sooner. Moreover, natural regeneration projects contribute to multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), enabling corporations to showcase their ESG investments. Implementing robust monitoring and evaluation frameworks facilitates the tracking of environmental, economic, and social impacts over time. 

2. Reporting Impact and Elevating biodiversity Considerations 

Accurately quantifying and reporting impacts emerged as a significant concern for stakeholders. Calvin underscored the significance of not merely presenting narratives but also adopting new ESG reporting frameworks such as GRI. Given the growing importance of ESG reporting and frameworks, companies must proactively address these issues. The panel further emphasized the need for corporations to mitigate environmental and biodiversity risks, highlighting the extensive economic value at stake due to biodiversity loss. Initiatives like the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) emphasize the mounting focus on biodiversity. Companies that proactively integrate biodiversity considerations within their reporting will be better equipped to navigate emerging risks and opportunities. 

3. Collaborating with Stakeholders To Foster Sustainability

The panel explored how corporate partnerships can support carbon reduction initiatives. Ken remarked that HKEx adopts a multifaceted approach, leading by example in setting ambitious targets for carbon neutrality and net zero. HKEx focuses on engagement, awareness, and practical implementation through educational initiatives.  
In my view, it is essential for corporates to recognize the interconnection of Sustainability reporting, biodiversity, and financial performance, and take action to address these issues in a comprehensive and proactive manner. 

Greenwashing poses one of the biggest risks in the sustainability transition. To tackle this, developing robust measurement metrics, KPIs, and a comprehensive framework is crucial. Sharing and standardizing these tools among all stakeholders will be essential in combating greenwashing and ensuring genuine progress towards sustainability goals. 

4. Balancing Risks and Ensuring Long-Term Viability 

In his keynote speech preceding the panel, Daniel highlighted FMNR’s low-risk nature, based on decades of experience. The key lies in designing projects with appropriate long-term economic incentives for communities and accounting for challenges expected over a project’s 30 to 40 years lifespan. This entails local assessments, adaptive management plans, and empowering local teams to make informed decisions. Addressing potential obstacles necessitates counterparty risks consideration, implementing effective ongoing monitoring, and engaging stakeholders to articulate project relevance and impact. 

In conclusion, this audience instilled a sense of urgency and inspiration, urging concrete action in safeguarding the environment and biodiversity. FMNR and natural regeneration projects offer exciting opportunities for the private sector to effect transformative environmental and social change. By designing projects with appropriate long-term incentives, addressing potential risks, and partnering with key stakeholders, responsible companies can generate meaningful returns while restoring landscapes and empowering communities. As mandatory sustainability reporting continues to evolve, companies must proactively develop robust measurement frameworks to track progress, combat greenwashing, and demonstrate genuine sustainability commitments.