Sustainability in Finance: How Capital Markets Can Leverage ESG

01 Jun 2022
Academics and practitioners gathered recently at a virtual conference, “Sustainability in Finance and Capital Market Development Conference 2022,” sponsored by the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT) and Sasin School of Management. The first keynote speaker was Kulvech Janvatanavit, Chief Executive Officer of the Thai Institute of Directors Association (IOD), presenting the topic, “Reimagine Sustainability in Thai Capital Market.” “Twenty-five companies have been approved as sustainable businesses in Thailand according to the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI),” said Kulvech, adding that the DJSI is the most respectable index measuring good sustainability businesses in Thailand. While indexes and numbers give a good idea of sustainable practices in businesses, Kulvech remarked that IOD hopes to get companies to operate through a “Care, Curiosity, and Courage,” philosophy. “We try to ask the corporate directors to care like parents, to be curious like a child, and to have courage like a startup,” he said. Kulvech explained that companies need to care and have curiosity about their stakeholders, consumers, and employees akin to how parents care for their children. More importantly, companies also need to have the courage to act. “You can have good statistics on performances of sustainability internationally, but in the end, we need to act on the issues that are urgent to Thailand,” Kulvech added. He mentioned Thailand’s 2021 corruption ranking that dropped six places to 110 of 180 countries, “This is one of the things that I would like to emphasize and hope will be discussed,” he remarked. The next session was moderated by Pochara Arayakarnkul, CEO of Bluebik, and a Ph.D. student of Sasin School of Management who introduced four keynote speakers: Noppadol Dej-Udom, Chief Sustainability Officer of Charoen Pokphand, Paul Ark, Partner & Head of ESG, Gobi Partners, and a DBA Student at Sasin School of Management, Banita Bissoondoyai-Bheenik, Associate Dean of School of Business and Law at RMIT, and Winita Kultangwatana, Director of Environment, Social and Governance Department of Securities and Exchange Commission Thailand. Speaking from the perspective of a venture capital firm, Paul said that environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) hadn’t played many roles in the venture capital space, since startups are mainly focused on how they can grow the company, and barely have the resources and awareness to implement programs on sustainability until they grow and become bigger companies like Charoen Pokphand or Siam Cement. “When VC fund firms like Gobi Partners look at working with startups and investing in startups, we do look a lot at the traditional matrices surrounding investment, and financial market size, but we are increasingly looking for entrepreneurs who have at least the willingness to engage with ESG,” he said. For example, a digital startup may not be investing much in the environmental factor, but VC investment firms will look more at the social factor or governance factor depending on the type of business. Focusing more on the governance side of ESG, Banita discussed “Gender Diversity and Inclusion in promoting ESG and Sustainability in Business,” in her presentation. “Research has shown that if you actively recruit people with a range of ethnic and diverse backgrounds, you actually score higher in both the Environmental, Social, and Governance,” she said. She added that diversity and inclusion also include employee welfare like staff retention, which leads to innovation and better performance in an organization. Other issues that need attending to are gender equity issues such as reducing the pay gap between males and females. Moreover, the corporate culture needed to be considered, like giving people of different genders equal access to training and new opportunities. Next, Noppadol Dej-Udom, Chief Sustainability Officer of Charoen Pokphand Group discussed the role CP plays in Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG). He shared CP’s five elements of sustainable organization transformation, which include leadership commitment, transparency, market mechanisms, technology and innovation, collaboration, and inclusion. Winita Kultangwatana, Director of Environment Social and Governance Department, Securities and Exchange Commission Thailand, presented the topic, “Capital Market Regulator’s Role in Promoting ESG in Practice,” explaining SEC’s role in encouraging businesses to integrate ESG factors into their operation. After the panel discussion, viewers separate into different breakout rooms to listen to presentations by academicians on Corporate Governance, International/ Emerging Market, and SDG in Practice and Climate Change. The conference was held under the leadership of Dr. Sirimon Treepongkaruna, NRCT Senior Research Fellow, Visiting Professor & Senior Research Fellow at Sasin School of Management, who gathered the academicians in one place to present new research and discussions on sustainability, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG).  
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