The words "Environmental, Social, and Governance" have been given a new meaning over the past few years, with them being increasingly important on many corporates' agenda. Telum Media invited Nick Wakefield, Co-Founder, and Chris Hall, Founding Editor, of ESG Investor, to share with us the newly launched media publication on this topic, as well as tips for PR professionals.
Big Congratulations on the launch of ESG Investor. Could you tell us more about the publication in terms of content and editorial strategy?
Asset owners are at varying stages on a shared journey to an investment environment in which they will be able to integrate ESG factors into their strategies at a very granular level. Much more so than today, they will be able to fine-tune their investment decisions to avoid particular risks and support particular outcomes, both financially and in terms of real-word impacts.
ESG Investor will help them navigate that journey, providing them with practical information and insights that can help them avoid the pitfalls and grasp the opportunities. Everything’s in flux. Regulations, standards, fund solutions, tools and data are all changing fast; best practice has not yet emerged; every asset owner has its own set of priorities. All these add up to a strong appetite for news and analysis, and we intend to fill it, with the emphasis on ease of consumption. After all, we have no time to lose.
We see the investment teams of asset owners and institutional investors as being at the centre of the ESG Investor universe. But there are many other stakeholders, with asset managers being of particular importance of course, but also banks, brokers, custodians, technology and data vendors, consultants, advisors and lawyers. We see ourselves as working with all these parties to deepen the pool of relevant, practical information available to asset owners as they continue to shape and refine their investment strategies and processes in line with ESG factors.
We’re excited by the launch and also initial reception from the market. Having seen more focus by regulators as well as investors on issues around ESG, it made sense for there to be a publication focused on the practical impacts on investment processes and procedures. From our sister publication, Regulation Asia, we’ve seen considerable interest in ESG-related standards and regulations - and yet there are very few publications covering this area in depth and in terms of what it means for the asset owners.
I co-founded Regulation Asia in 2013, and we’re looking to learn from how we built that into a successful publication. The news flow is different, so we expect to see a lot more in-depth features and analysis from an asset-owner viewpoint.
Tell us more about your role and some of the major topics of interest.
Chris: As Editor, I’ll be shaping our editorial focus and working with our team of reporters and freelancers to ensure our coverage reflects the concerns closest to the hearts of asset owners. Ultimately, integrating ESG into investment policies and processes is about driving positive, long-term outcomes for a wide range of stakeholders, so we need to keep their interests in mind. This also means engaging regularly with the readership, through webinars, industry events and other channels. I’ve always enjoyed the sharing of ideas and perspectives – ideally in person, but via Zoom if needs be.
In terms of topics, you can’t ignore the urgency of the environmental challenges we all face, and the pandemic has forced many to think more deeply about the social impacts of business and investment decisions. But for me it all starts with governance. Without the proper structures and processes in place from the top, an organisation is unlikely to fully understand the risks or fulfil its potential, in terms of satisfying the needs of employees, customers, partners and shareholders. We hope ESG Investor will help asset owners to develop the right policies and tools to engage effectively with the firms they invest in and thus meet their specific investment objectives.
Chris is leading the editorial charge, my background is mostly in the operations and marketing, and feeding that back to Chris and the editorial team to ensure that we reach the right people with the right content - it will be critical to ensure that we are serving the purpose we set out.
ESG has become a very hot topic globally. Why is that?
This topic will define investment over the next decades. It will no longer be suitable to single out ESG as a type of investment or strategy, it will be fully embedded into any investment process asset owners will make, and their end-investors will expect and demand it.
The public policy drivers are important, but more broadly we’re all much more aware of the need to use available resources more carefully. This could be caused by environmental concerns relating to climate change, resource scarcity and threats to biodiversity, or the economic and social effects of the pandemic, or the continued rise in political uncertainties. Asset owners are no different. They are weighing up the risks and opportunities in front of them, and they realise they can play a key role in reshaping our world for the better through investment decisions informed by ESG factors.
How aware are Asian companies of ESG factors compared to other markets such as Europe and the US?
There seems to be a much bigger focus now than just a few years ago, investment propositions have included ESG components for some time in the West, but that’s now changing in Asia - however, it’s still a small part of the focus of the majority of investment managers aside from the big names. We are seeing some bold moves not only by governments such as China, but also by regulators, with Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announcing its goal to be the green finance centre of Asia - it could be that ESG becomes the new Fintech for them!
The differing pace of change on ESG across territories fully reflects this region’s diversity, and we aim to reflect significant trends and evolving best practices wherever we find them. As Nick suggests, it’s inevitable the biggest players will be the quickest to integrate ESG factors into their strategies. Smaller players will sometimes follow their lead, but at times they will take their own path and need their own solutions.
Tips - How can PRs work with you efficiently?
I would not like to tell PR professionals how to do their jobs. But it’s worth bearing in mind the ratio of flacks to hacks these days. Our time is short, so pitches need to be clear, brief and relevant – if we’re interested, we will get back to you.