生物多樣性風險管理:全球策略及政策實踐

[意見交流園地] 章逸飛博士(港大經管學院經濟學高級講師)、葉梓淇女士(港大經管學院本科生)

生物多樣性風險(biodiversity risk)和氣候風險(climate risk)都是環境問題,但兩者關注的領域和影響因素各有不同。

生物多樣性是地球上生物種類、基因和生態系統的豐富程度;是生態系統健康、可持續性和抵禦外來干擾的基礎。生物多樣性風險是指人類活動或自然現象導致生物多樣性減少的可能性,可能源於生態破壞、氣候變遷、污染、過度開發和入侵物種等。此類風險足以嚴重影響人類經濟、社會和生態系統,如糧食安全、水資源和藥物研發。保護和恢復生物多樣性以降低生物多樣性風險,對全球可持續發展具重要意義。

至於氣候風險,則來自人類活動造成的溫室氣體排放,進而導致全球氣候暖化、極端氣候事件頻率和強度增加,亦包括海平面上升、洪水、乾旱、食物和水資源減少。

儘管這兩種風險聚焦的領域不同,但其中仍存在一定關聯。氣候變遷可能加劇生物多樣性風險,導致物種分布、生態系統結構和生物相互作用出現變化。同時,生物多樣性的喪失,或會削弱生態系統對氣候變遷的適應能力。

訊息披露法規現況

儘管生物多樣性的喪失備受全球關注,各國政府卻尚未出台強制要求企業披露生物多樣性影響的法規。當前不少監管機構已制定關於環境、社會及管治(ESG)披露的指南和政策,生物多樣性通常作為環境因素的一部分被納入其中。譬如,美國證券交易委員會倡議上市公司披露對其業務具有重大影響的風險和不確定性,當中可能包括關乎生物多樣性的問題。

此外,美國一些行業和非政府組織也倡導企業在可持續發展報告中,提供關於生物多樣性的資訊。雖然並非強制性,但公司為了提高透明度和滿足持份者的要求,每多自願披露相關資料。同時,不少國家和地區鼓勵企業遵循國際性的ESG披露框架,如全球報告倡議組織(Global Reporting Initiative)的可持續發展報告指南,以及金融穩定理事會的氣候相關財務披露工作小組(Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures)。這些框架中通常也包含了與生物多樣性相關的披露要求。

企業應對風險策略

由於生物多樣性風險的廣泛影響及披露倡議,愈來愈多企業開始未雨綢繆,積極實行保護措施。以下為美國和本港兩大上市企業的典型案例,以資讀者參考。

為了應對生物多樣性風險對農作物的潛在危害,星巴克與保護國際(Conservation International)組織合作,推出「咖啡與農民的公平實踐」(C.A.F.E. Practice)計劃,以確保咖啡農場遵守保護生物多樣性和野生動物棲息地的核心準則。該計劃臚列農業規範和環境措施,旨在有效管理廢物和農藥的使用、節約能源和保護水質,以維護生物多樣性。截至2015年,星巴克已實現超過99%的咖啡豆通過此一嚴格篩選程序。

作為港企龍頭之一的長江實業集團有限公司,將生物多樣性風險納入其企業風險管理系統,並積極識別和評估潛在風險。該集團制定了以下各項生物多樣性政策:一、透過環境影響評估,以減輕其集團業務對自然棲息地的負面影響。二、積極與持份者合作,以互相增強對保護生物多樣性的意識。三、減少業務運營和建築項目對環境的污染,包括減少空氣、噪音和光污染。同時,在現有的基礎設施投資項目(如Northumbrian Water、UK Power Networks)中,採取措施減少產生廢棄物和碳排放,以保護自然環境和生物多樣性。

資本市場綠色機遇

生物多樣性的喪失可能引發一系列連鎖影響,世界經濟論壇估計,世界經濟有一半以上依賴自然。有鑑於此,不僅企業在探索有利生物多樣性的新商業模式,投資者也開始關注並投資保護世界生物多樣性,為市場帶來新投資機會。

目前,市場上專注於生物多樣性的股票基金數量不斷增加。許多投資機構利用專業知識,將資產分散投資於最有潛力促進生物多樣性的公司,推出多樣化的投資組合,供投資者選擇。例如,安盛投資管理亞洲有限公司的投資產品主要集中在可持續材料、土地和動物保護、水生態系統等領域。富達基金的最新產品也專注於投資致力解決生物多樣性喪失問題的頂尖公司,涵蓋污染治理、土地和海洋利用變化、直接開採等主題。

這些股票基金不僅支持保護生物多樣性,且符合聯合國提出的「2030可持續發展目標」,為投資者創造長期穩定的潛在投資價值。然而,在選擇投資組合時,投資者需仔細評估相關風險,包括行業對生物多樣性的影響、土地利用變化及供應鏈等間接因素對生物多樣性的影響。

政府相關政策展望

香港給人的印象是個繁華熱鬧的大都會,但這片彈丸之地也富於自然生態和生物多樣性,為市民帶來四季分明的景致。保護生物多樣性對於這座城市的可持續發展至關重要,特別是在氣候變遷等挑戰日益嚴峻的情況下,社會上下都必須共同努力,保護寶貴的自然遺產。2016年,特區政府公布首份城市級《生物多樣性策略及行動計劃》,旨在深化生物多樣性保護及支持本港的可持續發展。展望未來,除了加強本地教育,當局更應着力擴展在區域及國際方面的交流和合作。

在區域層面,特區政府可與珠三角地區攜手合作,共同應對跨境生物多樣性保育問題。例如透過設立跨境自然保護區、合作進行生物多樣性監測等方式,共同保護跨境生態系統和生物多樣性。區域合作有助於提高生物多樣性保育的整體效果,進一步促進區域可持續發展。

國際方面,特區政府可繼續與聯合國環境署、世界自然保護聯盟等國際環保組織加強合作,共同推動生物多樣性保護的研究、政策制定和技術交流。在此大前提之下,當局亦宜鼓勵本港科研機構與國際研究機構合作,開展生物多樣性保護的基礎及應用研究。 

(本文同時於二零二四年六月十二日載於《信報》「龍虎山下」專欄及港大經管學院網頁) Source: https://www.hkubs.hku.hk/research/thought-leadership/hkej-column/biodiversity-risk-management-global-strategies-and-policy-implementation/

July 2024 Events on Green Finance / 2024年7月綠色金融活動一覽

Check out the above calendar for the fantastic green finance events for Jul 2024! Interested to join and know more about the events? Click the links below for details:

以上兩圖看清2024年7月精彩的綠色金融活動!如欲參加及了解活動詳情,歡迎瀏覽以下網址:

2 Jul [1] GRESB Inside ESG: Going beyond climate – Biodiversity in focus

9 Jul [2] Bridging corporate sustainability reporting with SDG implementation

10 Jul [3] IPR Quarterly Briefing: Global climate policy developments – Quarter 2

11 Jul [4] The Path to Net Zero: A Climate Mitigation Journey for Banks

11 Jul [5] Business Reporting on the SDGs: A State of Play and Future Directions

16 Jul [6] Investors and human rights: Ways forward in a time of complexity

18 Jul [7] Circular economy: An enabler for responsible banking

25 Jul [8]  Introduction to the Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures

Insight Sharing from World Benchmarking Alliance – Allies Assembly 2024 in Bangkok

【Certified ESG Analyst Insights Sharing】 Ericson Lee, CESGA

The World Benchmarking Alliance – Allies Assembly in Bangkok from June 10-13, 2024 provided a crucial platform for global stakeholders to come together and share insights on the role of business in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a Certified ESG Analyst (CESGA) representing Friends of the Earth (HK), it is my honor to attend this premier sustainability conference and gaining firsthand perspectives on the progress, challenges, and collaborative efforts underway. The 4-day program, covering critical issues such as social challenges in supply chains, the evolving role of investors in driving sustainability, and the pressing need to develop globally accepted ESG standards and frameworks. The insights gleaned from this assembly offer valuable lessons and a roadmap for businesses, investors, policymakers, and civil society organizations to accelerate progress towards a more sustainable and equitable future.

無圖片說明

Social Issues in Supply Chain

Southeast Asia plays a pivotal role in the global supply chain, especially in food and marine products. The environmental and social status of this region requires urgent attention due to small-scale, dispersed suppliers with low education and technological adoption, leading to challenges in supply chain engagement and data collection. The fishing industry, dominated by small-scale suppliers, is problematic in terms of human rights violations[1], with weak law enforcement and ineffective whistleblowing mechanisms.

Just transition in the supply chain is also critical, ensuring fairness while pursuing environmental and social improvements. Small-scale suppliers may face increasing production costs to meet sustainable standards, impacting their vulnerable income and living conditions. Participants proposed collaborative efforts from large companies, governments, and NGOs are essential. Companies must ensure fair profit distribution, invest in sustainable practices, and support small-scale suppliers with tailor-made education and technological assistant.

NGOs are working for human rights and support vulnerable communities on-site, like The Labour Protection Network (LPN) combating human trafficking in the fishing industry. LPN operates centers for migrant workers, investigates wage disputes, and provides legal services. Raising awareness and educating employees is crucial, as victims may be unaware of their rights. LPN faces challenges such as fake documents, difficulty reaching small-scale supplier employees, and accusations of damaging Thailand’s image. The organization advocates for transparency in supply chains and data sharing but struggles to obtain compensation and evidence for long-term cases involving workers on boats.

During our visit to LPN, government representatives emphasized the importance of private sector support reaching those in need and enforcing laws. Collaboration between ministries, police, and trade unions is crucial for social welfare and whistleblowing. The ministry partners with NGOs to provide education, training, and facilities for victims, but comprehensive mechanisms and law enforcement to protect migrant labor are insufficient.

Stewardship and Engagement

Foreign investors play a pivotal role in driving sustainable development through the effective utilization of their shareholder power. Participants in the discussion emphasized the significance of finance in unlocking sustainable business opportunities in Asia, highlighting the evolving skills and knowledge required for effective stewardship. Institutional investors are increasingly adopting a proactive approach, engaging with companies as collaborators to drive meaningful changes in sustainable development practices. Rather than simply divesting from companies, investors are holding them accountable to develop and implement real transition plans. Given that Asian companies tend to be less open to engagement compared to their Western counterparts, investors are encouraged to leverage shareholder resolutions and co-file with NGOs to amplify their influence.

Initiatives such as Climate Action 100+ have made significant progress in persuading companies to make net zero commitments and improve their governance and disclosure practices. Investors are gradually shifting their emphasis from mere compliance and disclosure to integrating sustainability commitments into the core business strategy of the companies they invest in. Additionally, there is a growing recognition of the importance of addressing social issues, as investors understand the impact of these issues on economic systems and company performance.

Transparent and globally comparable standards and frameworks are essential for engaging stakeholders effectively, particularly when addressing complex social issues such as wages and inequalities. By adopting a comprehensive approach that encompasses both environmental and social considerations, investors can play a vital role in shaping a more sustainable and equitable future for businesses and communities alike.

Allies in Action Discussion – Addressing the Gap in ESG Standards and Frameworks

At the Allies in Action session, I was invited to co-lead a table discussion on addressing the gap in “Standards and Frameworks”. The primary issue is the absence of globally accepted reporting standards that align with global agendas, resulting in a lack of transparency and comparability of ESG performance among companies.[2]

Challenges identified for this topic such as lack of primary data, standardized quantifiable units of measurement, and consensus on ESG concepts and expectations due to diverse cultures and values across countries and sectors.

Participants suggested collaboration and communication on unified standards and frameworks, also making them more layman and accessible to ordinary people. However, reporting standards for corporates should be detailed and formal as it is a legal obligation, while performance metrics and scores can be easily understood and comparable by the general public despite the risk of “Black box”.

Establishing a globally accepted reporting standard for ESG disclosure is just the first step towards meaningful sustainability practices. The real challenge lies in developing a performance standard that drives actual change and improvement. While reporting standards ensure comparability, they do not guarantee active efforts towards better ESG performance, as seen with the slow improvement in lifecycle assessment despite the ISO 14040 standard being the sole internationally recognized framework for this issue.

Developing a globally accepted performance standard is significantly more difficult due to the subjective and context-specific nature of ESG issues. Achieving consensus requires the active participation and buy-in from diverse stakeholders with different priorities and concerns. Nevertheless, a robust and widely accepted performance standard is essential for driving meaningful change, ensuring credibility and effectiveness of ESG practices, and creating a level playing field for companies to compete on ESG performance.

Conclusion

While ESG and sustainability have made significant progress, there are still numerous areas that require improvement. The Allies Assembly in Bangkok provided a valuable platform for stakeholders from various sectors to collaborate and share insights. The conference highlighted the critical social issues faced by small-scale suppliers deeply embedded in supply chains, emphasizing the need for immediate action. Investors are increasingly leveraging their influence through engagement and stewardship to drive meaningful changes in sustainable development practices. However, the key to achieving consensus and establishing globally accepted standards and frameworks for ESG reporting and performance setting lies in collaboration. By fostering partnerships among diverse stakeholders, including companies, governments, NGOs, and investors, we can work towards addressing the complex challenges in the ESG landscape and create a more sustainable and equitable future for all. The Allies Assembly served as a catalyst for fostering partnerships and accelerating collective action towards a more sustainable and equitable future.

Article is written by EFFAS Certified Environmental, Social, and Governance Analyst (CESGA). CESGA is highly recognized in Europe and globally which has been steadily increasing in the worldwide. If interested in enrolling, please refer to https://bit.ly/3tFUQ1M


[1] https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/23/thailand-forced-labor-trafficking-persist-fishing-fleets

[2]https://assets.worldbenchmarkingalliance.org/app/uploads/2023/09/WBA2023_whitepaper_corporate_accountability_summary.pdf

企業漂綠行為與監管回應

[意見交流園地] 章逸飛博士(港大經管學院經濟學高級講師)、葉梓淇女士(港大經管學院本科生)

近年環球市場對可持續投資的需求有增無減,反映氣候變化和環保的議題備受重視;與此同時,亦令人關注「漂綠」(greenwashing)問題,其中包括企業為求吸引消費者和投資者、提升商譽,在宣傳與行銷過程中,過度誇大產品或服務的環保成效。漂綠行為通常透過誤導或虛假的陳述、廣告或標籤,使消費者和投資者誤以為某產品或服務對環境有益,儘管事實並非如此。放眼全球,企業漂綠事件屢見不鮮。為防被誤導,我們應關注產品的實際環保效果,而非只專注於廣告和宣傳。

中外企業漂綠案例

歐洲最大汽車製造商福士(Volkswagen,內地稱大眾汽車)在2014年推出了氫燃料電池車,贏得業界的廣泛讚譽。然而,一次廢氣排放測試的結果揭示有異常情況,美國國家環境保護局為此作出調查,發現大眾汽車在全球1100萬輛柴油車中安裝了減效裝置,可自動偵測車輛是否正在接受環保測試,並相應地減少車輛的廢氣排放,以符合環保標準。實際上,這些車輛的廢氣排放量竟高出美國標準40倍,足以致命。

最終,福士因欺詐被聯邦法院罰款28億美元,並須回收所有涉案車輛。這宗造假醜聞曝光後,該公司股價暴跌30%,市值縮水350億歐羅,不但嚴重損害企業形象和聲譽,也大大削弱消費者的信心。福士聲稱出廠綠色產品,其實以偽造數據欺騙公眾,此舉隨後成為企業漂綠的經典例子。

至於作為世界五百強之一的建築公司,中國中鐵(00390)不僅獲得了環境、社會及管治(Environmental, Social, and Governance,ESG)評級的AAA級,並獲中國上市公司協會選為ESG最佳實踐案例。其業務項目多與環保有關,更投入大筆資金研發綠色科技,將可持續發展作為企業使命。可惜現實偏偏相反,中鐵經常收到環境罰單,更在2022年因違法使用和破壞林地,被罰款約65萬元人民幣;同年,中鐵子公司也因排污和噪音問題違規,罰款逾160萬元人民幣。

確立綠色認證標準

歐洲方面,為了打擊企業漂綠行為,歐盟議會在本年1月17日正式通過《為綠色轉型賦權消費者指令》(The Directive on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition,ECGT)。這項指令作為歐盟循環經濟計劃的一部分,旨在透過取締誤導性產品資訊和籠統環境聲明,協助消費者作出較佳購買選擇。

這項新法例的重點,是在當前歐盟的綠色轉型過程中,保障消費者免受有害商業行為的侵害。因此,ECGT將尋求禁止未經驗證計劃支持的籠統環境聲明、基於排放抵消計劃的環境聲明、毫無根據的耐用性聲明,以及其他廣泛的漂綠營銷行為。

ECGT透過確保行銷方面的產品綠色聲明更加透明可靠,以便消費者作出明智選擇,購得真正更耐用、可維修和可持續的產品。含糊的綠色承諾也將受到限制;只有當整個產品確實比傳統產品更環保,並通過像歐盟生態標籤這樣可靠的認證時,生產商才能將產品標記為「生態友善」或「綠色」。此外,如果產品或企業只是在某一細微部分變得比較永續,也不能將產品或企業宣傳為「綠色」。

除此之外,ECGT也透過規管永續標籤用途來實現這一目標,使它們更可信有效。為了提高生態標籤的可信度,該指令將禁止使用籠統的環境聲明(如「環保」、「可生物降解」、「氣候中性」和「生態友善」),若能證明整個產品確實比傳統版本更環保,則不在此列。在推行時,這意味着歐盟產品上的生態標籤需要通過批准的認證計劃或認可機構的獨立驗證。

至於中國內地,儘管目前沒有專門立法機關監管漂綠的不實廣告,但現存多項法規足以保障消費者和投資者。假使企業塑造虛假的綠色形象,企圖欺騙消費者,監管機構可按《廣告法》規管的虛假廣告、《消費者權益保護法》規管的損害消費者權益、《反不正當競爭法》規管的虛假商業宣傳,以及《產品品質法》規管的偽造和冒用認證標誌等法例加以起訴。違法者輕則被罰款並須作出賠償,重則或被吊銷營業執照,而且須承擔刑事責任。

加強資訊法規保障

針對不實披露環境資訊的情況,中國自2016年簽署《巴黎協定》以來,已經根據協定的綠色分類目錄來評估業界的綠色行為,涉及案例多達100萬宗。隨着綠色行為日漸普及和社會關注度提升,2021年中國修訂了《上市公司資訊披露管理辦法》,要求公開對環境違法行為的行政處罰。隨後一年實施《企業環境資訊依法披露管理辦法》,規定企業披露相關資訊,以確保環境資訊的明確性。

今年,國務院最新頒布了《碳排放權交易管理暫行條例》,對不實、偽造、篡改環境資訊和資料等行為設定罰款,並要求排放單位公開環境資料,這大大增加了對企業漂綠行為的威懾力和進一步預防漂綠行為。

(本文同時載於《信報》「龍虎山下」專欄 及港大經管學院網頁)

Source: https://www.hkubs.hku.hk/research/thought-leadership/hkej-column/corporate-greenwashing-and-regulatory-response/

Investing in Natural Regeneration Projects: Insights from Hong Kong’s Private Sector

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.